Fairfield University School of Nursing wins $25,000 federal grant to train graduate student nurses at community health centers

Fairfield University School of Nursing wins $25,000 federal grant to train graduate student nurses at community health centers

Image: Jean Lange Local community health centers often represent society's safety net of care for underserved populations. The Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded Fairfield University's School of Nursing $25,000 for a project to prepare advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) candidates to work at those centers.

Fairfield has teamed with Sacred Heart University's Nursing School and the two federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) located in Bridgeport - Southwest Community Health Center and Bridgeport Community Health Center - for the project.

The one-year grant will provide funding to allow advanced practice nursing students to train at local health centers and work with doctors and nurses there, in order to familiarize them with working in those settings and help them to develop culturally appropriate, community-based primary care interventions that consider the values and beliefs of the diverse, underserved population served by local community health centers.

The ultimate goal of the project is to encourage more nurses to take jobs at federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and to provide them with the skill sets and experience they will need to be successful there, said Jean Lange, Ph.D., R.N., associate professor of nursing.

The grant will also provide money to integrate information on FQHCs into the nursing school curriculum at both Fairfield and Sacred Heart.

"The program will increase the students' awareness of cultural diversity and they will have the opportunity to practice in a true primary care setting," said Susan DeNisco, M.S., S.N.P., A.P.R.N., B.C., assistant clinical professor of nursing and coordinator of the family nurse practitioner program at Sacred Heart University. "It's a wonderful opportunity to work collaboratively with Fairfield University and for the two large neighborhood health centers in Bridgeport to work together to increase patient access for underserved populations."

Students in the project will: examine the impact of patients' assets, lifestyles, and home and community environments on patients' ability to actively participate in their care; learn about the mission and role of FQHCs in meeting the health care needs of underserved groups; incorporate national, evidence-based practice guidelines in care management; participate in governance and quality improvement mechanisms of FQHCs; and explore the role of state and national associations in advocating for funding of FQHC services.

The chief executives at both health centers cited the project as an opportunity to recruit new nurses.

"I think this is a very exciting opportunity," said Katherine S. Yacavone, president/CEO of Southwest Community Health Center, which is located at 361 Bird Street in Bridgeport. "Not only does it give the students the real-life experience of what happens in a health center, it's also an excellent recruitment opportunity for the health center."

Educating future nurses to work at FQHCs is crucial. For many rural areas, FQHCs are the primary deliverers of healthcare services, said Ludwig M. Spinelli, CEO of Bridgeport Community Health Center, located at 471 Barnum Avenue.

"Mid-level providers play an integral role at federally qualified health centers," Spinelli said. "We hope that this experience may lead to employment opportunities either here or at federally qualified health centers where those nurses intend to practice."

Posted On: 01-10-2005 10:01 AM

Volume: 37 Number: 134