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Release: Immediate

UI College of Nursing gets federal grant to help train family nurse practitioners

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa College of Nursing has received $467,919 from the federal government to establish a master's degree program for family nurse practitioners. The three-year grant comes from the U.S. Public Health Service's Bureau of Health Professions to train health care professionals who intend to practice in medically underserved areas.

"Many rural communities in Iowa lack a primary care physician," said Marion Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing and director of the college's graduate programs. "Graduates of the family nurse practitioner program will be able to provide needed services to areas that don't have them."

Johnson said family nurse practitioners typically do well-baby checkups, give immunizations, conduct routine care for people with chronic diseases, and treat minor emergencies. They may also prescribe medications for patients whose conditions are not complex. "Basically, they provide an additional resource for communities with few or no family physicians, or where there is a shortage of health care providers," Johnson said.

The program has already received approval from the Iowa Board of Nursing and admitted its first six students this fall. The College of Nursing determined there was a need for the program after surveying directors of various clinical services in Iowa and studying government data indicating a shortage of health professionals in many areas. The college also received numerous inquiries from nurses interested in becoming family nurse practitioners.

The grant will be used to support two existing faculty members and hire a third, develop preceptor sites around the state to help train students in the program, and purchase equipment and other educational materials and services. Coursework will prepare students to be nationally certified as family nurse practitioners by the American Nurses Credentialling Center, an agency of the American Nurses Association.

"The importance of the grant is that it allows us to provide a high quality program for family nurse practitioner students," Johnson said. "Our graduates will help meet the health care needs of the state."

M. Kathleen Clark, Ph.D., noted that four of the six students currently enrolled in the program are from rural communities and intend to return there to practice. Clark is an associate professor of nursing at the UI and a family nurse practitioner who will serve on the faculty of the new program. "As the only publicly supported family nurse practitioner program in the state," Clark said, "it should increase the accessibility of this type of training for interested nurses."

The UI College of Nursing already trains nurse practitioners in the fields of pediatric nursing and adult and gerontological nursing. Next year the college plans to accept master's students in a mental health advanced practice nursing program as well.