CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Oct. 24, 2012 – Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) students at Southeast Missouri State University who are preparing to become Family Nurse Practitioners will benefit from a $204,211 grant recently awarded to the MSN program by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Advanced Education Nursing Traineeship (AENT) federal grant will cover tuition and fees for 16 MSN students in the Family Nurse Practitioner option at Southeast this academic year.
Eighth District U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson recently announced the grant award.
“This great opportunity for the University also helps to address a critical need for nurses in our Southeast Missouri communities,” Emerson said. “A robust education and training program in nursing carries cumulative benefits for everyone in need of the services that our skilled, professional nurses provide. I’m very proud of this program at the University as well as the faculty, staff and students who have earned this grant on behalf of their program.”
Faculty in the program say the goal of the traineeship grant is to move MSN students through their academic program more quickly and transition them into practice in health professional shortage areas in this region. Students are expected to complete the MSN program in five semesters.
Dr. Gloria Green, chair of the Southeast Department of Nursing, said most MSN students at Southeast are registered nurses who are working full time, have family obligations and are enrolled in five to 11 credit hours a semester.
“When you think about the economic climate, this is the only way they would be able to finish their education in a timely fashion,” she said, adding that the tuition assistance may allow students to work fewer hours during the completion of their coursework.
Dr. Elaine Jackson, professor of nursing, said the mission of the Advanced Education Nursing Traineeship program is “to prepare advanced practice nurses who want to stay in rural practice environments. We are challenged with recruiting future students and to get them interested in serving rural areas and medically underserved areas.”
Students receiving the tuition and fees benefits must commit to practicing in primary health care settings in rural and medically underserved areas. Most of the counties in southeast Missouri have been identified as either geographic or low income Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas as well as Medically Underserved Areas or Medically Underserved Populations. The healthcare needs of these communities are complex and often are complicated by limited access to providers of care. Many residents are uninsured, underinsured or face significant access to care barriers. Many also experience higher than average poverty and unemployment rates, are geographically isolated and have limited opportunities for educational attainment and economic stability.
In addition to the tuition and fees benefits, students awarded AENT funding may also receive a stipend of about $3,500. Students must apply for the awards, and recipients will be notified before Thanksgiving, Jackson said.
Until now, the AENT program was a formula-based award. Last year, Southeast was awarded $24,826 to cover tuition for eight to 11 credit hours and fees for six Southeast MSN students.
Dana Moore of Scott City, Mo., was a beneficiary of the grant in spring 2012. She graduated with her Master of Science in Nursing from Southeast in May and is currently employed as a family nurse practitioner at Woods Clinic in Puxico, Mo., and as a registered nurse at SoutheastHealth.
“Any help you can get when you are working and trying to go to school helps,” she said. “I am grateful it (the grant) is there to help get more people through the program.”
Amy Massa of Leopold, Mo., received tuition assistance through the grant during the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 academic years.
“I have a husband and two little girls, so it helped us out quite a bit,” she said, acknowledging the grant dollars helped lighten her student loan indebtedness.
Massa, who is a family nurse practitioner at the Jackson (Mo.) Family Care Rural Health Clinic, said the grant award helped solidify her decision to return to school to pursue her Master of Science in Nursing. She graduated from Southeast Missouri State in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
This year, AENT grants were awarded through a competitive process, and Southeast received $204,211 to assist 16 MSN students.
“We’ve had a long history with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Nursing,” Jackson said. “Our graduates stay in the rural setting and serve our region. We serve a large health professional shortage area.”
Southeast’s Family Nurse Practitioner option of its MSN program is filling this need.
“We are putting out primary health care providers,” Jackson said.
Dr. Linda Garner, assistant professor of nursing, said Southeast’s program is not only bridging this gap but providing the region with highly qualified advanced practice nurses. Southeast’s family nurse practitioners have held a 100 percent pass rate on the national certification exam since 2005, she said. She touted Southeast’s nursing faculty, clinical experiences and a final practicum as solid preparation for Southeast’s Master of Science in Nursing students.
The AENT grant extends through June 30, 2013. At that time, Southeast plans to reapply for a second year of competitive funding with a request in excess of $251,000, Jackson said.