Major grant aims to increase number of rural nurses

Posted: Tuesday, 15 July 2008

TROY -- An $800,000 – plus federal grant will help Troy University increase the number of nurses in southeast Alabama.

The University’s School of Nursing has been awarded a three-year Nursing Workforce Diversity grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop learning and practice communities ultimately aimed at increasing the academic success of students in the attainment of undergraduate nursing degrees. The total award is $888,000.

TROY, which offers the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, will implement student support programs in pre-nursing courses and retention activities for students in the nursing curriculum. The program will also provide scholarships and student stipends.

“The majority of the funds will go directly to students in the form of scholarships and stipends,” said Dr. Bernita Hamilton, director of the School of Nursing.

The funding will also establish “learning communities” for pre-nursing majors, develop workshops on critical thinking, test-taking, computer skills and provide tutorial assistance for students. Retention activities for students enrolled in nursing clinical courses include study courses for national licensure examinations, tutoring and enhanced clinical experiences.

Hamilton said another key area of the project – that covers Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Coffee, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Dallas, Escambia, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Lowndes, Macon, Monroe, Montgomery, Pike, Russell and Wilcox counties – will be expanding partnerships with area health care agencies to provide additional learning opportunities for TROY nursing students, externships and a move to encourage graduates from those counties to practice in those areas.

Portions of the service area are already designated as “nursing shortage areas,” said Dr. Cindy McCoy, an associate professor of nursing who serves as the project director.

“Based on an assessment of students, graduates and health care agencies in the area, we identified the need for assistance in increasing the professional nursing workforce in those counties,” she said. “Because this geographic area is primarily rural, medically underserved and contains areas of nursing shortage, the need for nurses is critical.”

Another outcropping of the program, McCoy said, would be that major health issues such as heart disease and stroke could be positively impacted by the increase in the number of professional nurses and their emphasis on health promotion.

The program will start with the fall semester. Questions regarding the Nursing Workforce Diversity Program may be directed to the Troy University School of Nursing at 334-670-3428.