Xavier's School of Nursing wins a $1.5 million federal grant for a three-year rural nursing project

The largest grant in the history of the University will be used to help decrease health disparities | July 29, 2009

Xavier University’s School of Nursing has won a grant of almost $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the largest federal grant in the University’s history.

The grant was awarded through the department's Health Resources and Services Administration’s Nurse Education, Practice and Retention program, which addresses the nursing shortage by funding projects that strengthen and enhance the capacity for educating and retaining nurses.

The three-year project will use high-definition video conferencing to provide master’s level education and continuing education credits to nurses working in rural areas. The video conferencing method enables nurses at rural sites to participate in real-time courses with nursing students and faculty who are on Xavier’s campus. By providing rural nurses with access to advanced degrees and continuing education, this project will strengthen the nursing workforce and improve nurse retention and quality of patient care. 

“Eventually, seven rural Ohio health care organizations and their surrounding areas can be a part of the Xavier campus through video-conferencing,” says Susan Schmidt, director for Xavier’s School of Nursing. “Real face time with faculty is the advantage of teaching with this state-of-the-art technology. The wonderful goal of being able to reach out to rural Ohio and offer advanced nursing education to RNs and continuing education to all staff levels can be realized with this grant.”

“This is an outstanding moment for Xavier and the School of Nursing,” says Xavier President Michael J. Graham, S.J. “To be part of a new initiative that will positively affect the health of people across Ohio and also further Xavier’s mission of being men and women for others is exciting.”

The program will admit at least 20 students each year from partner organizations and surrounding areas, beginning this fall. Nurses participating in the program will earn a Master of Science in Nursing and be trained in the new emerging health care role of clinical nurse leader (CNL). The CNL is a fast-emerging nursing role developed by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing in 2004 in collaboration with leaders from the education and practice arenas to improve the quality of patient care and better prepare nurses to thrive in a complex health care system. Xavier was among the first schools in Ohio to offer a CNL program.

In addition to being prepared as clinical nurse leaders, nurses in Xavier’s rural outreach program will gain specialized knowledge in informatics, geriatrics and holistic nursing through coursework included in Xavier’s nursing programs and continuing education offerings.

“For the first year of the program, three rural Ohio health care organizations have partnered with Xavier: Brown County Regional Hospital, Fairfield Medical Center and Wesleyan Senior Living Center in northern Ohio,” says distance learning coordinator Debbie Davis. “Additional rural partners, including skilled nursing facilities, will be recruited for the second and third years of the project.”

A pilot project for this program was initiated in summer 2008 with Fairfield Medical Center. While six schools of nursing in Ohio have CNL programs, the Fairfield pilot project was the only one that reached out to rural RNs.

In addition, continuing education credits will be provided through distance learning. Two events will be offered each year for nurses working in surrounding rural areas. Partner organizations will be surveyed to determine topics for the events.