[Skip to Content]

College of Nursing awarded $2.7 million grant to support students who will work in rural and underserved areas

An exterior photo of Upstate Medical University's Academic Building, which houses the College of Nursing and the College of Health Professions.

Upstate Medical University’s College of Nursing has received a four-year, $2.7 million grant to support students who are interested in working in rural or underserved areas after graduation.

The Advanced Nursing Education Workforce (ANEW) grant is from the Health Resources and Services Administration through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant is about $670,000 per year and will provide scholarships to the equivalent of 16 full-time family nurse practitioner students. (The annual number of students could exceed 16 as some scholarships may be awarded to part-time students.) The $22,000 scholarships – pro-rated for part-time – can pay for tuition, books or living expenses.

Students will be eligible to apply for the scholarship during their last year of nursing studies at Upstate’s College of Nursing. This student stipend will allow students to reduce the number of hours they need to work and focus additional time on their studies, said College of Nursing Assistant Professor Sherri McMullen, PhD, RN, CNS, FNP, NNP-BC, who worked with a team from the College of Nursing to write the grant.

“This grant was looking for an academic center to partner with community organizations to provide access to primary care in rural and underserved areas,” McMullen said. “The College of Nursing is partnering with Upstate University Hospital and ConnextCare in Oswego County.”

According to the HRSA grant description: “The ANEW program supports academic clinical partnerships to educate and graduate primary care nurse practitioners (NP), clinical nurse specialists (CNS) and nurse midwives (NM) who are academically and clinically prepared for the unique challenges of transitioning from nursing school to practice in rural and underserved communities, thereby increasing access to needed primary medical care for these populations.”

The grant will support training for preceptors, instructors and faculty working with the ANEW FNP students. McMullen said she and others are working on the curriculum now, which will also include cultural competency training, to provide students with additional education on how the culture of rural or underserved areas can affect people and their health.

“Rural and underserved areas have different healthcare needs,” she said. “Our students need to become aware of these needs to better serve the patient.”

McMullen said an initial area of focus for the program and its scholarships will be rural areas to the north of Syracuse, which consist of populations in need of more primary care providers. The grant will focus on recruiting nurse practitioner students from Oswego County as these students will be more likely to continue working in this setting after graduation, she said. This program will improve access to primary care by recruiting more nurse practitioner students to this rural area.

The grant will also establish a primary care clinic in the vicinity of Upstate’s downtown campus for the underserved population in Syracuse, McMullen said. This will be a nurse practitioner-led clinic and offer additional opportunity for student primary care clinical placements locally, she said.

College of Nursing Dean Tammy Austin-Ketch, PhD, has experience with this type of funding and was a primary support for the submission.

“As the dean and a practicing nurse practitioner, it is imperative we provide our advance practice nursing students with innovative opportunities such as telehealth and encourage our students to practice in rural areas upon graduation,” Austin-Ketch said. “The College of Nursing has historically had a large percentage of graduates return to their home communities, which many times is in a rural or underserved community."

The team applied for the grant in early January and received notice that it was awarded in mid-June. The team is now developing the scholarship application, obtaining equipment and developing curriculum. The first students are expected to be enrolled in the scholarship program in spring 2020.