GREENVILLE, NC (WNCT) – The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has awarded a $2.79 million grant to ECU’s College of Nursing.

ECU officials said the 4-year grant will allow the College of Nursing to create the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Academic-Clinical Practice Collaborative, which will bring together students from three APRN concentrations to learn first-hand about the health care needs in areas that have the least access to care and a high prevalence of farmers, fishers and loggers who face different occupational hazards.

Dr. Pamela Reis, an associate professor in the Department of Nursing Science, who will lead this project, explained the inspiration behind it:

“It’s an opportunity to not only give students excellent primary care experiences in rural health but also to give them hands-on exposure to what it’s like to care for clients in eastern North Carolina. Hopefully, this will create investment in wanting to work in rural and underserved communities in the future.”

The project is centered on the APRN Rural and Underserved Roadmap to Advance Leadership (RURAL) Scholars Program created by Reis, which will recruit 84 advanced practice nursing students from a nurse practitioner, nurse-midwifery and clinical nurse specialist concentrations over the four-year period and place them in rural communities through a partnership with Vidant Health.

The students will also receive specialized training that is designed to help them understand patient needs and provide better care in these areas.

Among the requirements for students are courses in agromedicine and telehealth, along with participation in the Purple and Golden Bus Tour of eastern North Carolina and standardized patient exercises that will include simulated health care experiences with American Indian rural residents, African American farmers, Latino farmworkers and elderly farmers. Participants will also be prepared for leadership positions in health care and learn about addressing rural health care needs more broadly through public speaking training and discussions with public health department directors, legislators, and health care administrators.

Further incentivizing students’ participation in the RURAL Scholars program is a stipend that goes toward funding their education. The grant provides part-time students with $11,000 toward their education while full-time students receive $22,000. For each year of financial support they receive, students are asked to provide two years of work experience in rural or underserved communities.