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MSU Faculty, AHEC To Develop Nursing Grant

Montana State University’s Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing was recently awarded a grant of nearly $4 million to strengthen clinical faculty and preceptor training in rural states across the West.

The grant, which comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, will be administered by Molly Secor, the nursing college’s associate dean for research, in collaboration with the university’s Montana Office of Rural Health and Area Health Education Center. The MORH/AHEC office, which is housed within the nursing college, focuses on workforce development and health care facility support for rural Montana.

The goal of the project — called the Nurse Education, Practice, Quality and Retention Program - Clinical Faculty and Preceptor Academies — is to increase the number of qualified clinical nursing faculty and preceptors across HHS Region 8, which includes Montana, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. While those states make up 15.4 percent of the country’s geographic area, they are home to just 3.7 percent of its population. This low population density amplifies the challenges of accessing health care facilities for student clinical experiences and finding qualified clinical preceptors – nursing professionals who oversee student clinical experiences.

“As the demand for nurses grows in the United States, so does the demand for nurse preceptors,” said Secor. “Unfortunately, the supply of preceptors has not kept up with demand, resulting in a growing shortfall.”

Combined with faculty shortages across the nation, the shortage of nursing preceptors significantly limits the growth of nursing education programs and the production of new nurses for the workforce, Secor said.

With the grant funding, a team including representatives from each of the six participating states will create and implement curriculum designed to prepare existing professional nurses to be preceptors. They will be trained in clinical education methods for nursing students, with the aim of increasing the states’ capacity to educate nursing students and thereby enlarge the nursing workforce. Many of the educational opportunities will include stipends to incentivize completing the trainings, since some nurses may have to take time off from their existing work to complete the continuing education.

The project will include collaboration between MSU and the nursing colleges in each of those six regional states, and each state will uniquely implement the developed curriculum. The four-year project aims to train and support close to 900 clinical faculty and preceptors. In addition to the academic institutions in the region’s states, Mock said health care facilities were also quick to voice their support for the project and their willingness to support their staff in pursuing the proposed opportunities.

“Students having a great clinical experience in your institution creates a beautiful pipeline for recruiting your nursing workforce,” said Mock. “Employers see the value in the pathway from being a student, to employment, to helping educate the next generation of nurses as a preceptor or clinical instructor.”

Mock noted that support for the project proposal came quickly, which indicated not only the universal need for these types of resources but also faith in MSU’s Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing to lead the project.

“Aligned with our landgrant mission, MSU is deeply committed to preparing a nursing workforce that meets the demands of our rural state and region,” said Secor. “Partnering with a network of other programs enables our region to innovatively develop strategies to increase the number of nurse preceptors to support high quality nursing education.”

Secor noted that MORH/ AHEC was key to the project coming together.

“The Montana AHEC office is highly respected and well-connected across the West,” she said. “The AHEC leaders and team are committed to helping Montana build its much-needed health care workforce. Our college is proud to have the opportunity to partner with Montana’s AHEC office on this shared goal.”

Founded in 1937, Montana State University’s Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing offers bachelor’s, accelerated bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral-level nursing education to produce nurses, nurse leaders, nurse educators and nurse practitioners for Montana. The college of nursing has campus locations in Bozeman, Billings, Great Falls, Kalispell and Missoula. Montana State University is the largest producer of registered nurses in Montana and is the sole provider of doctoral nurse practitioner education in the state. More information is available at montana. edu/nursing.

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