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Federal Grant for Rural Nursing Ed in Virginia

The University of Virginia Nursing School has received a $1.2 million grant for the purpose of preparing local and commuter graduate students to specialize in rural health care. The program will use both classroom teaching and online courses open to both full-time and part-time students of the University's Graduate Nursing program.

Catherine Kane, the Nursing School's distance learning coordinator told school newspaper The Daily Cavalier that ""The grant funds will improve our electronic distance capacity and make it possible for nurses in rural areas to study the same curriculum as local students without the commute."

The grant application was written by six faculty members, who see online education as a recruiting tool, with the goal of bringing nurses from rural areas into the program. Nursing school director Doris Glick said, "The graduate nursing programs not only recruit students from the baccalaureate program but also from across the state. A central goal, therefore, is to use the grant money to increase enrollment of both on-grounds and commuter students through more frequent and widespread recruiting.

The nursing school currently offers both a public health leadership degree and health systems management degree utilizing their online technology. Both are nursing administration degrees that tend to draw rural nurses to larger institutions and away from the rural areas where they are needed.

Virginia suffers from a nursing shortage as do virtually all states, and they also have difficulty keeping qualified medical personnel working in rural areas. Nurses in the graduate program are generally there with the goal of moving into management. Data shows that nurses educated close to home are more likely to stay and work in their local communities after receiving an advanced degree, Glick said.

A portion of the grant will be used to develop a distance learning program for the graduate program in psychiatric mental health. Project co-director Pamela Kulbok added explained that nursing shortages are cyclical and, when they do occur, rural areas are hit the hardest. Care for people with mental illnesses in rural areas is especially inadequate because of a lack of appropriately educated clinicians, Kane said.

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