GC nursing

Georgia College announced Tuesday that its nursing school has received a continuation on a grant meant to increase primary health care in medically underserved and rural areas of the state. The grant covers costs for DPH nurses to return to school so they can get their practitioner’s license and work in one of the state’s underserved or rural areas.

Georgia College’s already robust nursing program is getting a boost, the university announced Tuesday. 

The local public liberal arts institution is the recipient of a $2.7 million, four-year grant from the Department of Human Health and Services' Health Resources Service Agency (HRSA) aimed at increasing the number of health care professionals in underserved and rural areas of Georgia. The advanced nursing education workforce (ANEW) grant will fully fund the education of up to 42 rural or medically underserved Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) nurses who agree to continue practicing with DPH upon graduation. Nurse practitioner students will also gain experience in the growing field of telehealth as part of the grant. Georgia College will also utilize the funds to hire two full-time faculty positions that will work with students and a part-time preceptor trainer who will administer professional development to graduate instructors. 

“We decided to partner with the Georgia Department of Public Health and all of its 18 districts,” said Dr. Sallie Coke, GC professor of nursing and ANEW grant writer. “Of course, DPH is in every single county, and we knew that they have a pretty extensive network already. They do a lot of telehealth, but they don’t have as many advanced nurse practitioners as they need. The need is outstanding in all parts of the state, outside of Atlanta.”

According to the Georgia Department of Community Health, more than 80 percent of Georgia’s 159 counties are experiencing a primary care health professional shortage. When it comes to measuring need, HRSA places an index value on each county on a scale from 0 to 100 with zero being the score for those with the highest need and 100 for the lowest. Any county with a value of less than or equal to 62 is designated as a “medically underserved area.” Baldwin County is not on the list, but plenty of rural counties in the area are, including Glascock, Greene, Hancock, Washington, Wilkinson and Putnam counties. Hancock County has the lowest score of those listed at 29.7 while Putnam just barely received the designation at 57.1.

“This grant covers any students who are willing to work at least two years in a medically underserved or rural area,” said Coke.

The GC professor added that one scholarship to a DPH nurse returning to school is valued at $26,000. Adding to the value is the fact that nurse practitioners, a designation that requires at least a master’s degree, often make more than their registered nurse counterparts. Coke said that Georgia College is planning to offer around 14 full scholarships to qualifying students per year for the duration of the grant. 

This most recent grant is a continuation of one Georgia College’s School of Nursing received to address similar issues in 2017. Totaling $1.5 million, that first grant funded the education of 52 nurse practitioner students who have graduated and are now working in the field. That first grant was awarded to three colleges around the state, but Georgia Colleges is the only one to receive the continuance that includes the faculty positions and additional training.

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