June 27, 2017

SVSU receives $1.39 million federal grant to improve health care in northern lower Michigan

Saginaw Valley State University has won federal funding to improve health care delivery for residents in rural areas immediately and into the future. A grant of nearly $1.4 million will support an innovative approach that will place graduate students in SVSU’s nurse practitioner program into the field to provide patient care, and will prepare them for careers in rural settings.

SVSU is creating a rural residency program for family nurse practitioners – the first of its kind in Michigan – to provide students with practical experience to empower them to better meet the health care needs of rural Michiganders. The initiative combines didactic, simulation, and clinical immersion experiences to enhance advanced practice rural nursing competence and confidence.

SVSU will concentrate its efforts in northern lower Michigan.

“The shortage and distribution of primary care providers in Michigan has contributed to health disparities, particularly in northern Michigan where pockets of rural and underserved populations reside,” said Kathleen Schachman, Harvey Randall Wickes Endowed Chair in Nursing at SVSU. “Like many rural communities, they struggle to maintain access to quality health care services.”

SVSU is partnering with the Sterling Area Health Center, a federally qualified health center that encompasses five rural clinics. The project is intended to benefit 21 rural counties in northern lower Michigan, and will impact most directly the five counties served by the center and with a clear need for improved health care: Arenac, Gladwin, Iosco, Ogemaw, and Oscoda.  

“Out of the 83 Michigan counties that were ranked by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings in 2016, Iosco (No. 82) and Arenac counties (No. 81) were near the bottom in terms of health outcomes, and Gladwin, Ogemaw and Oscoda counties were all ranked in the bottom third,” Schachman said.

The program will start in July and is funded by a $1.39 million grant through July 2019.  SVSU received the grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the primary federal agency for improving health care to people who are geographically isolated, and economically or medically vulnerable.

Plans call for using tele-health and other technologies to connect SVSU’s Bay Community Health Clinic (previously know as the University Clinic) in Bay City – which includes students and faculty from several programs in SVSU’s College of Health and Human Services – with the Sterling Area Health Center’s five clinics. This approach is intended to improve rural health care delivery and outcomes by drawing upon expert knowledge in multiple fields.

“In many rural settings, nurses are often faced with working with older and outdated equipment – if it is available at all,” Schachman said.

SVSU also will prepare students in its family nurse practitioner program to serve rural communities.

“Rural nurse practitioners tend to have a smaller network of local colleagues and specialists that they can rely on,” Schachman said. “While this allows for greater autonomy in functioning to their full scope of practice, the professional isolation and heightened responsibility can be daunting for a new graduate.

“This lack of confidence and competence may discourage new family nurse practitioner graduates from seeking employment in rural settings. Our rural residency is designed to fill both the knowledge and the skills gap related to rural practice.”

Over the 2-year period, SVSU expects 33 family nurse practitioner students to be supported through traineeships and complete the rural residency. Each will receive an $11,000 stipend.

SVSU introduced its Doctor of Nursing Practice degree in 2013; the program prepares nurse practitioners and is the first doctoral program offered at SVSU. For more information about the program, visit www.svsu.edu/nursingdnp/.