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University of Louisville nursing school gets $6.5 million to recruit students across Kentucky

UofL Interim Provost Gerry Bradley stands at a podium with a red University of Louisville banner on it, in front of a glass wall that reads "UofL School of Nursing."
Morgan Watkins
On Monday, UofL Interim Provost Gerry Bradley celebrated the University of Louisville School of Nursing's receipt of $6.5 million in federal grants for two new educational programs.

The University of Louisville School of Nursing will add new programs designed to help more Kentuckians become nurses and nurse practitioners. Money for the expansion comes from two federal grants.

University staff gathered downtown at the nursing school Monday to celebrate the $6.5 million awarded by the Health Resources and Services Administration. They expect this to benefit not only U of L and its students, but also their future patients — especially those in rural parts of the state.

“For decades, there have been efforts to address the issue of health care accessibility and health inequity in medically underserved areas throughout the commonwealth,” said U of L's interim provost, Gerry Bradley. “More health care professionals, including bachelor's degree-prepared nurses and nurse practitioners, are urgently needed in rural communities.”

Kentucky faces a long-term nursing shortage. The Kentucky Hospital Association recently released a pair of reports that show the state was short by roughly 6,000 registered nurses last year.

The grant money will support a pair of new initiatives at the nursing school, including scholarships for students in those programs.

Student Quinesia James got one of the new scholarships, which she said will allow her to “participate in an immersion clinical experience with high-risk populations.”

“As a future nurse practitioner, I look forward to playing a vital role [in] addressing gaps in health care access in Louisville and across the commonwealth,” James said.

Of the $6.5 million in federal dollars, $3.9 million will go toward a fast-track program for licensed practical nurses (LPNs) in underserved parts of Kentucky.

That initiative is led by Heather Mitchell, interim associate dean for the school’s undergraduate and pre-licensure programs.

Mitchell said they will partner with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System and will help bring four-year college education to communities with limited access to that level of nursing programs.

Beginning in spring 2024, she said U of L’s new pathway program will help LPNs earn their bachelor’s degree and become registered nurses more quickly, without leaving their home communities.

“These future RNs are best positioned to understand the health care needs of their community,” Mitchell said.

Apart from the LPN-focused program, another $2.6 million in federal grant money will fund an initiative to recruit more students with diverse backgrounds to become advanced practice registered nurses, such as nurse practitioners.

Sara Robertson, interim associate dean for the school’s doctor of nursing practice and advanced practice programs, helms that initiative.

She indicated the nursing school also will update the educational experience provided to these students. For example, the school plans to develop a curriculum that offers a better understanding of how societal factors affect patients’ health.

“This grant will enable us to increase the number of primary care and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners and improve access to health care across Kentucky,” Robertson said.

Morgan is LPM's health & environment reporter. Email Morgan at mwatkins@lpm.org.

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