James Madison University

JMU Nursing Receives Grant to Address Chronic Health Conditions in Rural Areas

James Madison University has received a federal grant to develop an interprofessional doctor of nursing practice program to improve access to rural mental health and cardiovascular care.

The three-year, $1.15 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration is in response to a nationwide call for interdisciplinary team-based approaches to health care, which are more likely to lead to higher patient satisfaction and better outcomes.

“Care has become so complex and technological. Patients are moving in and out of hospitals in a short amount of time, and then moving into long-term care facilities and home-based care,” said Dr. Patty Hale, project director and professor of nursing at JMU. “Communication and collaboration among health care providers is so critical.”

The interprofessional DNP program will prepare individuals with a master of science in nursing degree to work with clinical psychologists, speech and hearing specialists, and other practitioners in primary care settings. The online format will allow advanced-practice nurses in rural and underserved areas to remain in their communities, increasing the likelihood that they will practice where they are most needed.

Beginning in January, students and faculty in the doctor of nursing practice program at JMU will partner with colleagues in graduate psychology and communication sciences and disorders for a series of shared learning activities. The first involves an extended workshop designed to get participants to begin thinking and working collaboratively. Students will then progress to distance-learning activities including case studies and virtual patient simulations. The program will culminate with participants collaborating in actual clinical settings.

Graduate psychology personnel will bring expertise in the area of behavioral health, while communication sciences and disorders will add clinical proficiency as well as practical experience with online technologies. In addition to conducting JMU’s distance-learning speech-language pathology master’s program, CSD plans to pilot an interdisciplinary center in the fall using the online virtual world Second Life.

Hale said another key component to the grant is faculty development. “All of us were taught in individual silos and not collaboratively, so now we are going to go on this journey together and learn about each other’s roles so that we can model best practices.”

The program will accept up to 12 advanced-practice nurses each year, with special attention given to the recruitment and retention of students from minority and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.