The Family Nurse Practitioner Program at Cal State Bakersfield has received a $2.8 million grant to increase health care providers in underserved and rural parts of the Central Valley.
The four-year, federal grant was awarded to the college's Transforming the Workforce: From Educate to Service project, which is led by Department of Nursing professors Heidi He, Maria Rubolino, Annie Huynh and Lorelei Punsalan.
"I do think that nurse practitioners can fill that gap to improve primary care and improve public health," she said.
The project hopes to increase the number of nurse practitioners who will provide primary care in rural and underserved areas in the Central Valley. He said it is difficult to attract well-trained and qualified nurse practitioners to the area, and Kern County ranks among the top regions in the state that have a shortage of primary care providers.
The county also has some of the highest rates of chlamydia infection, diabetes, heart disease and chronic respiratory disease mortality, according to He.
With the grant, CSUB will partner with Clinica Sierra Vista to provide students real-life medical experiences while they're still in school. Students must have at least 600 clinical hours, and through the partnership, He hopes students will want to continue to work in a medically underserved area and those medical professionals will want to take in more students.
In addition, the funding will support the integration of telehealth into the nurse practitioner curriculum. Telehealth helps people in rural areas access health services and information electronically.
"If they’re looking for specialty care and they don’t have that in the particular area they live in, we can utilize telehealth consultations," He said. "That’s the future of health care. We want to start those trainings for our students so they’re ready."
CSUB's Family Nurse Practitioner Program is accepting 19 students this fall. This year, the program will begin annual admissions, versus the biannual admissions it has had since 2014, helping it double its enrollment.
Since relaunching the Family Nurse Practitioner Program in 2014, it has graduated two cohorts, totaling 31 family nurse practitioners, according to a news release. Nearly all its recent graduates have remained in the community, and 87 percent of 2018 graduates are working in federally designated medically underserved areas.
"With this funding, we have the ability and expertise and resources to really elevate the program to the next level so we can be the leader in education and health care in the region," He said.
Students enrolled in the program must already be a graduate of an accredited baccalaureate nursing program, have a 3.0 GPA, hold an active, unrestricted California registered nursing license and have two years of registered nursing experience.