A program and a goal of increasing the number of advanced nursing practitioners in rural Kansas communities have helped the Department of Nursing at Fort Hays State University win the largest individual grant ever at Fort Hays State University.

The program is called the BSN to DNP track. It is a pathway for nurses who have the Bachelor of Science in Nursing to earn the Doctor of Nursing Practice, an advanced practice family nurse practitioner degree without having to leave home. The grant is $2,796,398 from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Jenny Manry, chair of FHSU’s Department of Nursing, said the project has two goals: to increase the number and quality of nurse practitioners in rural areas of the state, and to increase collaboration with clinical sites and on-site professional mentors (called preceptors) to recruit, train and educate the program’s students.

“The BSN to DNP program at FHSU focuses on preparing students to care for populations from the newborn to the elderly,” she said. “Students perform clinicals with both physicians and family nurse practitioners across Kansas, with many students coming from rural and frontier areas.”

The grant covers four years. The program requires 75 credit hours of coursework and, over two years, 900 clinical hours. About half of the grant will go to students as stipends. The aim, said Manry, is to cut down on the hours students have to work to sustain themselves and to provide travel money. “I have some students who drive an hour or an hour and a half every day to go to their clinical sites,” she said.

Jayda Edgar, who is in her third year of the DNP program, has a passion for rural America,

“I hope to continue working in small, rural areas as these are the communities that are struggling to find providers,” she said. “I love the personal connection with the patients and communities.”

The stipend, she said, has been very welcome.

“This stipend has lightened my financial burden tremendously and allows me to focus on my schoolwork,” she said. “I do not think I can put into words my gratitude for this.”

Manry said Edgar is just one of the students who has been positively impacted by the grant. She said she hopes that the funding will impact rural communities by giving students a slight reprieve from financial burdens and allow them to complete the DNP program, which may not otherwise have been possible.

About 50 students are currently working toward their degrees in the BSN to DNP track.

For more information on FHSU’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program, visit www.fhsu.edu/nursing/dnp/.