Embrace the Changes: Update on HRSA's Nursing Education Grant Programs
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
By Chris LaPage
When the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced major changes in their upcoming slate of well-known nursing education programs for Fiscal Year 2012, many people started to panic . One change in particular, inter-professional education, which is being emphasized across all of their programs, has received mixed reviews. While the academic jury is still out on the effectiveness of inter-professional education methodologies compared to traditional nursing programs, HRSA has went all-in on supporting such models. For instance, the Nurse Education, Practice, Quality and Retention Program (NEPQR) will fund three-year demonstration projects in inter-professional education in the context of advancing the diverse priorities applicants are able to target historically under the program. In the past, HRSA funding under this program was limited to educating nursing personnel exclusively.
Inter-professional education modalities tend to be more synchronized with how health care is typically practiced, with teams of health professionals fulfilling different roles. As long as inter-professional education strategies are not less effective than traditional models, they certainly make intuitive sense. The exciting part for grantseekers is that they often times have health professional education projects that involve individuals from a variety of disciplines. These potential applicants will no longer have to upend solid project plans to carve out a nursing-exclusive piece in order to qualify for NEPQR and other HRSA programs. If you have a continuing education project aimed at increasing staff proficiency around a particular piece of health technology, the curriculum can be delivered to audiences that include nurses, physicians, specialty techs, and other types of health professions.
In addition to NEPQR, the Advanced Nursing Education Program (ANE) will return in FY 2012 after a one-year hiatus, and will also place a priority on funding projects that incorporate inter-professional education models. ANE was formally known as the Advanced Education Nursing Program. The entire FY 2012 allotment will be dedicated to funding new applicants as all projects previously supported through the program have been completed. Another big change for ANE will be its focus on incorporating telehealth and simulation equipment into projects that move current professionals and students into advanced nursing degree programs.
Considering HRSA's historical approach with funding simulation equipment through NEQPR, we would expect some restrictions on the amount of simulation equipment that can be purchased. Typically, no more than 50% of requested funds can go towards the outfitting of a skills lab. Both NEPQR and ANE should be announced in late Fall with deadlines in the first quarter of Calendar Year 2012. HRSA is expected to make somewhere between 80 and 100 new awards in FY 2012 through these programs. Individual applicants can request up to three years of funding, totaling $750,000.
In other news, the Nursing Workforce Diversity Program (NWD), which focuses on moving folks from underprivileged backgrounds into the nursing profession, will not hold a new competition in FY 2012; but will instead make awards to unfunded applicants from the FY 2011 program. However, other grants through HRSA will still be available to support nurse trainee expenses, such as stipends, books and living expenses. The Advanced Education Nursing Traineeship (AENT) program will be available in FY 2012, and for the first time will no longer be formula-based. This means the program will be more widely available than it has in the past. The downside is that the program will now only be offered every other fiscal year. Individual applicants are limited to a funding ceiling of $350,000.
While some folks may be nervous, most of the changes that were made to HRSA's nursing education grant programs should be beneficial. Almost all the changes discussed here will result in nursing education grant programs that are much more accessible and less restrictive. The focus on inter-professional education will allow for a greater cross-section of projects and reap benefits for all types of health professionals, not just nurses. The new priorities put in place for ANE means health care organizations will have another vehicle to adopt advanced technologies (telehealth and simulation equipment) that have demonstrated improved health outcomes. While NWD will not fund new applicants in FY 2012, the additional money available through AENT and opening it up to a competitive process should be viewed as a net gain. Overall, these are changes that most grantseekers should be able to embrace.