UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing’s Primary Care RN Certificate course, initially funded by NC AHEC and the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education, is now a crucial part of a $2.4 million grant.
The Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) awarded Assistant Professor Megan P. Williams $2,396,978 for her project, Invest in Nursing: An Educational Redesign to Strengthen the Primary Care Workforce. In partnership with Piedmont Health Services (PHS), the Invest in Nursing project is a four-year training program designed to develop a sustainable primary care nurse workforce that will practice in community-based primary care teams in rural and underserved areas of North Carolina. The project will recruit, educate, and financially support a diverse group of nursing students and identify RNs and faculty to implement evidenced-based care models to populations across the lifespan at PHS, one of North Carolina’s oldest and largest Federally Qualified Health Centers.
One of the Invest in Nursing project’s primary goals is to train 10 RNs to serve as preceptors and leaders in community-primary care—and the Primary Care RN Certificate program is the best way to do it.
“I’m excited,” shared Mary Schuler, RN, MSN, EDD, CNE. Working with colleagues and the NC AHEC Nurse Council, Schuler, the School of Nursing’s statewide AHEC liaison, oversaw all aspects of the Primary Care RN Certificate course, including designing the curriculum and creating course materials. NC AHEC awarded Schuler a $50,000 AHEC Campus Innovation Grant in 2016-17 to plan and implement the certificate program, which launched in November 2017.
“The course is designed to provide registered nurses with primary care education that was not a part of their RN degree,” stated Schuler. Typical RN education is predominantly focused on acute care training; Schuler thought it was time for a new model of approach to nursing education—one that focuses on the long-term health of patients.
The Primary Care RN Certificate is a self-paced, online course, affordably priced at $250. To date, 36 RNs have completed the five-module course, which is designed to be finished over six months.
“A lot of people taking the course are faculty throughout the U.S.,” Schuler noted.
She believes this reflects a trend toward the redesign of traditional nursing curricula to include primary care learning environments—which the UNC School of Nursing is doing as part of the Invest in Nursing grant. The Primary Care RN Certificate program is a crucial part of the Invest in Nursing project because it is the go-to tool for developing the capacity of RNs to serve as preceptors and leaders in the community-primary care setting.
Schuler’s long-term goal is to work with all nine NC Area Health Education Centers to establish clinical sites for community-primary care across the state.