HHS launches $200M APRN training demo

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Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, July 31, 2012

Five hospitals will share as estimated $200 million in federal funding to help train additional advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) the Department of Health and Human Services announced on Monday.

The announcement comes amid growing concern that the demands of healthcare reform will exceed the ability of primary care practitioners to meet those needs.

The graduate nurse education demonstration project will help place additional APRNs such as  nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse anesthetists, and certified nurse midwives "on the frontlines of our healthcare delivery system to further strengthen and grow our primary care workforce," said Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of HHS. The department declined to estimate how many additional APRNs will be trained as part of the four-year demonstration.

"Having more of these kinds of skilled nurses will increase access to essential healthcare services," Sebelius added during a press conference to announce the program participants. APRNs can diagnose illnesses, prescribe medication and treatment regimens, and perform procedures consistent with their scope of practice.

The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), Duke University Hospital Durham, NC), Scottsdale Healthcare Medical Center (Arizona), Rush University Medical Center (Chicago), and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center Hospital (Houston) were selected to participate.

Hospitals in the program must partner with accredited schools of nursing. As a condition of participation each hospital has committed to support nurse training in nonhospital settings such as community health centers and rural health clinics. "This program will bring talented nursing students into five communities that have a real need for additional primary care and healthcare access," Sebelius stated.

According to the program description, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will provide reimbursement for the "reasonable cost of providing clinical training to APRN students added as a result of the demonstration." Payments will be linked directly to the number of additional APRNs trained and will be calculated on a per-student basis, comparing previous enrollment levels in APRN training programs with enrollment under the demonstration.

The program is required by and funded through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

It is hoped that the program will relieve some of the barriers experienced by hospitals and colleges in providing APRN training. Last year nursing schools were forced to turn away more than 14,000 qualified APRN applicants, according to Polly Bednash, PhD and RN, CEO and executive director of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, who attended the program announcement.

The primary reasons were the lack of clinical sites and budget cuts, explained Bednash, who added that the demonstration program addresses those specific concerns.

Sebelius noted that the program is the latest in about $1 billion in funding that the Obama administration has earmarked for nurse training, education, and job placement.

Source: HealthLeaders Media