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USI College of Nursing and Health Professions receives nearly $5.4 million in federal grants

July 15, 2019

The University of Southern Indiana's College of Nursing and Health Professions has landed just under $5.4 million in competitive federal funding to improve health outcomes for underserved populations in southwestern Indiana. USI received two new grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: a $3.7 million grant to implement the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP), and a $1.7 million grant to develop a nurse practitioner residency program serving underserved communities.

"From June 2018 to June 2019, the College of Nursing and Health Professions has had four HRSA grants funded for a total of $8,466,739," said Dr. Ann White, dean of USI's College of Nursing and Health Professions. "These newest grants will help us continue to expand partnerships and strengthen the relationships between academia, primary care sites and health systems to improve health outcomes in southwestern Indiana."

Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) ($3.7 million) 

The purpose of this project is to improve health outcomes for older adults in underserved communities of southwest Indiana by developing a workforce to maximize patient and family engagement and integrate geriatrics into primary care. To implement the five-year project, USI will be working with three Deaconess primary care clinics, the Deaconess Family Medicine Residency Program, and two Area Agencies on Aging (SWIRCA & More and Generations).

The project is under the direction of Dr. Katie Ehlman, associate professor of gerontology and director of the USI Center for Healthy Aging and Wellness.

"This project is based on innovative partnerships with the goal of improving health outcomes for older adults," she said. "The GWEP provides resources to increase the number and quality of health care professionals who are skilled, not only in geriatric and primary care, but also in collaborative problem-solving and how to more effectively use community resources to support older adults and their caregivers."

During the grant project, Area Agency on Aging case managers will be embedded in three Deaconess primary care clinics, connecting primary care with social service sectors in order to improve health outcomes for elders.

"Our care managers will be in a position to offer education and resources for both patients and health care providers," said Jillian Hall, director of Employee Relations and Special Projects at SWIRCA & More, an Area Agency on Aging in Evansville, Indiana. "Some of the areas we hope to positively impact include dementia care, opioid misuse, advance care planning, diabetes management, fall risk assessment and more."

Dr. Lisa Phifer, assistant director of the Deaconess Family Medicine Residency Program, described the project as a unique collaboration. "This project will prepare family medicine residents and an interprofessional team of future health professionals to provide comprehensive, quality care to older adults," she said. "We are excited to be a part of this project that will help our primary care settings to become more age-friendly."

Laura Holscher executive director with Generations, an Area Agency on Aging based in Vincennes, Indiana, agreed that integrating case managers at the primary care clinics will increase access to a variety of community-based programs. "This integration will offer opportunities for training with evidence-based programs including A Matter of Balance®, Chronic Disease Self-Management and Diabetes Self-Management programs in order to improve health outcomes for older adults in southwest Indiana. These programs will target at-risk individuals living in rural areas and address factors that encourage healthy aging," she said. 

The GWEP will draw on the expertise of three internationally-known experts serving as consultants: Dr. Rebecca Sudore, professor of medicine in the University of California, San Francisco Division of Geriatrics, staff physician at the UCSF-affiliated San Francisco Veterans Affairs Health Care System, and creator of the PREPARE for Your Care advance care planning program; Dr. Bill Thomas, geriatrician and innovator with a quarter century of experience with creating and replicating new approaches to health and well-being; and Teepa Snow, occupational therapist and renowned dementia-care educator who is the owner and CEO of Positive Approach, LLC.

For more information about this project, visit

Nurse Practitioner Residency Program (ANE-NPR Program) ($1.7 million)

In Indiana, as elsewhere across the nation, there is a growing shortage of all types of primary care providers, including nurse practitioners. USI plans to develop a residency program for nurse practitioner graduates in four primary care settings serving rural and underserved populations in southwestern Indiana.

"While experienced as registered nurses, nurse practitioner graduates have less experience in the role of advanced practice. They need additional support and training to care for the complex patient cases that present in rural and underserved communities," said Dr. Lori Phillips, USI assistant professor of nursing and project director of the HRSA grant. "This residency program will match a new nurse practitioner graduate with a preceptor to support their transition and to enhance decision making and communication skill sets, with the ultimate goal to increase the number of nurse practitioners as primary care providers in these communities."

In addition to the recruitment of nurse practitioners, program goals include education of nurse practitioners in an interprofessional model implemented in primary care clinics; utilization of telehealth at clinics to increase patient access and enhance the role of the nurse practitioner; and use of rapid cycle quality improvement as a continuous improvement mechanism.

During the four-year Nurse Practitioner Residency Program, the College of Nursing and Health Professions will be working with the Southwest Indiana Area Health Education Center (SWI-AHEC) and four community partners: ECHO Community Healthcare, Southwestern Behavioral Health, Tulip Tree Family Health Care in Fort Branch and Good Samaritan Family Health Center in Vincennes.

USI and community partners will develop the preceptor component and model for identifying and recruiting nurse practitioner residency participants during the first year of the project, which begins July 1, 2019. Unique characteristics of southwestern Indiana will be integrated into the model to address specific primary care needs of this region.

These two projects are supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $5,382,278 million with zero percentage financed with nongovernmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.

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