Disadvantaged nursing students to receive aid from grant

The U.S. Department of Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) recently gave the UNA College of Nursing and Allied Health a grant of $2.1 million for its new Opportunities for Entry into Nursing (OPEN) program. OPEN will aid disadvantaged students financially in their nursing careers at UNA.

Tera Kirkman, UNA assistant professor of nursing and OPEN project director, Ernestine Davis, UNA professor of nursing and OPEN project co-director, and Kyrel Buchannan, director of University Health Services, all assisted in obtaining the HRSA grant.

During a four-year period beginning this semester, the grant will fund approximately 67 scholarships for pre-nursing and nursing majors in year one and approximately 80 by year four, according to a UNA press release.

Pre-nursing students will be able to have up to nine hours covered by the scholarship, while nursing students can have up to 15 hours covered, according to the release.

To participate in the OPEN program, students will have to pass the Health Education Systems Inc. (HESI) exam with a minimum score of 850. In addition, they will have to pass the NCLEX-RN. OPEN objectives include a 90 percent first-attempt pass rate on the NCLEX-RN and 80 percent employment of graduates within six months of graduation, according to the release.

In 2010-11, 93.1 percent of UNA NCLEX-RN participants passed the exam, according to the release. Non-freshman students participating in OPEN will attend weekly preparation sessions for the exam.

The OPEN program is designed to help students — particularly those of underrepresented minorities — and communities by giving the students opportunities they would not otherwise have to serve medically underserved communities, said UNA President Bill Cale in the release.

“Minorities in underserved areas are at significantly higher risk for heart disease, obesity, stroke, diabetes and other diseases,” said Dr. Birdie Bailey, dean of the UNA College of Nursing an Allied Health, in the release. “Through this new program, we intend to train individuals from those areas to bring a greater quality of healthcare service back to their communities.”

OPEN will address the local and national healthcare issues among minority and disadvantaged populations and the lack of minority workers in nursing, according to the release.

OPEN students will be required to work with local clinics — such as the Northwest Shoals Community Clinic, La Clinica Cristiana and The Cramer Center — that deal with minority or disadvantaged populations, according to the release.