The United States Department of Health and Human Services selected five hospitals throughout the United States to participate in a demonstration with a specific goal in mind — to graduate higher-level nurses to meet the increasing demand for health care.

The Graduate Nurse Education Demonstration will grant the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania — the largest clinical site for the School of Nursing — nearly $36 million over the next four years to train more advanced practice registered nurses.

“With the prediction that there will be an additional 32 million eligible for health care through the Affordable Care Act … we want to increase the number of advanced practice nurse practitioners by over 1,000 in the next four years in the Philadelphia region,” HUP Chief Nurse Executive Victoria Rich said.

She added that the Nursing School plans to increase the number of APRNs to over 200 in that same time frame through the increase of additional faculty who will be paid using part of the awarded grant.

The grant money will be used at multiple clinical sites — including Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and Pennsylvania Hospital, Penn affiliates.

Before this funding, if nursing schools couldn’t place students in clinicals, they couldn’t accept additional students, Nursing professor Matthew McHugh said.

The GNE Demonstration will allow post-graduate nurses to gain more clinical experience allowing them to, for example, diagnose illnesses and prescribe medication.

McHugh added the demonstration hopes to result in an increase in APRNs.

“Access to primary care is not just an issue of insurance when you are in need of a workforce to care for these people,” McHugh said. “One of the strategies to address this shortage is to take advantage of APRNs and the expertise they have in primary care to meet this shortage and provide care for not only the newly insured, but also the aging population of baby boomers.”

Supported by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, these five hospitals — HUP, Duke University Hospital, Scottsdale Healthcare Medical Center, Rush University Medical Center and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center Hospital — will partner with accredited schools of nursing and non-hospital, community-based care settings as clinical sites.

1992 MBA recipient and Director of the Innovation Center at CMS Rick Gilfillan said, “The objective is to test new models that support the training of nurses going into the primary care workforce.”

For this demonstration, half of all clinical training is required to occur in non-hospital settings to provide APRNs with the primary, preventive, transitional and chronic care skills that they will face.

“After the four-year demonstration, we are hoping that this model will be endorsed by CMS and these funds will be provided to hospital systems across the U.S. as an effective way to increase access to primary care,” Rich said.

HUP’s grant application was developed in collaboration with faculty in the Nursing School, who lead the Graduate Nurse Education Consortium of Greater Philadelphia of eight other local nursing schools to participate in the demonstration with Penn.

“I am confident that when the government sees the results, it will become a line item in the budget of our government rather than just a demonstration,” Meleis said.

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