Working nurses advance their education at KCON, deepen commitment to health care in underserved areas

group photo
The 2019 cohort is pictured with faculty members Robert Johnson and Katherine Moran at far left.
Image Credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, seven working nurses have continued their commitment to serving rural and underserved populations by advancing their education to become nurse practitioners with the help of a federal grant awarded to GVSU's Kirkhof College of Nursing.

The first cohort has nearly completed the first year of KCON's Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. A second cohort of nine students will begin in the fall.

Students received funding for advanced education from a four-year grant KCON received in 2019 from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant totaled $2,799,987 with 0 percent financed with non-governmental sources. 

Katherine Moran, KCON associate dean for graduate programs, said while students needed to quickly transition to 100 percent remote learning in March due to COVID-19, this cohort was able to do so without difficulty, allowing students to continue their program as planned. 

"It was a seamless transition for us, as our graduate programs have been delivered in a hybrid format for many years," Moran said. "These students are working nurses and some have been pulled from their specialized areas to assist with COVID patients."

This grant was a collaboration with McLaren Health Care and Mercy Health Muskegon. Both health care systems worked with KCON to recruit nurses for the program.

Martsie Bunting, a care nurse for Mercy Health Partners, said she was drawn to the DNP program because of her work in rural Lake Michigan communities.

"With a Medicaid population in a rural area, many patients have difficulty getting into an office for care, so there's a need for more telehealth services," Bunting said. "Through this doctoral program, we are learning about patient-centered care through evidence-based practice, and how to use technology to meet patient needs."

Alec Tuchowski works for McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey. Only a nurse for two years, Tuchowski said he jumped at the opportunity to apply for the DNP program as grant funding eliminated the financial barrier of paying out-of-pocket. "A nurse practitioner is so important in rural locations, and I'm pleased to be able to give back to my community," he said.

Other key components of the HRSA grant are the co-design of clinical education with practice partners, an emphasis on the use of technology to enhance care delivery, and the integration of mental health into primary care.

For more information about the Kirkhof College of Nursing, visit gvsu.edu/kcon.