KCON, McLaren Health Care earn award for collaboration to improve access to primary care

Grand Valley's Kirkhof College of Nursing and McLaren Health Care earned an American Association of College of Nursing award for collaborating to expand health care access and increase the diversity among nurse leaders in rural and underserved communities in Michigan.

The AACN Exemplary Academic-Practice Partnership Award recognizes KCON and McLaren Health Care (MHC) for their work in receiving a 2019 federal grant to recruit and graduate more nurse practitioners through KCON's Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

The four-year grant from Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services totaled $2.8 million and included Mercy Health Muskegon.

Katherine Moran, KCON acting dean, said 20 people have earned or are on track to earn DNP degrees since the initial cohort was accepted in 2019. Participants received an annual stipend of $22,000 toward tuition and other related costs.

two rows of faculty and students in academic regalia at a commencement ceremony
Katherine Moran, KCON acting dean, is second from left with nursing graduates and faculty members at an April commencement ceremony. KCON and McLaren Health Care earned an award for their collaboration to graduate more nurses with doctoral degrees.
Image Credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills

MHC recruited the majority of nurses and Lisa Zajac, corporate director of clinical informatics, said she followed up personally with those who expressed interest. Zajac earned a DNP from the University of Detroit Mercy in 2015, and Moran served as her doctoral project chair.

"There has been a thirst for more educational opportunities at McLaren," Zajac said. "This partnership represents two organizations with similar missions to make an impact on nursing health care delivery and we have shown success."

While this grant nears its end, KCON and MHC continue to work on another HRSA grant, with Spectrum Health, to support working nurses from underrepresented backgrounds who wish to obtain bachelor's or advanced nursing degrees.

"In 2010 and again in 2021, the National Academies’ Future of Nursing report highlighted the need for more nurses with bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. It's clear that more nurses, the most trusted health care profession, should be at the table when decisions are made on how health care is being delivered," Moran said.

Moran and Zajac will accept the AACN award and give a presentation at the organization's conference in October in Washington, D.C.