BLOOMSBURG - Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania's nursing program received a grant totaling more than $638,000 to educate nurse practitioners who can provide primary care and preventive services within a rural, 10-county region of Pennsylvania. The funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Advanced Education Nursing Traineeship (AENT) Program will provide support to 54 nurses over the next two years.

The grant covers the costs of tuition scholarships, fees and textbooks for students studying to become adult nurse practitioners, said Noreen Chikotas, program director of BU's nurse practitioner programs and the grant's project director. The overall goal of the AENT grant program is to help meet the growing demand for primary care providers and preventive health services which are anticipated with the expansion of health care coverage from the Affordable Care Act and an aging workforce. BU's grant is designed to specifically address the shortage of primary care providers in Northeast Pennsylvania and Greater Susquehanna Valley. Approximately 34 adult nurse practitioners are expected to graduate from BU's program by spring of 2014.

According to HRSA, the current primary care workforce of physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners is inadequate to meet the growing demand for primary care services. The nation's projected unmet need for primary care providers could be as large as 63,000 by 2015; the HRSA grant helps address this shortage by providing support to students in primary care nurse practitioner programs.

Chikotas said, "The scholarships will assist in providing the local rural community with well-prepared primary care providers and help students focus on their education to become nurse practitioners."

"The grant is a testament to the commitment Dr. Chikotas has for the students and for the role of the nurse practitioner in primary care," said Michelle Ficca, chair of BU's nursing department,

For more information on the AENT program or BU's nurse practitioner programs, contact Chikotas at nchikota@bloomu.edu or 389-4609.