Affordable Care Act grants College of Nursing $180K

Though USF graduate students dont have the options of federally subsidized Stafford loans and Pell grants, the USF College of Nursing just secured two grants to provide loans to graduate students.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was declared constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 28, has many provisions for college grants to boost the healthcare workforce, Rep. Kathy Castor, D-FL, said to The Oracle.

Through the Nurse Faculty Loan Initiative of the ACA, USF was one of 114 universities in 2011 to receive a grant for more than $150,000 to loan out to assist already registered nurses (RNs) for graduate programs that will allow them to become fully qualified nurse faculty. The College also received a $30,000 grant through the Act to give out loans to its RNs who are going through a full-time nurse anesthetist masters program.

Rep. Kathy Castor, D-FL, said the College of Nursing applied for the grants and won them over other nursing colleges nationwide. One of the issues the College faces, she said, is a lack of nurses who come back to USF to teach as faculty.

Thats the problem that drives the nursing shortage because all the good nurses they can get great jobs at hospitals and with other medical professionals or in research, she said. But we really want to encourage them to stay and teach nursing students.

Castor said the $150,000 grant is intended to boost and keep talented nurses in the classroom to teach other nurses.

More people will have access to health care as a result of the ACA, she said, so there will be a greater demand for medical practitioners, which include nurse anesthetists.

Erik Rauch, USF nurse concentration director and assistant professor, said the $30,000 grant will be given out to the majority of the approximately 60 graduate students in the masters program for nurse anesthetists. The College of Nursing houses about 584 graduate students.

The anesthesia program accepts licensed nurses who have had at least two years of experience in intensive care units and puts them through a 28-month, seven semester training of all aspects of anesthesia care, he said. The vast majority of this programs graduates go to work in underserved facilities in rural and urban communities.

Jodi DeVries, a graduate student and the vice president of her senior class for the nurse anesthetist masters program, said her ultimate goal is to come back to USF as nursing faculty.

Ill have to start working in the nursing anesthesia field and get more experience, she said. That way I can come back and offer the students not only the educational action figures from books, but also personal experience. That would be wonderful if (the $150,000 grant) would benefit me as well. If it doesnt, then at least it would benefit the students behind me.

DeVries said so far, mostly unsubsidized federal Stafford loans have paid for her graduateclasses and have left her with about $60,000 in student loan debt.

Rauch said since the masters program has moved to the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS), the number of applications has skyrocketed, making the program more of a target for grants.

Applications increased by 50 percent this year, and enrollment in the nurse anesthesia program rose to 30 new masters students this year compared to an average of 20 people in previous years.

Castor said grants will open more possibilities for students.

That grant it may look small, but its the tip of the iceberg of whats coming in scholarship and loan initiatives that will be available to young people, she said.