September 24, 2004

Acute care nurse practitioner program going the distance

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Vanderbilt researchers Richard Robinson, Brenda Crews, center, and Annette Oeser were honored at the inaugural Research Staff Awards luncheon last week.

Acute care nurse practitioner program going the distance

The School of Nursing has been awarded $724,844 over three years in a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to expand the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) Program to students across the country through the distance format.

“The goal is to allow students from a variety of areas, particularly regions of the United States that are underrepresented or do not have Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Specialties available to them to come to Vanderbilt and earn their Master of Science in Nursing specializing as Acute Care Nurse Practitioners. They can take courses either through a ‘block format’ or via CD, and do their clinical work in their home area,” said Joan King, Ph.D., director of the program and associate professor of nursing.

Though some specialties at VUSN are offered through the distance format to new graduate registered nurses and students entering the school with no prior nursing experience, the new distance option in the ACNP specialty will only be open to registered nurses who have at least two years of recent clinical experience.

“The students taking the program in the distance format will have a preceptor working with them in their remote clinical site, but it’s a little more autonomous than when you have a clinical faculty member on the floor with you,” said King.

An ACNP can practice in a variety of areas, not just in the hospital setting. “Fifty-one percent of acute care nurse practitioners nationally practice outside of an inpatient setting. So we’re not a critical care program, it truly is acute care,” King said. She said ACNPs manage care of patients with everything from heart failure to diabetes, nephrology, oncology, surgery, trauma, and more.

Nine students are currently enrolled in the new distance option in Acute Care this fall semester at VUSN, but they’ll be taking the course from their home states of Oklahoma, Indiana, Arkansas, and beyond. Some students from right here in Nashville have also chosen the distance format despite living close enough to come to campus.

“The distance format is also meant to allow R.N.s to continue working while attending graduate school,” King said. Students in the distance program are only required to come to campus three to four times a semester, typically over a weekend, making it convenient for nurses, who are in short supply nationwide, to stay with their current employer. Lectures and other materials are sent to distance students on a CD.

In December, King will begin reviewing applications for fall 2005 enrollment in the program. Students who are new to the field of nursing or new R.N.s who have yet to gain the required amount of clinical experience are eligible to enroll in the on-campus ACNP program. For more information visit: