Office of University Communications & Marketing

$2.1 Million HRSA Grant to Benefit Disadvantaged Nursing Students and Underserved Communities
Oct. 9, 2012



Application packets are available in office 203 and 206 in Stevens Hall and must be received in office 206 in Stevens Hall on or before November 13, 2012. Applicants must complete FAFSA on the web worksheet at www.fafsa.gov before the application deadline.

FLORENCE, Ala. – The University of North Alabama College of Nursing and Allied Health has just received a grant of $2.1 million from the U.S. Department of Health Resources and Services Administration. The grant will pave the way for disadvantaged students, particularly underrepresented minorities, into UNA’s new OPEN (Opportunities for Entry Into Nursing) program.

“OPEN is a program designed for the success of students as well as communities,” said Dr. William G. Cale Jr., UNA president. “The students admitted to this program would not otherwise have the opportunities they will find at UNA. In turn, they will benefit communities that are currently underserved by trained medical professionals like the ones these students will soon become.”

The $2.1 million grant will be awarded over a four-year period, beginning this semester. It will support about 67 scholarships for pre-nursing and nursing majors in its first year, and about 80 scholarships by year four. Scholarships will cover up to nine credit hours for pre-nursing students and up to 15 credit hours for students in the nursing program.

OPEN is designed to address local and national healthcare needs among disadvantaged and minority populations as well as an underrepresentation of minorities in the nursing workforce.

“Minorities in underserved areas are at significantly higher risk for heart disease, obesity, stroke, diabetes and other diseases,” said Dr. Birdie Bailey, dean of the UNA College of Nursing an Allied Health. “Through this new program, we intend to train individuals from those areas to bring a greater quality of healthcare service back to their communities.”

As part of their training, OPEN students will work with local clinics serving minority, economically disadvantaged and vulnerable populations. Clinics include the Northwest Shoals Community Clinic, La Clinica Cristiana and The Cramer Center.

“The training and experiences students gain through OPEN will expose them to the unique needs of these populations,” Bailey said. “Cultural differences, lack of financial resources, communication barriers and so on create unique challenges that these students must be able to handle in professional and successful ways.”

OPEN students must pass the HESI (Health Education Systems Inc.) exam with a score of at least 850, and they must pass the NCLEX-RN. Among OPEN’s program objectives are a 90 percent first-attempt pass rate on the NCLEX-RN and an 80 percent employment rate of graduates within six months of graduation.

UNA posted NCLEX-RN pass rates of 97.2 percent in 2008-09, 91.1 percent in 2009-10 and 93.1 percent in 2010-11. Sophomore, junior and senior students in OPEN will participate in weekly sessions to prepare them for the exam.

Among those helping secure the HRSA grant for UNA were Dr. Tera Kirkman, assistant professor of nursing and project director of OPEN; Dr. Ernestine Davis, professor of nursing and project co-director of OPEN; and Dr. Kyrel Buchannan, director of University Health Services.

For more information on OPEN, contact Kirkman at 256-765-4382 or trkirkman@una.edu, or Davis at 256-765-4583 or ebdavis@una.edu.