$265,000 Grant to A&M International Addresses Area's Critical RN Shortage

The basic Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program at Texas A&M International University's Dr. F. M. Canseco School of Nursing has been named the recipient of a $265,000 federal grant aimed at addressing the area's critical shortage of registered nurses.

The Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) provided the award for the Nursing Special Project, to be known as STAT-RN (South Texas Access to RN Education), effective July 1.

The project goal is to significantly expand enrollment of regional, Hispanic nursing students in professional nursing programs and to shorten the time frame needed to obtain licensure as Registered Nurses in the State of Texas.

A&M International president Dr. Charles Jennett said the program addresses the national Healthy People 2000 mandate to "increase the proportion of all degrees in the health professions...awarded to members of under-represented racial/ethnic minority groups" and is also an incisive response to the needs of the University's service area.

"We are all well aware of the mushrooming expansion of the health care industry in Laredo and the community's need for culturally competent, Spanish-speaking nurses who are prepared for leadership roles in this arena. STAT-RN will enable us to directly address a crippling need and profoundly impact healthcare delivery here," Dr. Jennett said.

Dr. Juan Homero Hinojosa, Dean of the College of Science and Technology which houses the Canseco School of Nursing, praised the School's efforts.

"Our nursing faculty has been working on identifying and securing means to better our program and its relevance to the communities we serve. Our students and community in general continue to benefit from these efforts," Dr. Hinojosa said.

Dr. Susan Baker, Canseco School of Nursing Director, said the project's funding is crucial to assure greater Hispanic representation in the health professions.

"At both national and state levels, nurses from Hispanic backgrounds are seriously under-represented in comparison to other ethnic groups and to the percentage of Hispanics in the general population. In Laredo and Webb County we have a 95% Hispanic population capable of addressing this shortage," Dr. Baker explained.

Baker said the project will focus on two key factors which research shows stymie or prolong Hispanic student efforts to succeed in nursing programs.

"National research shows a 30% drop-out rate for Hispanics in nursing programs. This has been directly tied to economic hardship issues that involve the need to support the family and an educational preparation that may not have emphasized the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the selected program," she said.

"We believe that this new initiative, coupled with our existing program strengths such as familiarity with non-traditional students, access to relevant learning resources and community and corporate support, will enable us to better address student needs," Baker noted.

The goal of STAT-RN is to enhance student success in coursework, and on the state nursing licensure examination. In order to assure this, the project provides increased tutorial support, learning materials, development of on-line testing, student study skill development and faculty development.

Another interesting facet of STAT-RN is its collaborative research component with Prairie View A&M University's College of Nursing.

"This component will provide us with opportunities to compare the effectiveness of teaching strategies used to address learning needs of basic nursing students in our two schools of nursing which serve predominantly minority student populations in The Texas A&M University System," Baker explained.

The STAT-RN project director is Natalie C. Burkhalter, assistant professor in the School of Nursing.

For additional information on STAT-RN and Texas A&M International University's Canseco School of Nursing, please contact the School at 956.326.2450.

University office hours are from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu