MARQUETTE - A program that brought graduate education in nursing to Marquette is expanding into other specialty nursing programs.
Wayne State University's distance learning program was created to fill a critical need for specialty-trained nurse practitioners in the state. A video/computer link connects a classroom at Wayne State University's College of Nursing in Detroit to registered nurses at Marquette General Hospital. The nurses participate in advance practice nursing classes via the link.
The first such program offered through the distance learning program focused on pediatric nursing and neonatal nurse practitioners. The program was also offered at Hurley Medical Center in Flint and Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids. Two nurses at MGH completed the program in December 2009.
Kelly Kurin, left, and Jennifer Farnsworth do a routine checkup on a baby in the Marquette General Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Kurin and Farnsworth are now neonatal nurse practitioners after completing the grant-funded Wayne State Nursing program. The grant allowed them to pursue their education in a way that made it possible for them to stay in Marquette and continue working as NICU nurses. (Photo courtesy Marquette General Hospital)
"The thing that's really exciting about that is Marquette General hasn't had any advanced practice nurses, we also call them nurse practitioners, in the neonatal area ... so now they're able to have a lot more expertise in the care of really sick neonatal infants, premature infants and sick newborns," said Linda Lewandowski, assistant dean at the WSU College of Nursing.
One of the recent graduates, MGH registered nurse Kelly Kurin, is now a neonatal nurse practitioner as well as a board certified lactation consultant. She said she found the program to be a great fit.
"I have been an NICU RN since 1991 and for many years had a goal of becoming a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner," Kurin said. " The NNP program is not available in the Upper Peninsula and I was not able to leave my job and family to pursue this three-year advanced degree elsewhere."
"The thing that's really exciting about that is Marquette General hasn't had any advanced practice nurses, we also call them nurse practitioners, in the neonatal area ... so now they're able to have a lot more expertise in the care of really sick neonatal infants, premature infants and sick newborns."
- Linda Lewandowski, assistant dean
College of Nursing, Wayne State University
When she learned about the distance learning program being offered by Wayne State University at MGHS, she said she realized this would be a perfect opportunity to become an NNP.
"Dr. Julia Frei, neonatologist and MGHS NICU medical director, was my primary preceptor throughout the program, so I was able to do all of my clinical experience at MGHS NICU," Kurin said.
Kurin graduated from the NNP program in August 2009 and is now a board certified NNP, employed in the NICU at MGHS.
Lewandowski said the program was funded through a grant from the Health Resources Services Administration. They recently received a similar grant from HRSA and will begin additional programs this fall which focus on mental health and public health nursing.
She said the program may extend further over the next several years into women's health and midwifery.
"Northern Michigan (University) has a great program and they train baccalaureate level nurses and they also have, I believe, a family nurse practitioner masters program," she said. "But Wayne State University is the only university in the state of Michigan that offers neonatal or pediatric acute care specialties for nurses and we're the only psychiatric and public health nursing graduate programs that have this distance education option so we have a lot of interest in the U.P."
Lewandowski said there is a shortage of advanced-practice nurses for a variety of reasons but partly due to the fact that few colleges offer those types of degrees.
"There are few programs, besides the big three, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University. The other universities that have masters degrees have one or two nursing specialties and not very large programs so one of the reasons we have a shortage in our state is there are not the options available for nurses," she said.
Lewandowski said with the recent passage of national health care reform, it's projected the need for primary care providers, whether they're physicians or nurse practitioners, will skyrocket and there's been a lot of focus in national programs to try to get more training programs available for primary care.
Christopher Diem can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.