Southeastern has received a $2.45 million Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Awarded to the College of Nursing and Health Sciences’ Rural Nurses Career Advancement Program, in coordination with the Delta Regional Authority, the grant is part of an investment to expand the impact of workforce development efforts across the Mississippi River Delta.

“Nurse shortages are devastating to a community’s effort to provide quality health care,” said Senator Bill Cassidy, a doctor who sits on the U.S. Senate Committee of Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “This grant supports Southeastern as they train the next generation of nurses that will improve the health of our state.”

In announcing Southeastern as one of only eight WORC grant recipients, Governor John Bel Edwards said, “The state of Louisiana is maximizing opportunity for our residents through these important Department of Labor grants. Southeastern will reach residents and train workers in a five-parish area with its Rural Nurses Career Advancement Pathway program.”

Southeastern’s RN-CAP program is designed to enhance community-based primary care in the rural, underserved Delta region of southeastern Louisiana that includes Livingston, St. Helena, St. James, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes.

“A healthy workforce is a productive workforce,” Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson said. “With thousands of primary care providers needed to meet the current medical needs of rural America, this nursing initiative by Southeastern will provide a pathway to better health care for our workers and for their children and older relatives who deserve the best care we can provide. We appreciate the support of DRA and the Department of Labor in accelerating technology and training solutions for this critical priority.”

The program also creates and provides innovative workforce development credentialing in telehealth and data in healthcare, two critical areas in rural healthcare workforce development needs.

“We are working with our community partners to address the nursing shortage,” said Associate Professor of Nursing and RN-CAP Project Director Eileen Creel. “This project facilitates the reverse transfer of Southeastern’s students to allow for graduation from an accelerated Licensed Practical Nurse program, returning to Southeastern for their bachelor of science in nursing, while working as an LPN. It will also establish a telehealth center to address the training needs to allow innovative health delivery in our area.”

Southeastern is collaborating with North Oaks Health System and Northshore Technical Community College in this endeavor.

To help fill the workforce demands in the region and provide residents with viable career training, Southeastern and NTCC have partnered on an innovative reverse transfer program wherein four-year students may enter an accelerated LPN program at NTCC and then immediately enter into a fast-track BSN pathway at Southeastern.

“The RN-CAP program will provide training and support services for up to 61 individuals who are enrolled in the NTCC/Southeastern accelerated PN and BSN programs,” Creel said. “As part of the program, these students will receive stipends to assist them with financial barriers including costs associated with tuition, supplies, and licensure testing. The Rural Health Telehealth Training Center at Southeastern will provide direct training on the use of telehealth, as well as support to local health care providers on effective telehealth practices.”

North Oaks Health System Chief Nursing Officer Diane Thompson is serving as a liaison with Southeastern to work closely with master of science nursing students, to manage research on recruiting and retention, to provide support for telehealth training for employees, and to provide employer orientation and residency programs to newly hired LPN/BSN graduates.

In the health profession and related fields, Southeastern conferred 2,325 baccalaureate degrees, 39 doctoral degrees, and 613 masters degrees, and awarded 22 post-masters certificates over the past 10 years.

“With over 3,000 students currently enrolled, the College of Nursing and Health Sciences strives to provide excellence in education in health, nursing, speech language pathology, health systems management, counseling and wellness and fitness, while meeting the workforce needs of the region and state,” Creel said.

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