Now more than ever, Texas hospitals are in dire need of emergency nurse practitioners (ENPs) to help alleviate heavy workloads for health care professionals working the front lines of the pandemic.
Leading the way in Texas since 1994, the state’s only ENP educational program at Cizik School of Nursing at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) is expanding to The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio).
This strategic clinical partnership is being funded as part of a two-year, $1 million training grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The grant will provide ENP students with financial support while they complete their clinical requirements.
“UTHealth is all about the health of the state of Texas, not just Houston,” said Elda Ramirez, PhD, professor of nursing and head of the emergency/trauma nurse practitioner program at Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth. “We are not single-minded; our vision is broader than Houston and we care about residents across the state. By expanding to San Antonio, we are trying to be as supportive of the state’s health as much as possible as we help prepare nurses to serve their communities.”
There are many underserved communities in Texas surrounding large cities like San Antonio and Houston that are need of health care providers.
“We need to have emergency nurse practitioner expertise in rural areas throughout the state. This year has been a game changer as we have battled COVID-19, but we still need emergency nurse practitioners to be educationally prepared to recognize trauma aside from the virus,” said Ramirez, project director of the grant.
Currently, the Houston-based ENP program draws students from all over Texas. Even before COVID-19, nurses in other parts of the state completed much of the coursework remotely, but regular trips to Houston were required. Expanding geographically will help reduce the travel burden for students who are closer to San Antonio, and it opens the door for more clinical rotations near their homes.
“Our initial goal is to start providing formal training for emergency nurse practitioners in the San Antonio region,” said Bradley Goettl, DNP, assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at UT Health San Antonio. “Long-term, our plan is to develop our own program that will mirror Houston’s. This unique partnership will allow us to share faculty, strengthen both programs, and plan for future growth.”
As the program gets underway, Ramirez and Goettl will have joint appointments to both universities, and Goettl will help direct the program in San Antonio.
The San Antonio educators have already established affiliation agreements with local hospitals and health systems, including University Hospital, part of University Health System and one of UT Health San Antonio’s clinical partners. Goettl currently practices at the hospital, which houses the city’s largest emergency department and serves 22 South Texas counties.
“ENP students will benefit from interprofessional education with simulations and training alongside emergency medicine residents and physician assistant students,” Goettl said.
Although uncertainty looms because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team tentatively plans to conduct some in-person classes in San Antonio during the spring 2021 semester for South Texas students.
“This expansion is a true partnership that focuses on quality for the students’ education and the population health of the state. Both institutions will share funds for a greater student cause, and community service,” Ramirez said.
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