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Nursing school partnership addresses neonatal needs in Hawai‘i and California

UH and UCSF collaborate to educate "homegrown" neonatal nurse practitioners.



“Honolulu, Hawai‘i —The School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene at University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (SONDH) and the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) School of Nursing are collaborating on the NeoRISK Project, a master’s degree in nursing program designed to strengthen the workforce of neonatal nurse practitioners in geographic areas where their skills are most needed.

The growing numbers of term and preterm infants who survive hospitalization continue to encounter health challenges after they leave the hospital. Neonatal nurse practitioners who are registered nurses with graduate nursing degrees and advanced practice skills, provide care and treatment to these infants and their families. By increasing the number of NNPs, the NeoRISK program will provide acutely ill and convalescing infants access to specialized health care in the hospital and during transition from hospital to home across community and rural settings.

Their advanced practice nursing education enables neonatal nurse practitioners to provide a broad spectrum of care, making them a vital link among neonatologists, neonatal nurses, other care providers, and the infant’s family. This seamless approach results in greater continuity of care and therefore improved health care outcomes after the patient leaves the hospital.

Currently, there is a shortage of neonatal nurse practitioners in both Hawai‘i and California. “Prior to the NeoRISK Project, there was no way for us to ‘grow our own’ neonatal nurse practitioners,” explains Vickie Niederhauser RN DrPH, Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the UH School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene and Hawai'i’s Project Director for the NeoRISK Project. “Up to now, local hospitals were forced to recruit from out of state. The NeoRISK Project will increase the number of NNPs familiar with local values and lifestyles.” The four students in Hawai'i who are being trained in the program are all experienced nurses currently working in Neonatal Intensive Care units on O‘ahu and committed to the care of this vulnerable population.

 Mary Lynch RN MS, Clinical Professor and Director, Advanced Practice Pediatric and Neonatal Nursing at UCSF, was instrumental in the development and implementation of the NeoRISK Program. Her experience in neonatal and pediatric intensive care units in California and Hawai‘i helped to craft the innovative bi-state curriculum. “It’s extremely helpful to see how education and clinical centers can work together,” she states, giving credit to not only the deans of both nursing schools, but also to the program’s NICU partners at Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women and Children, Kaiser Permanente Hospital, and Tripler Army Medical Center.

Kathleen Dracup, RN DNSc, Dean of the School of Nursing at UCSF, is proud of this unique partnership saying, “The NeoRISK Project brought together individuals in nursing and academia who understand the importance of connecting the expertise of advanced care nurses with people who have limited health care access. Thanks to determined visionaries such as my University of Hawai'i counterpart, Dean Mary Boland, Professor Mary Lynch of UCSF and Laura Bonilla of Kapio‘lani Medical Center, this program came together in less than two years. I look forward to the positive impact these specialized nurses will have on the health and well-being of our youngest patients.”

“The NeoRISK Project presented a wonderful opportunity to design a collaboration between California and in Hawai'i by jointly educating nurses in their home state to fill gaps in their own communities,” says SONDH Dean Mary Boland. “This cross-university project is a model of innovation and change to meet community need.”

Students participating in the NeoRISK Project are enrolled in the UCSF School of Nursing and graduate with a Master’s of Science in Nursing with a major in Advanced Practice Neonatal Nursing from UCSF. Hawai‘i students complete course work at both UH and UCSF with novel hybrid video teleconferencing supplemented by clinical work at Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women and Children, Kaiser Permanente or Tripler Army Medical Center, followed by 90 hours of clinical experience at NICUs in San Francisco. The first cohort of eight students, four from each campus, is scheduled to graduate in spring 2010.

Funding for the NeoRISK Project is provided by HRSA Advanced Nurse Education Training.

The UH Mānoa School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene is at the forefront of health professionals education offering innovative programs enhanced by simulation technology and web-based education, with rich clinical experiences, cooperative internships, and interdisciplinary study opportunities. SONDH is committed to addressing the nursing shortage while contributing to advancing the discipline and science of nursing. To learn more, visit: nursing.hawaii.edu.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. To learn more, visit: nurseweb.ucsf.edu. or contact Karin Rush-Monroe Senior Public Information Representative, UCSF News Office, at 415-502-1332 or via e-mail sent to  Karin.Rush-Monroe@ucsf.edu.

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