Program Helps Nursing Students Afford Education
By Greg Cappis, MSU News Service
Alicia Crane wasn’t sure how she was going to be able to afford her doctor of nursing practice degree.
As an undergraduate at Montana State University, she had always hoped to earn an advanced degree so she could better serve her rural community, but she knew that raising three children while working as a registered nurse would make paying for another three or four years of school difficult.
Then she applied for MSU’s Advanced Nursing Education Workforce program scholarship. As one of 20 ANEW scholars selected annually, Crane receives a stipend each semester to help cover the costs of tuition, books and travel as she prepares for a career as a nurse practitioner working in a rural community.
“It’s been a huge blessing and help,” Crane said. “I can’t say in words how thankful I am for the scholarship.”
The ANEW program is funded by a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. MSU received its first ANEW grant in 2019, and it was recently renewed for $2.6 million over four years, which administrators in the Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing refer to as ANEW 2.0.
“The ANEW grant allows us to provide the financial support to cover tuition and fees, books and supplies, and even travel,” said Sarah Shannon, dean of MSU’s nursing college. “ANEW also allows us to offer special learning opportunities to ensure that we produce not just nurse practitioners but rural-ready nurse practitioners who are already embedded in and committed to their local communities.”
The ANEW program is designed to increase access to health care for rural Montanans, a core focus of the nursing college. All but two of Montana’s 56 counties are classified as health care professional shortage areas, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.
MSU offers two options in its doctor of nursing practice, or DNP, degree program. Family practice nurse practitioners serve as primary care providers with the ability, in Montana, to diagnose, prescribe and refer patients to specialists. Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners assess, diagnose and treat acute and chronic mental health needs of their patients.
ANEW scholarship recipients commit to working in rural health care. Scholars are required to perform some of their clinical work at rural hospitals or health centers. They also must join the Area Health Education Center scholars program, a two-year, nationally recognized certificate program designed to develop and improve skills to help them better serve patients in rural communities. The AHEC scholars program includes 80 extra hours of learning and access to specialty training seminars, like classes on suturing or managing diabetes in a rural setting.