USD to Improve Health Care in Underserved Areas with State Grant

Like many areas in California, San Diego County needs more nurses, especially in underserved and economically disadvantaged communities. But a $144,000 grant from the state of California will help University of San Diego’s Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science boost the number of nurses from minority groups and ensure students practice in underserved areas.

Under the grant, a USD program for professionals seeking a new career in nursing will add five additional students this fall from minority or economically disadvantaged groups. These students will receive additional mentoring and support in areas such as academics, test taking and balancing family and school demands. In addition to the extra support, the five students may also be eligible for scholarships and financial aid.

Currently about one-third or 16 of the 49 students in the Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN) are minority or underrepresented students, up from 25 percent two years ago.

“Our mission is to develop nurses with excellent clinical skills, along with a multicultural perspective and an appreciation of the needs of vulnerable populations,” said Linda Urden, professor of nursing, who will administer the grant along with Susan Bonnell, MEPN coordinator and associate clinical professor nursing. “With these funds, we hope to increase our ability to provide care for our county’s vulnerable populations by directly impacting both the knowledge and the diversity of our nursing workforce,” Urden said.

All MEPN students spend 200 hours working with low-income, vulnerable populations at locations throughout the county including the Bayside Community Center in Linda Vista; the City of Refuge, a mission providing services to recent immigrants, and Rachel’s Center, a downtown homeless center. About 75 percent of all MEPN students also attend a course in Medical Spanish. Of the 85 graduates from the last two years who responded to a recent survey, more than 70 are working in practices serving a majority of Medi-Cal or uninsured patients.

Along with meeting the health care needs of a diverse population, another challenge facing San Diego County is the growing number of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. A portion of the grant from the state’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development Song Brown Grant Program will also be used to develop a series of standardized patient case scenarios to prepare MEPN students to provide competent care to this large population of patients and families.

USD’s nursing school is among some 500 schools of nursing across the country which have pledged support to the Joining Forces partnership for veterans created by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden. The grant will help improve services for acute, mental health and long-term care. “We are dedicated to improving the health and well-being of veterans and their families,” said USD Nursing School Dean Sally B. Hardin.