NDSU Nursing receives multimillion dollar federal grant for nurse practitioner fellowship program

Photo of NDSU Nurse Practitioner graduate Natalie Carriveau interacting with a person in a clinical exam room

The School of Nursing at North Dakota State University was awarded a four-year, $2.3 million federal grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. The award will enhance NDSU’s existing rural Nurse Practitioner Fellowship program in partnership with Essentia Health.

The program through NDSU and Essentia provides new graduate nurse practitioners enhanced clinical and academic experience through a 12-month fellowship program in rural and/or underserved populations.

“A nurse practitioner’s responsibilities in rural primary care are vast,” said Dr. Mykell Barnacle, faculty member and project director of the fellowship program in the NDSU School of Nursing. “Many are the sole provider covering a variety of areas at healthcare settings in rural areas, seeing a wide range of complex conditions,” said Barnacle.

“This type of care is often practiced without the benefit of in-office colleagues or easy access to specialists,” explained Dr. Dean Gross, director of the doctor of nursing practice/family nurse practitioner program at NDSU. “The program through NDSU and Essentia allows new nurse practitioners to network with regional colleagues and specialists to enhance their skills and practice,” said Gross.

The program also is designed to integrate behavioral health and/or maternal health into primary care during the fellowship by training new primary care providers in rural and tribal healthcare settings. Additional partnerships will be expanded to help promote health equity and improve diversity of the workforce to address the needs of the populations they serve, while also addressing workforce wellness and resiliency, according to Gross.

“This partnership allows us to partner with NDSU to prepare NPs who will be practicing in rural and underserved areas. It is a fantastic opportunity for our new NP colleagues and the patients they serve,” said Christie Erickson, Director APRN/PA Services East and NP/PA Transition to Practice Program, Essentia Health.

The grant award from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the second such award received by NDSU School of Nursing. The agency previously awarded $1.57 million to establish the program in 2019 to help educate future healthcare professionals who serve rural areas. The grant team includes the following faculty and staff in the NDSU School of Nursing:  Mykell Barnacle, Dean Gross, Adam Hohman, Carrie Nelson, Allison Peltier, Heidi Saarinen, and Dani Bohnsack, as well as Debra Steen, Essentia Health Clinical Liaison.

Since the fellowship program began, 18 newly graduated family nurse practitioners have completed the program. In addition, funding from the previous grant supported a free annual mental health conference for advanced practice providers in the region, growing from 92 attendees in 2020 to 320 in 2023.

Overall employment of nurse practitioners is projected to grow 40 percent through 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The NDSU School of Nursing provides advanced nursing training in Fargo and at the NDSU School of Nursing at Sanford Health in Bismarck.

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