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Grant brings scholarships, training to midwifery and women’s health NP students

A Black health care provider in a white coat is seated next to a Black pregnant women who is reclined on an exam chair and he is showing her something on a clipboard

A $2.6 million grant will allow the UIC College of Nursing to address a shortage of women’s health nurse practitioners and nurse-midwives and to provide them with more training in mental health care and substance use disorders.

The four-year grant from the Human Resources and Service Administration is part of the Advanced Nursing Education Workforce program.

The bulk of the grant – 70% – will go to scholarships for students in the nurse-midwifery and women’s health nurse practitioner programs, particularly those who come from underrepresented backgrounds, with a goal of diversifying the workforce. Nearly $500,000 has been allocated to about 20 students in those programs this year, with each scholarship worth about $20,000.

The other 30% will go to support faculty administering the grant — Patrick Thornton, PhD ’16, CNM; Kirby Adlam, PhD ’21, MS ’10; and Kelly Rosenberger, DNP ’12, CNM, WHNP-BC, FAANP – in their efforts to bolster the curriculum to provide more classroom and clinical opportunities for treating mental health and substance use disorders.

Nearly 85% of certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives are white, according to the American Midwifery Certification Board.
“We really want to look more like the population we serve,” says Thornton, who is principal investigator on the grant.

Woman with black hair and highlights smiling

Courtney Reeves, MS ’16, RN, is in her second year in the women’s health nurse practitioner DNP program and is among the first cohort of grant recipients. She currently works 28 to 30 hours a week as an ob-gyn nurse in the south suburbs of Chicago, while also juggling her classes and family (including a 2-year-old child). She says the grant will allow her to avoid taking out more loans and reduce the amount of time she has to work as she begins her clinical rotations.

“I was so excited [about the grant], because it is targeted at people like myself, who really want to make a difference in this field, focusing on things that I value as important — addressing disparities and getting more people of color and people from diverse backgrounds into these positions,” says Reeves, who hopes to work in an underserved community when she becomes a nurse practitioner. “The need is there.”

‘This is scary’

Reeves says she was shocked when she learned about the health disparities that Black women face, particularly around pregnancy. Black women are nearly three times as likely to die within one year of pregnancy as white women, according to the Illinois Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Report published in April 2021.

“With me being an African American woman, it was like, ‘wow, this is scary, and I want to make a difference,’” she says.

Reeves says she’s also looking forward to receiving specific training to be able to prescribe medication for mental health and substance use disorders. Violent deaths – overdoses, homicide and suicide — make up about 42% of pregnancy-related deaths, according to the April 2021 report.

Thornton says most of the deaths are preventable, adding that the grant will allow him to find providers with subject matter expertise to serve as preceptors to students in the program. The most effective treatments for opioid use dependence involve buprenorphine or methadone, Thornton says, but many providers aren’t comfortable prescribing those medications.

“One of the things we wanted to do with this grant is to graduate our midwives and NPs with a background and comfort level of [prescribing medications] so we can skip that step of having to refer someone for basic treatment,” he says. “There’s evidence that’s more effective than making referrals to buprenorphine clinics.”

SEE: All College News