US Department of Health Provides Millions in Grants to Increase the Number of BSN-Educated Nurses

With a looming shortage of RNs expected in the coming years and studies that show the importance of nurses with bachelor’s degrees, the US government has been working to improve the education, practice, and retention of nurses through a grant program administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

One of the priorities of the Nurse Education, Practice, Quality and Retention (NEPQR) program is to expand enrollment in BSN programs. In fiscal year 2010, the program supported 4,860 undergraduate nursing students. In the following year, the program awarded 14 grants worth $4 million to BSN nursing programs to help them expand the students served by these programs.

The retention portion of this program has several priorities. One of them is to promote career advancement for LPNs, LVNs, associate-degree holding RNs, and others by making it easier for them to pay for the education necessary to become BSN-prepared RNs.

In addition, this program seeks to improve education with new technologies such as distance learning. The NEPQR grant program awarded 17 grants totaling $8.4 million for this goal in fiscal year 2011.

A portion of these grants have been dedicated to faculty development in an effort to expand the capacity of nursing schools to adequately prepare students for 21st century health care practice. Simulated and virtual methods being worked on to improve student education include patient simulators, virtual simulation, and advanced 3D graphics.

One innovative NEPQR program is the Veterans’ Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing Program (VBSN). Although no new grants are being awarded for this program in 2015, highly qualified applicants who did not receive funding from the 2014 application process are being reconsidered for awards.

The VBSN funding does not go to individuals.   Instead, it goes to accredited colleges or schools of nursing, and health care facilities. In addition to coursework, mentoring and academic and social support services are specifically geared towards veterans.

Additional goals of the NEPQR program include improving the quality of patient care and strengthening the nursing workforce so that the country is prepared to deliver high quality healthcare to the general population, as well as those that are underserved.