A version of this story first appeared in On Call, a publication of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga School of Nursing.
Tonya Morgan has been a nurse since 1997 but returned to school to give back.
Alexa Allen works in a children’s emergency room and has seen the stress on parents. She wants to go out into rural communities and help alleviate some of the anxiety.
Logan Zumbrun has been a labor and delivery nurse since receiving her BSN and wants to ensure women in underserved communities get proper medical care.
Morgan, Allen and Zumbrun are among the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga DNP students in the Family Nurse Practitioner-Lifespan concentration directly benefiting from a $2.6-million grant awarded to the UTC School of Nursing from the Health Resources and Services Administration—the primary federal agency for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, geographically isolated and economically or medically vulnerable.
The four-year “Clinical-Academic Partnerships: Breaking Down Barriers to Care” (CAP) grant will help prepare advanced practice nurses to meet the needs of rural and underserved communities in the Chattanooga region.
An essential component of the grant is that FNP students are offered funding for traineeships. Each semester of their program, the students will receive approximately $8,500.
Recipients “are all dedicated to providing care to the uninsured and underinsured and have a passion for nursing,” says Dr. Amber Roaché, assistant professor and coordinator of the UTC Nurse Practitioner concentration and the grant’s principal investigator.
Morgan, Allen and Zumbrun are part of a cohort that started in fall 2022 and will graduate in May 2025.
Morgan (BSN ’21) has spent her career as a bedside nurse, mostly at nursing homes, “because I love little old people,” she says with a laugh, “but there’s more that I want to do. That’s why I want to be an FNP, just to give back.”
Morgan, who received an RN associate degree from Cleveland (Tennessee) State Community College, says landing the CAP grant will allow her to decrease work time and volunteer more.
“To venture out into underserved communities is the focus of what I want to go into when I graduate,” says Morgan, who works approximately 36 hours weekly at Tennova Healthcare in Cleveland. “I have plans for what I want to do—like going into homes of bedbound patients that can’t get to a clinic.”
Allen (BSN ’20), who works at Erlanger Children’s Emergency Room in Chattanooga, wants to become an FNP so she can go into rural communities and have parents feel comfortable that their children are getting the care they need.
“In my experience in the hospital, I’ve seen families that have to drive an hour and a half, two hours. Once they get admitted to the hospital, they face challenges because they can’t leave their children,” Allen says, “and they often have other children at home with nobody to take care of them.
“Being out in the community would be really important to help these families and alleviate the burden on them.”
For Zumbrun (BSN ’18), working in labor and delivery at Erlanger’s downtown campus has allowed her to see “a ton of people who are transferred from Alabama, North Carolina, all of these rural areas that don’t have hospitals that can provide the care that we can,” she says.
FNPs have long been in demand, but a recent shortage of family practice physicians has increased the number of primary care positions that FNPs are filling, particularly in rural and underserved southeast Tennessee populations.
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