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IU Kokomo fills health care gap with family nurse practitioner program

Feb. 15, 2017

As a nurse, Alli Cardwell knows there is a great need for primary health care providers. IU Kokomo prepares her to step in and fill that gap as part of its inaugural family nurse practitioner class, which launched in January with a full cohort of 14 students.

students collaborating in class

Classes for the family nurse practitioner program are taught in person and in hybrid formula, which combines online and classroom experiences. | PHOTO COURTESY OF IU KOKOMO

“There’s such a high need in Kokomo for access to general care,” said Cardwell, a critical care nurse. “The need for primary health clinics is great, and I want to be able to do something for the community I’ve lived in for more than 20 years. There’s so much that can be done in preventative health care, and to be a key player in that is exciting.”

Filling the health care void in north central Indiana is the reason the IU Kokomo School of Nursing added the track to its Master of Science in nursing program, according to Dean Linda Wallace. Family nurse practitioners are advanced-practice registered nurses who serve as primary health care providers to patients of all ages. 

“Our mission is to provide and enhance access to health care for the community, ultimately improving the health of the citizens of north central Indiana,” she said, adding that Community Howard Regional Health is partnering with the campus to support the program financially, and to secure clinical practicum placements for students. 

A unique feature of IU Kokomo’s track is that it provides these placements for its students, rather than requiring them to find their own. Other regional health care systems and medical practitioners also are providing opportunities for students to complete the 600 required clinical hours.

“Since this region will be where our students complete their practicums, we believe graduates will be more likely to stay and practice here, providing greater access to health care for residents,” Wallace said.

Cardwell, from Kokomo, appreciates the opportunity to continue her education where she earned her Bachelor of Science in nursing.

“I love the campus culture, the smaller class sizes and the individual attention from instructors,” she said.

She is among the 86 percent of students who earned bachelor's degrees in nursing from IU Kokomo. Thirty-five percent are from Howard County, with 64 percent from Howard, Clinton, Tipton and Grant counties.

Cardwell and classmate Stella Taber both work in the cardiovascular cath lab at Community Howard Regional Health. Taber was attracted to the program as a way to take on a larger role in patient care.

“I want to understand more advanced care and use my critical thinking skills to help with diagnosis and treatment of patients,” she said.

Matthew Amayun, also an IU Kokomo graduate, chose the program for the opportunity it gives him to be more involved in diagnosing and treating patients. He works as an operating room nurse at Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis. 

He also looks forward to giving back, locally and globally, as a family nurse practitioner.

“My family is from the Philippines, and I’d like to go back and help with some of the clinics there,” he said.

Mary Steinke, nurse practitioner track director, said classes are taught in person and in hybrid formula, which combines online and classroom experiences. Students take seven semesters of classes, including summer sessions, to complete in two and a half years.

Each student has at least three years of experience as a registered nurse, she said.

“They’re a very bright group, and are committed to the work that goes into earning this advanced degree,” she said. “Most of them have families, or they work. It’s going to be difficult to study and get all of this in. They are going to be assets to the community through their hard work.”

The family nurse practitioner program aligns with several priorities outlined in the university's Bicentennial Strategic Plan, including a commitment to student success and health sciences research and education to improve the state and nation's health.

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