Distance technology for health sciences education has been around since the late 1960s. Although this technology made great strides in reaching more non-traditional and remote students, past efforts have had severe limitations because of confidentiality and cost, especially for the health care professions. To address these issues, the Primary Integrated Psychiatric Nursing (PIPN) Project is a three year federally funded grant from the Department of Health and Human Services designed to train nurses throughout the state of Nebraska as psychiatric nurse practitioners. The project specifically focuses on increasing the workforce in rural and medically underserved areas of the state using enhanced distant learning technology to connect students to the graduate psychiatric nurse practitioner program at UNMC's College of Nursing.
Project Director Michael J. Rice, Ph.D., APRN-NP, and Co-Project Director, Julia F. Houfek, Ph.D., APRN-CNS, BC, work with students to direct them through four tracts of study leading to a psychiatric nurse practitioner's degree. Because of technological advances, a student from a small, rural Nebraska town is no longer limited to the educational opportunities within driving distance. Course work and clinical experiences are enhanced through the use of secured encrypted video-conferencing systems which allows faculty to confidentially conduct real time face to face sessions with students at any location. Students log in from their home computer to see and hear the faculty and other classmates in real time. The educational platforms contain options for discussions, blogs, polling pods, white boards, and even remote document sharing. Participants in the meeting may even share their desktop, an easy way to draw diagrams, share PowerPoint presentations and write notes on a chalk board. Although the use of this delivery tool is cutting edge, the PIPN project has also taken the application beyond the classroom. Clinical supervision in remote areas, faculty office hours, program recruitment and student advising are just a few of the applications used by PIPN.
The project's use of Adobe Connect video conferencing systems enables current distant education delivery to go to the last mile, where services are most needed. Using this approach, advanced educational efforts can cover all 77,358 square miles of the state of Nebraska. By the end of 2012, the project goal is to increase the pool of advanced practice psychiatric nurses throughout Nebraska, including rural and medically underserved areas, in order to address the imbalance of mental health professionals available to all Nebraskans. These efforts benefit the state of Nebraska exponentially as behavioral health services can be developed in remote underserved areas. The effort also builds a foundation for the future. Once students graduate and establish practices, they can also serve as clinical preceptors to train future students in their area. Expanding psychiatric mental health training and services throughout all of Nebraska's 77.358 square miles.
A Project within the UNMC College of Nursing Funded by Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration Grant number D09HP14988