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Nurse practitioner residency grant awarded

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BANGOR – Penobscot Community Health Care (PCHC), the largest federally qualified health center in Maine, in partnership with the University of Maine School of Nursing, Harrington Family Health Center in Harrington, and Hometown Health Center in Newport and Dexter, has received a four-year grant award to support a nurse practitioner residency program. The $1.7 million grant comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and is one of a handful of this kind in the country.

Maine has higher rates of chronic disease, cancer and socio-economic fears than many other states, which adversely affects the health of its residents. Maine ranks first in the nation for children diagnosed with anxiety disorders, holds the eighth highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation and the second highest rate of babies born affected by substances. These factors, along with being the most rural state with the oldest population in the country, contribute to more complex health care delivery needs.

“We are seeing the demand for primary care services increasing dramatically in our region,” said Lori Dwyer, president & CEO of PCHC. “New nurse practitioner graduates receive no residency training to bridge the gap between education and practice. Yet, they are still expected to carry a full patient panel of about a thousand patients upon graduation. We will work with the University of Maine School of Nursing, a school with a graduate program that ranked in the top 100 nursing schools in the nation, to develop a robust 12-month program that will bridge that gap.”

The grant allows for the return of a nurse practitioner residency program to PCHC after a similar program was discontinued in 2014 due to a lack of funding. This grant requires PCHC to plan for long-term sustainability to continue once grant funding runs out.

“The goal is to create a sustainable residency model built on community partnerships that is specifically designed for the needs of our rural state,” Dwyer said. “We expect this to benefit not only PCHC and its partners, but organizations delivering primary care services across the state of Maine.”

Residents will receive training in community-based FQHC settings within PCHC, as well as Hometown Health Center, serving Canaan, Dexter, Dover-Foxcroft, Newport, Pittsfield and surrounding areas, and Harrington Family Health Center, serving Harrington and surrounding communities in Washington County. The program will provide the residents with training to develop skills for complex community health practice. The program will produce four graduates per year, and help fill the unmet demand for primary care medical services in Maine.

“We are so excited to restart this program and provide quality training for Nurse Practitioners in our unique integrated care model,” Dwyer said. “PCHC has seen great success with our dental and pharmacy residency programs, and we are an area health education center, providing work experience for more than 200 students each year. As a learning organization — where all teach and all learn — we are thrilled to expand our capacity to train the next generation of healthcare workers while helping to solve recruitment challenges in the communities we serve and beyond.”

The nurse practitioner residency program will begin accepting applicants in December and is expected to be fully underway by July, 2020.

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