UW News

March 3, 2020

Premera Blue Cross teams with the UW to establish rural nursing program

UW News

Premera Blue Cross, a leading health plan in the Pacific Northwest, today announced a $4.7 million grant to the University of Washington to establish the Rural Nursing Health Initiative to place current students in rural practices in Washington state.

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Premera Blue Cross announces a multimillion dollar grant for rural nursing to the UW School of Nursing in 2020.Olivia Hagan/University of Washington

According to a 2017 study from the National Rural Health Association, people living in rural areas suffer worse health outcomes than their urban counterparts. They have less access to primary care, less access to preventive care, less longevity and less chance of surviving a major heart attack, stroke or other health event. In Washington state, more than a million people, or 14% of the state’s population, live in rural communities.

“Premera is proud to support the University of Washington School of Nursing in their efforts to deliver health care to remote and medically underserved communities,” said Jeff Roe, president and CEO of Premera Blue Cross. “We know that students who learn in rural settings are much more likely to return to that community when they graduate. With the growing disparity between urban and rural health care access, it is critical we invest in sustainable solutions that close that gap.”

The UW School of Nursing will spearhead the effort and will build the Rural Nursing Health Initiative over a four-year period, supporting 20 students each year. The program will create enhanced clinical placements for advanced practice registered nurse students, or APRNs, in rural areas throughout Washington, as well as build a pipeline for student placements and provider support, especially critical for rural communities without robust networks.

While the program will be led by the UW, students from Seattle University, Washington State University, Pacific Lutheran University, Seattle Pacific University and Gonzaga University will also be eligible to apply for placements in rural settings and to participate in the new Rural Health Nurse Practitioner Fellowship Program after graduation. Additionally, UW nursing faculty will consult alongside Washington State University nursing faculty to conduct a comprehensive outcomes evaluation study. Faculty will analyze the data from this study to provide evidence of the effectiveness of this effort.

“I firmly believe that advanced practice nurses are the answer to providing equitable access to primary and preventive health care in rural and underserved areas, and I believe the Rural Nursing Health Initiative will prove that out. This grant allows us to ensure the sustainability of the rural nursing workforce, improving health outcomes across our communities,” said Azita Emami, the Robert G. and Jean A. Reid endowed executive dean, UW School of Nursing. “It is critical that this work happens in an academic setting because we have the resources required to gather the necessary data to evaluate the overall success of this program and to report the findings in scientific publications.”

Premera’s investment in and partnership with the UW School of Nursing is part of a larger Premera program to improve access to care in rural areas. The company is focusing its investments in the following areas: physician, nurse and health aide recruitment and training; clinical integration of behavioral health; provider to provider consultations to support isolated rural doctors; and programs to increase the capacity of mental health crisis centers in rural areas.

For more information, contact Jackson Holtz at jjholtz@uw.edu or 206-543-2580 or Dani Chung at dani.chung@premera.com or 425-361-3021.