Preterm births along with the number of premature infants who survive are on the rise in the U.S. The NeoRISK Project was initiated to address the current national shortage of highly skilled neonatal nurse practitioners and also to prepare graduates to provide vital support to the highest risk infants as they leave the carefully controlled environment of the hospital. The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) has launched a first-of-its kind neonatal nursing program in collaboration with the University of Hawaii.
Today, there is a growing population of preterm infants who survive, which means there is a whole set of unique health challenges present during the transition from the hospital to the community,” said NeoRISK Project Director Christine Kennedy, UCSF’s Jack and Elaine Koehn Chair in Pediatric Nursing and a Professor of Family Healthcare Nursing.
These challenges include limited access to quality medical care among families in rural areas, as well as health disparities linked to race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. The complex geographic, demographic, and cultural characteristics of California and Hawaii make these states ideal incubators for a program like NeoRISK, Kennedy said.
“Also, both California and Hawaii have a very diverse premature infant population. We’ve had great advance in medical technology, but not much has been done to really change what happens when babies go home.”
NeoRISK started in September with five students based at UCSF’s School of Nursing and four at the University of Hawaii at the Manoa School of Nursing & Dental Hygiene. The program is being funded by a three year grant from HRSA.
NeoRISK is the first NNP training program to focus on infants at risk for experiencing health disparities, particularly during the transition from hospital to home, said Project Coordinator Mary Lynch, Clinical Professor and Coordinator for the Neonatal and Pediatric Specialty Programs at the School of Nursing.
Throughout the two year course, the faculty will make use of the latest technologies, such as streaming online videos. The Hawaii based students will complete most of their clinical applications at neonatal intensive care units and various other sites in Hawaii. They will also complete a portion of their clinical training hours at UCSF affiliated facilities.