KOKOMO, Ind. – A new program at Indiana University Kokomo allowed Amber Banks and Connie Tidd to fulfill long-term career goals as nurses.
Both women are among the inaugural graduates of Indiana University Kokomo’s Family Nurse Practitioner (F.N.P.) class, ready to fill the health care gap in north central Indiana. The 13 graduates will be honored at the master’s hooding ceremony, set for 4 p.m. Monday, May 6 in Kresge Auditorium.
Banks, from Marion, chose to earn a bachelor’s in nursing from IU Kokomo in 2005, specifically because she wanted to be a nurse practitioner.
“I’m looking forward to getting starting, and continuing to learn,” she said. “I know that on the job is where you learn the most in any new profession in nursing.”
Tidd, from Cutler, also knew she wanted to be an advanced practice nurse, either as a primary health care provider or a nurse educator at a university, and this new program gave her the opportunity to advance her career.
“It’s a big deal to me to be able to come back and see many of the same instructors I had as an undergraduate,” she said. “The instructors at IU Kokomo care about their students. It’s very personal, and I have enjoyed it. They’re always there if you need something.”
Tidd’s goal is to work in a clinic in a rural community, where a shortage of physicians may put health care out of reach for many residents.
“There’s a gap there,” Tidd said. “That’s where we’re seeing a big need. Many of these people can’t get to a city for a doctor’s appointment. I’m looking forward to getting out there and helping with the scarcity of physicians. I feel like our cohort is going to be a good fit.”
Community Howard Regional Health partnered with IU Kokomo to start the program in 2017, providing $500,000 over five years to fund it. Hospital and campus officials said the program is necessary to meet the health care needs of the region, filling a void of primary care providers due to an increase in an aging population and those with access to health insurance.
By 2020, Indiana is predicted to have 500 fewer primary health care doctors than needed, according to the Robert Graham Center, an independent research united affiliated with the American Academy of Family Physicians. By 2030, it anticipates that shortage will increase to more than 800.
Graduates of this program can help fill that gap, offering care such as physical exams, ordering and interpreting results of blood tests and X-rays, diagnosing and treating illnesses, and writing prescriptions.
F.N.P.s use a patient and family-centered approach to health care, and emphasize health promotion, disease prevention, patient education, symptom control, and care coordination.
Each student completes 600 hours of clinical placement before graduating — and a unique factor of IU Kokomo’s program is that those are provided, rather than students having to find their own.
Banks has enjoyed the variety of people she’s met, and the example set by the nurse practitioner she’s worked with in her placement. She hopes to work in a similar setting when she finds her first job.
“It’s challenging,” she said. “It’s hopping, and you get a good variety. It’s almost like urgent care, but with family integrated into it. You can be there for someone who needs a same-day appointment, but their physician is booking out for two to three months. You might care for someone after a hospitalization. You can also do acute care, like diagnosing illnesses and prescribing medicines.”
Tidd likes the family aspect of the job, noting that she may care for not only a child, but his or her parents and even grandparents.