Nursing in rural Appalachia isn't for the faint of heart.
Because of geographic isolation and higher poverty rates than the rest of the country, the region’s residents have a smaller pool of health care providers to pull from and tend to face significant public health disparities — which can put a significant amount of pressure on recent nursing school graduates left without a professional support network, according to a Clemson University news release.
Anne Koci, a clinical professor in the Clemson School of Nursing, hopes that the new initiative she’s spearheaded, the Appalachian American Alliance of Nurse Practitioners, will be able to link nurses across the mountain range and improve health disparities in the region, according to the release.
The alliance, housed in Clemson’s nursing school and supported by the Center for Research on Health Disparities, will offer professional development, continuing education and networking for nurses across the 13 states that make up the Appalachian region.
“Classroom education never truly prepares you for the realities of practice,” Koci said in the release about her own experience as a nurse practitioner in rural Appalachia. “The role change from RN to APRN, plus the autonomy and responsibilities of the role in the midst of professional isolation were nearly overwhelming.”
The alliance’s grant will help fund practitioners who apply to be part of the Advanced Nursing Education Workforce, according to the release. The initiative follows a 2019 grant to the school from the national Health Resources and Services Administration to boost the nurse practitioner workforce in the state’s six Upstate Appalachian counties.
“In these Appalachian areas, it can be difficult for patients to access medical attention or primary care, and at times health care providers can feel isolated,” Kathleen Valentine, director of the Clemson School of Nursing and chief academic nursing officer for Clemson, said in the release. “The AAANP and ANEW grant are two ways in which we can break down those barriers for patients and their health care providers while working toward our goal of eliminating health disparities in this region.”o