“The classes are amazing,” said Shannon Heuklom, RN, one of four students in the pilot cohort of the program, which will expand to about a dozen students in September.
“We get to hear some of the top HIV people at Hopkins speak about their work as well as meet people currently in care for their HIV,” said Heuklom, who is in the Adult-Geriatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner program with a specialty in HIV primary care. “Part of the program also brings us outside the hospital and into advocacy and volunteer organizations. It really gives us the big picture of all the pieces needed to partner with patients and provide them the care they need.”
The innovative new curriculum was developed by associate professor Jason Farley, RN, PhD, MPH, CRNP, FAAN. The HIV Primary Care Certificate (HIV-PCC) program is available for Adult-Geriatric Nurse Practitioner/MSN or AGNP/MSN/MPH students.
This is the first time Johns Hopkins University is offering specialty training programs in HIV to non-physician providers. Doing so recognizes that HIV care has been migrating into primary care settings and out of specialized clinics, said Farley, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for AIDS Research.
Data shows no difference in patient outcomes when comparing physician care to nurse practitioner care, said Farley, a School of Nursing faculty member and an NP in the Division of Infectious Diseases within the Johns Hopkins AIDS Service.
“I’ve been training nurse practitioners for years and there is a clear need to move HIV care to more of a primary care route,” said Farley. “When I saw the call from the Health Resources and Services Administration, which is the funding agency for this program, [developing the curriculum] was the perfect culmination of both [my] clinical experience and my faculty role and history of educating NPs.”
Development of the curriculum was funded by a five-year, $1.3 million grant.
The HIV provider population is getting older, said Farley, who works as a nurse practitioner at the Moore Clinic, a HIV-care facility operated by the Johns Hopkins AIDS Service at the School of Medicine at Hopkins. There are 12 non-physician providers at the clinic. At 38, “I am one of the two youngest of those providers. I’ve been there for 11 years now. We really need to get these new young people in so that they can learn from the providers who’ve been doing this for a long time.”
The new training program excites Kelly Lowensen, RN, MSN, ACRN, a nurse training coordinator.
“I am so excited about that curriculum,” she said. “I have worked in HIV since 1996 and I think this is an unbelievable opportunity within the school of nursing. The ability to have a student go in and see a patient more than one time and actually follow up on what you recommend ... is such a plus.”
One key component of the program is the yearlong HIV clinic placement, which will help students see the impact of their care. Most nurse training programs operate on a semester model. Being in a clinic for a year gives nurses the opportunity to see a patient multiple times and to manage his or her conditions and evaluate the impact of the decisions you have made in that practice, Farley said.
Heuklom agreed the clinical experience is a highlight. “In the HIV primary care specialty program, students have a one-year clinical in an HIV clinic rather than several shorter placements in non-specific sites,” she said. “Each student will get his or her own patient panel overseen by an NP or MD preceptor. This allows students to see continuous care of patients and has the feel of a residency program, which is something a lot of NPs don’t have access to.”
Heuklom’s placement will be in the Moore Clinic. She will start to see patients in May and continue seeing them until May 2015. Students will work in 20 sites, which include specialty care facilities, prevention-oriented programs and primary care clinics.
Heuklom, who grew up poor, wanted to work with underserved populations to give back.
“I got interested in international health and did an MPH with a concentration in infectious disease,” she said. “I got to do some wonderful research in a couple countries in Africa and in Boston, but it was still too far removed from people and relationships. That is when I decided to become an NP.”
To comment, email editorDC@nurse.com or post a comment below.