Many Americans face severe challenges accessing healthcare—as we discussed in this article detailing one of MCN’s Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) students. Service to the vulnerable and underserved has been a core component of the Mennonite College of Nursing (MCN) mission since its founding in 1919. Which is why, years ago under the leadership of former Associate Dean for Academics Denise Wilson, MCN successfully applied for the Advanced Nursing Education Workforce (ANEW) grant.

The ANEW grant is offered by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. It supports academic clinical partnerships to educate and graduate primary care Nurse Practitioners (NP), clinical nurse specialists, and nurse midwives and to prepare those professionals for the unique challenges that come with service in rural and underserved communities.

Today, MCN faculty member and FNP Sequence Leader Jessica Sullivan is the initiative’s driver. Under Sullivan’s leadership, MCN was recently awarded a $2.8 million ANEW grant. We sat down with Sullivan to talk ANEW, primary care, and the future.

First, let’s hear about you. Tell us about yourself.

FNP Sequence Leader Jessica Sullivan

Jessica Sullivan, FNP sequence leader

I have been a nurse for over 14 years and a Family Nurse Practitioner for nine. I actually graduated from the FNP program at MCN in 2010! In my time as an FNP, I have always worked in primary care. My first role was at a low-income, federally qualified health center in Decatur. For the past six years, I have worked at an OSF family practice here in Bloomington-Normal.

I am passionate about providing high-quality primary care, especially to underserved and vulnerable populations. I’m also passionate about teaching and helping to educate future NPs!

How are you enjoying serving as FNP sequence leader so far?

It’s been amazing so far! It’s a huge responsibility that I take very seriously, but it’s been a dream of mine for many years, so all the hard work is worth it!

What is your favorite thing about our students?

Their commitment, respectfulness, and compassion.


MCN Graduate Students

MCN graduate students at 2019 Commencement.

OK, now let’s talk about ANEW. What is the purpose of the ANEW grant?

Ultimately, the ANEW grant is all about preparing advanced practice nurses with the tools necessary to succeed in roles in rural and underserved settings—especially in primary care. For MCN, that means a lot of collaboration.

In partnership with local community organizations that serve rural and vulnerable populations, MCN’s ANEW grant team strives to enhance clinical experiences for students in MCN’s Family Nurse Practitioner program. The ANEW grant supports those partnerships, allowing us to increase access, provide care to vulnerable populations, and provide funds to defray some of the cost of tuition and other school-related expenses for our students.

How is ANEW pushing forward health care in our community?

Overall, this grant helps us continue to improve and enhance the educational experiences we are able to offer our FNP students. That, in turn, helps them to be better prepared to meet the unique challenges of providing primary care in a very complex, constantly changing healthcare environment.

According to the McLean County Community Health Needs Assessment, behavioral health care is consistently in the top three health priorities in our local community; ANEW helps to address that need. The Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) certificate that is currently in development, mental health and substance use disorder simulation scenarios, and our partnership with Chestnut Health Systems will all help our graduates provide comprehensive, integrated behavioral health care to these vulnerable individuals.

Biggest impact of the ANEW initiative?

Personally, I think that the biggest impact is comprehensively prepared FNP graduates who are ready to care for the whole person! These nurses graduate, go out into and radically change the quality of healthcare in our communities.

What is on the horizon for ANEW?

Looking forward, we are working on the development of an academic practice partnership with Chestnut Health Systems. Additionally, here in house we are working on the PMHNP post-master’s certificate, and simulation scenarios for the FNP students focused on telehealth, mental health, and substance use disorder. Finally, we’re looking at the development of a Center for Senior Advocacy at ISU to help community-dwelling older adults safely, comfortably, and independently remain in their homes.

Finally, what do you find the most rewarding about ANEW?

For me, it always comes back to our students. I’m really excited to be able to provide traineeships funds that take away some of the financial burden and stress that comes with attending school—especially since many of our students have full-time jobs, families, and other personal commitments.

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