BY JEFFREY LEWIS AND ELLEN JUNN
Special to the Journal
In January 2018, in partnership with Livingston Community Health (LCH), Legacy Health Endowment announced a $1.6 million gift to California State University, Stanislaus, to establish a family nurse practitioner (FNP) master’s degree program at the Turlock campus.
Nurse practitioners are high-level medical providers that assess, diagnose, and treat patients of all types. For some, they are the provider of choice because of their role and care models. Nurse practitioners focus on disease management as well as health promotion and prevention. They do a common thing uncommonly well.
In less than five years, more than 56 students have graduated as Nurse Practitioners from the CSU Stanislaus program and are working across Merced and Stanislaus County today. The importance of this partnership cannot be underscored. As our communities struggle to find and retain physicians, Nurse Practitioners (NPs) fill a significant gap. They are offering families a new medical home where babies to grandparents can be provided quality care not far from their homes.
While CSU Stanislaus continues educating more nurses and quality nurse practitioners, rural California faces an ongoing healthcare crisis. With increasing numbers of older doctors retiring, recruiting replacements is a constant battle. For many, the Central Valley does not offer the same “lifestyle” as Los Angeles, San Diego, or San Francisco. But we offer something better: a community that cares.
As the number of primary care doctors in rural areas continues to decline, nurse practitioners are uniquely positioned to fill the need for quality healthcare services. Studies have shown that patient outcomes are as good or better for patients treated by a nurse practitioner than care by a physician.
While the national debate regarding healthcare coverage in recent years has focused on dollars and cents, the challenge is more complex. And while the rhetoric in Washington DC continues to amplify, we cannot depend on Congress for immediate help.
Educating more Nurse Practitioners will ensure that local residents can continue accessing quality services in Turlock and Central Valley. But more work still needs to be done. Our goal is to also train Nurse Practitioners with sub-specialties in geriatrics, behavioral health, pharmacology, and pediatrics. In addition, we are also exploring how to increase opportunities for Physician Assistants.
This is how charitable dollars can make a difference in the lives of residents by offering healthcare educational programs that do not put the student or their family in debt. And through a partnership with CSU Stanislaus and Livingston Community Health, we are slowly changing the lives of families by bringing quality care to the community and helping educate local students without fear of horrific educational debt.
Nurse Practitioners are often medicine’s first responders. They lead tireless professional lives. Many juggle family and other responsibilities but never let them interfere with the quality of care they provide. We are proud of the first 56 graduates from the CSU Stanislaus program. And look forward to the next group of 50 who will help reinforce the importance of healthcare without four walls and care delivery in the patient’s home.
— Jeffrey Lewis is the President and CEO of Legacy Health Endowment. Dr. Ellen Junn is the President of CSU Stanislaus. The views expressed are their own.