Newswise — Professor Mary Ann Lewis only wants students in her UCLA family nurse practitioner (FNP) program who understand what it really means to have that title.
“Nursing has always meant taking care of the poor. From public health nursing in the early 1900s, all the immigrant communities, they took care of the poor -- that is nursing’s forte.”
Through California Song-Brown grants, the Caring for the Underserved program was born more than 20 years ago, pairing the UCLA School of Nursing with community health clinics around the Los Angeles region.
Caring for the Underserved was established in 1993, and its students have served more than 444,000 people since then. Each year, 40 first-year students see an average of 130 patients annually, and 40 second-year students see 980 patients — in communities throughout Southern California, from Arroyo Vista to Watts.
The roots of the UCLA School of Nursing advanced practice program stretch back as far as 1971, to a special nursing pilot program Lewis implemented. A family nurse practitioner takes care of patients across the entire lifespan, while also having the skills to care for emergency problems or those who have been hospitalized and come back to the clinic. An FNP may work as many as 10 hours a day.
“They are family-oriented, and they take care of the patient in the context of the family,” Lewis said.
In 1989, Lewis looked to further strengthen the family nurse practitioner program, and the Song-Brown legislation that allocated money for family medicine training programs became the vessel.
“We have partnerships throughout Southern California. They want our students. The outcomes for Song-Brown are that more than half of the FNP students practice in underserved areas after graduation, which is pretty phenomenal,” Lewis said.
When the majority of training for the nurses occurred in one clinic, they became more invested, which led to higher retention rates after graduation. Clinics were chosen for the highest poverty rates and most underserved.
“Being able to come here as a student, I was able to realize how much we all really have and take for granted — how precious healthcare is and how there is a complete different side of the world,” said Carol Vasquez, family nurse practitioner and 2015 graduate of the program.
“Working as an FNP for two years and now looking back on my time as a student, I feel very fortunate to have been a graduate of the UCLA School of Nursing and a participant of Song-Brown. It gave me a very special training that I am able to use on a daily basis with my patients.”
“We make a big focus about cultural differences,” Lewis added. “Los Angeles is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. We make a deal about cultural diversity, about learning about people’s beliefs, and understanding those beliefs and respecting those beliefs.”
In recognition for this long-term success, the Caring for the Underserved program received 2017 UCLA Landmark Community Program of the Year.
“What’s exciting is that it has put the UCLA School of Nursing at the forefront,” Lewis said. “The community knows who we are. They want our graduates.”