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FARMINGTON —  A new grant will help nursing students at the University of New Mexico and San Juan College gain real-world experience in a primary care clinic on the Navajo Nation.

The university was awarded $611,259 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to administer the Nurse Education, Practice, Quality and Retention-Bachelor of Science in Nursing Practicum grant for the next two years, according to a UNM press release.

UNM Associated Professor Judy Liesveld said the grant will allow the university to continue sending two groups of senior nursing students to learn about primary care nursing in an underserved community at the Indian Health Service Unit in Chinle, Ariz. The program was started last year.

“We’re extremely pleased to partner with the San Juan College nursing department,” Liesveld said.

Shawna Kemper, assistant director and assistant professor of the San Juan College Nursing program, did not return calls seeking comment.

One of Liesveld’s first jobs was working at the primary care facility in Chinle, Ariz. where students will spend two weeks gaining real-world experience in the fall and spring semesters.

“It was a great experience. I wanted to share it with the students,” Liesveld said.

UNM and San Juan College students pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program will travel to Chinle, Ariz. to complete about 100 hours of clinical work.

They will also develop and complete a project such as starting an immunization clinic, or teaching classes on nutrition or exercise that could benefit the community.

“This fits in with one of their nursing classes where they learn about population-based health and working with vulnerable populations,” Liesveld said.

Liesveld described the job of working in a primary care clinic as “nursing at the frontlines.” Workers focus on health promotion and disease prevention to improve the health of a community.

Students and faculty will also participate in cultural humility training to build cultural awareness when addressing health needs of the community, according to the press release.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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