As of Fall 2014, the Duke University School of Nursing will offer HIV/AIDS nurse practitioner specialty concentration.
The new concentration, which the nursing school announced in a press release Oct. 16, will train nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants in the field of HIV/AIDS primary care. The creation of the concentration is a project funded through a grant from Health Resources and Services Administration. Duke is among five schools in the U.S. to have been selected for this grant, which DUSON administrators think will help future nurses provide more dedicated care to HIV/AIDS patients.
“This grant is meant to help implement a national HIV/AIDS strategy to improve the capacity of the healthcare system to accommodate new diagnoses,” said James Harmon, assistant professor at the nursing school who spearheaded the grant writing process.
Harmon, whose primary expertise and interests lie in HIV/AIDS, has had 17 years of experience treating patients with the illnesses and will direct the new concentration’s curriculum.
“When the grant was announced, it was suggested to me that I apply and take on a lead role in writing it,” Harmon said.
In 2011, the Institute of Medicine reported that not enough care providers were being trained to provide for the growing number of new HIV diagnoses, Harmon said.
Mary Ann Fuchs, chief nursing and patient care services officer, noted that DUSON was selected as the only school in the South because of its focus on a rural demographic.
“DUSON’s focus on rural and underserved areas is of special importance due to cultural concerns and the incidence of new cases,” Fuchs said.
Fuchs also said that the new concentration continues to demonstrate DUHS' commitment to diversity and its consideration for the broader community.
Harmon added that the program will enhance what the nursing school already offers by way of concentrations.
“The development of this new concentration sits with our other signature NP concentrations at DUSON, including our orthopedic, cardiology and oncology concentrations,” said Michael Zychowicz, associate professor and director of the master of science in nursing program.
Harmon emphasized that the program trains mostly nurse practitioners and is unique in that regard.
“Generally, nurse practitioner education does not afford students the opportunity to have an in-depth exposure to the biological, psychological and sociological aspects of caring for people and families who are affected by HIV/AIDS,” Zychowicz said.
The program is also a distance-learning program. Harmon said that students can enroll from anywhere, though they will need to come to campus during training. At the conclusion of the concentration, participants will be placed in clinics near their communities.
Zychowicz said that he expects the concentration to be popular amongst students at the nursing school.
“I am confident this will be a highly sought after educational concentration,” he said. “All of our concentrations provide a great opportunity to showcase the expertise of our faculty in special clinical training areas.”