$3M from NIOSH, HRSA supporting doctoral students

Heaton with PhD students

By Laura Gasque

University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing Professor Karen Heaton, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, FAAOHN, FAAN (BSN 1981), has been awarded nearly $3 million in grant funding from the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety and the Health Resources and Services Administration to support educating graduate nursing students over the next five years to bring more nurses and nurse faculty into the workforce.

Heaton is the Program Director of Occupational Health Nursing and received $1.25 million per year over the next five years as part of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-funded T42 program in the UAB Deep South Center for Occupational Health and Safety. This grant will fund up to ten PhD and DNP students who focus their work on occupational health program quality improvement and research.

“Where and how work is performed is changing,” Heaton said. “Worker mental health is a critical issue made more evident by the pandemic and incidents of workplace violence. The health of workers is a function of what happens at work and outside of work. It is critical that we prepare nurses to conduct research and apply findings from research to the care of workers to keep them healthy, keep workforces strong and businesses thriving. The NIOSH grant is enabling us to do just that.”

Heaton also is the Program Director of the Nurse Faculty Loan Program from the Health Resources and Services Administration, which awarded the UAB School of Nursing $1.58 million for the 2022-2023 academic year—the largest NFLP funding ever awarded to the School. These funds are available to DNP and PhD students intending to serve as nursing faculty after graduation. Graduates who complete four years of faculty employment after graduation are eligible to receive 85 percent loan forgiveness and a 3 percent interest rate on the remaining balance.

“The funds available to our students through the Nurse Faculty Loan Program will help fill the need for future nursing faculty that will be required to meet the needs of both the current shortage of faculty and the impending retirement of faculty from the baby boomer generation,” Heaton said. “Having adequate numbers of doctorally prepared faculty is essential so we can continue to provide high-quality education to students at all levels and produce graduates able to competently provide direct care as registered nurses, advanced practice nurses and who are capable of conducting original and translational research.”

These grants also provide important mechanisms for recruitment and retention of students during the current critical nursing shortage.

“Funding from NIOSH and the Nurse Faculty Loan Program have been an important resource to students who otherwise might not have been able to enroll in or complete doctoral programs,” Heaton said. “This funding has allowed us to recruit and retain diverse groups of students who make impactful contributions in occupational safety and health and in nursing education and research. Graduates funded from these grants are extending the UABSON mission by excelling in practice, scholarship, and education in Alabama, nationally and internationally.”

Last modified on March 16, 2023

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