Santa Rosa Health Centers to start nurse practitioner residency program

SANTA ROSA -- Santa Rosa Community Health Centers received a federal grant of $850,000 that will enable it to establish a residency program for nurse practitioners, which could help the federally qualified health center address an anticipated shortage of primary care providers.

[caption id="attachment_18768" align="alignright" width="314"] Santa Rosa Community Center's new Fountaingrove clinic[/caption]

The grant, received in July, is part of $71.3 million in funds from the federal Health and Human Services Department to boost national nursing workforce programs, as stipulated by the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

A total of 633 awards were distributed to various nursing programs across the country. Among the recipients -- the vast majority being universities -- were two community health center groups:  Santa Rosa Community Health Centers and one in Bangor, Maine.

Santa Rosa Community Health Centers will be able to train four nurse practitioners per year over the next three years at the Vista Family Health Center, said Francisco Trilla, medical director of the eight-location network of health centers, which serve mostly low-income patients.

"The intent here is to address what has become a shortage of primary care providers nationally," Dr. Trilla said.

The goal is to have faculty and two residents in place by January. The remaining residents would come on by December 2012.

Health officials across the country have warned of a looming primary care provider shortage, particularly after the federal health care overhaul. The law will extend health care to about 32 million Americans. In Sonoma County, roughly 45,000 new patients are expected in 2014, when many of the law's provisions take effect.

Pedro Toledo, director of government and community relations for the Redwood Community Health Coalition, said its network of health centers, which includes Santa Rosa Community Health Centers, employs a larger number of nurse practitioners because they can often more quickly attend to patients with less serious illnesses. That, in turn, allows for more patients to be treated while freeing up physicians to tend to more seriously ill patients.

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