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Nursing program awarded $1.7M for culturally inclusive simulation labs, teaching, and scholarships
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Nursing program awarded $1.7M for culturally inclusive simulation labs, teaching, and scholarships

The Fort Lewis College Foundation received $1.7 million from The Colorado Health Foundation in support of the CU Nursing Fort Lewis College Collaborative. With this transformative grant, Skyhawk Hall will be renovated into a nursing-focused learning space featuring culturally inclusive nursing simulation labs. The CHF grant will also support the development of a unique curriculum that emphasizes community and Indigenous approaches to healthcare. Additionally, the grant establishes scholarships to support students who will diversify the nursing profession and demonstrate a personal commitment to rural and Indigenous healthcare delivery.

“The FLC Foundation is honored to partner with The Colorado Health Foundation in support of their ambitious and important goal of achieving health equity for our communities,” said Melissa Mount, vice president of Advancement and CEO of the FLC Foundation. “With their philanthropic leadership through this award, and the generosity of supporters from our community as a whole, we’re able to help propel the launch of our new nursing program.” 

The CU Nursing Fort Lewis College Collaborative was announced in February 2022, along with the news of more than $1 million in philanthropic support from Steve and Jane Short and Karen and Jerry Zink, establishing the program's first scholarship and the Karen Zink Family Fund for Nursing Education Leadership. Since then, an additional $320,000 has been donated from local community leaders and Animas Surgical Hospital. The influx of funding has been crucial in the initial development stages of the Nursing Fort Lewis College Collaborative, which will serve nursing workforce needs of the Four Corners region and beyond.

“This is our first award from The Colorado Health Foundation, the philanthropic leader championing health equity and racial justice in Colorado,” Mount said. “We are deeply grateful for this gift.”

This grant will fund the development of innovative approaches to training future generations of nurses, with the goal of reflecting the diversity of southwestern Colorado’s peoples and healthcare needs.

Culturally inclusive learning

Designed to look like mock hospital rooms, the simulation labs feature life-like patient mannequins (typically referred to as manikins) that nursing students use to practice healthcare techniques. The new lab’s manikins will feature a range of skin tones and be programmed to exhibit common health concerns and characteristics of rural patients. The lab will incorporate training in Indigenous understandings of healing and feature a resource library on Indigenous healthcare. The lab’s simulated set-ups will be designed to connect high-tech and patient-focused care, training students to work in home settings and with new telehealth technology.

In addition, the grant will fund the creation of a unique certificate focused on Indigenous and community healthcare. Nursing students must take a broad range of prerequisite courses that fulfill general college requirements. The grant is funding the reworking of those courses into an innovative certificate focused on preventative and community-based approaches to health. Area nurses will help to create a “community of practice” that will mentor students as they learn these approaches. The certificate will encourage students to hone their critical and creative thinking skills as they come to a deeper understanding of rural healthcare problems and solutions.

The CU Nursing Fort Lewis College Collaborative will fuse FLC’s liberal arts core with the nursing curriculum at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, with students building a creative and critical thinking foundation in STEM-focused general education courses alongside nursing courses uniquely aligned to rural, Indigenous healthcare perspectives. The Durango-based, four-year program is an integrated and robust partnership of strengths, leveraging the experiential learning of an FLC education and the research prowess of Colorado’s flagship nursing school.

“We are grateful to The Colorado Health Foundation for this extraordinary gift in support of our partnership with Fort Lewis College to create a four-year undergraduate degree in nursing,” said Elias Provencio-Vasquez, dean of the CU College of Nursing. “This meaningful collaboration will expand possibilities in nursing education to the rural and Indigenous-serving campus of Southwest Colorado. We are thrilled to have the philanthropic support of The Colorado Health Foundation to accelerate this innovative program.” 

“Fort Lewis College and CU Nursing are working together to transform healthcare in Southwestern Colorado, and we are proud to have earned recognition for this work from The Colorado Health Foundation,” said FLC Provost and Vice President Cheryl Nixon. “The Colorado Health Foundation is providing clear leadership by emphasizing the need for new and innovative approaches to rural nursing.”

"Fort Lewis College and CU Nursing are working together to transform healthcare in Southwestern Colorado, and we are proud to have earned recognition for this work from The Colorado Health Foundation. The Colorado Health Foundation is providing clear leadership by emphasizing the need for new and innovative approaches to rural nursing."

CHERYL NIXON

With The Colorado Health Foundation’s support, FLC and CU Nursing are answering that call. The CU Nursing Fort Lewis College Collaborative will create a national model for rural nursing. The Colorado Health Foundation student scholarships will go to Colorado residents, with priority given to Native Americans and students of color.

“At The Colorado Health Foundation, we are committed to ensuring Colorado’s health care workforce is well-diversified to meet the unique social, cultural, and linguistic needs of patients,” said Khanh Nguyen, senior program officer at The Colorado Health Foundation. “We are so pleased to support this innovative new program, which will bring members of the Indigenous community into the healthcare workforce so that more patients receive high-quality care that is reflective of who they are and what they need for improved health.”

Nursing students stand to benefit from the close-knit, personalized, and high-touch undergraduate experience of FLC while accessing the prestigious curriculum and faculty of the University of Colorado College of Nursing at Anschutz Medical Campus. By locating the program at the premier four-year institution of the Four Corners, CU Nursing and FLC are creating a pathway for local students to earn a bachelor’s degree and then return to their home communities with the healthcare expertise rural and underserved areas need.

“The philosophy here is to bring nursing out of the hospitals and into communities to provide healthcare to a rural and diverse population that has been historically underserved,” Nixon said.

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