Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and the Atlanta Veteran Affairs (VA) Medical Center are partnering to launch a two-year, nationwide intensive research-training program which will begin July 1.
The nationwide VA Quality Scholars Advanced Fellowship Program has been in operation since 1999 and currently spans across eight cities in the nation, expanding to Los Angeles and Atlanta this past spring. Scholars will undergo training to develop innovative approaches in veteran health services through research on the improvement of quality in health care as well as the application of this knowledge, said Carolyn Clevenger, an Emory nursing professor and associate director of the program. Two physicians and one nurse are selected each year.
In addition to a national curriculum, the Atlanta program will also have a local focus, as the scholars will attend weekly meetings in conjunction with working on a quality improvement project in the VA. The scholars will also shadow researchers at Emory Healthcare, Wellstar Healthcare and the Atlanta VA Medical Center to gain an understanding of the health-care systems the scholars are trying to improve, according to Clevenger.
“Understanding the system is a big piece of improving quality,” Clevenger said.
Scholars will also complete formal coursework or pursue a degree at the Rollins School of Public Health or the Nell Hodgson School of Nursing. Details about this opportunity are still unavailable, but as of now the scholars are not expected to have to pay for these opportunities themselves, Clevenger said.
Emory’s involvement in the program stems from vested interests in quality and safety research, Clevenger said. Five years ago, Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) selected 15 pilot schools, including Emory’s Nursing School, to receive grants supporting collaborative work. With the launch of the VA Quality Scholars Program, Emory is continuing quality improvement and health-care safety initiatives promoted by QSEN.
According to Clevenger, during their time in the program, scholars have at least three face-to-face meetings with each other. The Dartmouth Institute, which is the central office for quality and safety issues in health care, coordinates a national curriculum for all of the scholars to follow. Clevenger said ties to this “hub” of quality and safety issues offer networking with top researchers and spokespeople across a broad range of fields.
“It’s great because these people are here in Atlanta, but they still have a close connection with the central office for quality and safety,” Clevenger said.
Clevenger also noted that the program would bring in more post-doctoral students to the school. Since federal funding is usually required to support the time of post-docs, the VA Quality Scholars program offers a new incentive for these post-docs to study on Emory’s campus, she said, adding that the Dartmouth Institute works to acquire funding for the program through external sources.
In applying to the newly established Atlanta program, each physician and nurse submitted a curriculum vitae and a letter of intent. They were then interviewed by officials, including senior physicians, nurse scholars, physicians who work at the VA and Clevenger. The panel also looked at the interests of the candidates as well as prior experience in idea presentation, Clevenger said.
“We’re looking for team players,” Clevenger said.
The VA Quality Scholars for this year have recently been selected, but to apply for the program next year, interested candidates can visit the VA Quality Scholars Fellowship Program webpage on the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website for more information.
— Contact Harmeet Kaur