School of Nursing Students at UMass Amherst Explore Managed Care Issues

AMHERST, Mass. - A group of advanced students enrolled in the graduate-level nurse practitioner (NP) program at the University of Massachusetts School of Nursing is learning how health maintenance organizations work, from the inside out. Their knowledge comes with the assistance of the Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) Foundation Partnerships for Quality Education Program and Health New England (HNE), based in Springfield. Eileen F. Hayes, assistant professor of nursing and NP program advisor, says the unique partnership involving the three institutions should help future nurse practitioners build the practical skills they will need when they work within a managed-care environment.

According to Hayes, all students enrolled in the UMass NP program study managed-care principles, theory, and issues related to providing quality care within a fixed budget. The regular program includes classroom study as well as clinical rotations providing HMO administrative experience. However, the model program provides additional, more intensive training in managed-care settings, as well as a unique opportunity for students to work side-by-side with the professionals who make the daily decisions guiding a major HMO.

"This program puts a human face on the managed-care model," says Hayes. Six students selected to participate in the model program will complete yearlong internships in HNE-affiliated Valley Medical Group clinics in Florence, Amherst, and Greenfield, and at University Health Services in Amherst. In addition, each one will spend time working at HNE headquarters in Springfield, as a case manager in order to learn how nursing practices are applied in managed care. Throughout the academic year, all six will attend special seminars and workshops conducted by HNE professionals on managed-care issues; ways to encourage patients to follow healthy lifestyles; the effective management of certain health problems, including asthma and diabetes; and methods of resolving potential ethical conflicts within the managed-care scenario.

"This is a good way for leaders in the healthcare industry to share their experience in providing quality care in a cost-effective way," said Hayes. "Students will learn what works, and what doesn’t."

Nurse practitioners hold advanced degrees, reflecting additional clinical experience and study beyond a baccalaureate nursing program. The UMass NP program currently includes 45 students, all holding bachelor’s degrees and R.N. licenses. Nineteen students are enrolled in the class involved in the managed-care training program.

Eileen F. Hayes can be reached at 413/545-5458 or efhayes@nursing.umass.edu.