Academic journal article Nursing and Health Care Perspectives

Replicating Project LINC in Two Midwestern States

Academic journal article Nursing and Health Care Perspectives

Replicating Project LINC in Two Midwestern States

Article excerpt

PROJECT LINC -- Ladders in Nursing Careers -- was developed in New York City in 1933 to address a nursing shortage crisis by providing educational and career advancement opportunities for nursing attendants and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) employed in hospitals and nursing homes (1). The project was designed to assist persons from low-income, disadvantaged backgrounds to over...come the typical educational, financial, and social barriers they experienced in returning to school to become nurses. In the first five years, nearly 500 participants from 60 employers were enrolled, 70 percent of whom were members of minority groups (2). [paragraph] Project LINC has been replicated in eight states. A qualitative evaluation of Iowa Project LINC (IPL) and North Dakota Project LINC (NDPL) was conducted over a 20-month period beginning one year following implementation. The state programs were compared with one another and with the national model. The findings shed light on how initial and changing conditions influence program structures, processes, and outcomes. Interventions like the Project LINC replication programs are useful to those concerned with providing career advancement opportunities in health care for nontraditional, minority, or low-income students in rural areas. Background The Greater New York Hospital Association (CNYHA) sponsored Project LINC in collaboration with hospitals, long-term care agencies, nursing schools, state agencies, labor unions, and private foundations (3). Students, sponsored by their employers, attended school full time and worked part time, but received full-time pay and benefits. In exchange for their support, students agreed to work for their employers for a specified period of time upon completion of their educational program. Project LINC paid all direct costs of the student's education, including tuition and fees, books, uniforms, and related expenses. Academic support was also provided to students by Project LINC education counselors.

The success of Project LINC in New York City led to a national replication program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and administered by the Hospital Research and Educational Trust of the American Hospital Association. The purpose of the replication program was to "test the adaptabilities of Project LINC's nursing career ladder model to other locales nationwide; provide career advancement opportunities for entry and mid-level health care workers, with emphasis on minority and low-income individuals; and establish a strategy for meeting health care providers' long-term nursing needs" (4, p. 3).

After a funded planning year, implementation grants were awarded to replicate the GNYHA Project LINC model. The grants covered administrative and limited overhead expenses for three years in eight states. Replication sites were required to seek other sources of funds for education-related expenses.

Iowa and North Dakota formed the North Central Project LINC Coalition (NCPLC), which was successful in acquiring a significant level of funding from the Northwest Area Foundation (NAF) to enhance recruitment and support for minority and lowincome students and to evaluate both programs. A qualitative evaluation of NCPLC programs was conducted during years 2 and 3 of implementation. The evaluation was formative in nature and designed to provide information to program staff for improving the program while implementation continued (5).

Qualitative Evaluation Interpretive methods consistent with the construetivist paradigm were used in the evaluation study (6). Four major stakeholder group participated: students, health care employers (HCEs), program staff, and education counselors. (See Table 1.) A purposive sampling method was used to select student participants and HCEs in order to maximize the variation among participants in each group (5). For example, a mix of geographic locations, education programs, employing facilities, genders, and ethnicities was sought among student participants. …

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