• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

FNU president talks about move to Versailles


DR. SUSAN STONE, the president of Frontier Nursing University, described the United Methodist Home's campus on Lexington Road as "a perfect site for us." In addition to being only 10 minutes from Blue Grass Airport, the 36-acre campus has land and facilities to meet future growth needs, Stone said. (Photo submitted)

Moving to a Versailles campus - currently occupied by the Kentucky United Methodist Home for Children & Youth - will allow Frontier Nursing University to continue its mission of educating nurse midwives and nurse practitioners who provide healthcare to families in underserved areas. Frontier Nursing University President Dr. Susan Stone described the United Methodist Home's campus on Lexington Road as "a perfect site for us." In addition to being only 10 minutes from Blue Grass Airport, the 36-acre campus has land and facilities to meet future growth needs, she said. Frontier Nursing University (FNU) will close its administrative offices in Lexington and move those 50 employees to Versailles next year at around this time, according to Stone. She said on-campus programs for its growing number of distance-learning students will likely mean "moving more of (our) day-to-day operations out to Versailles" as facilities become available. A site plan has not been finalized for the property and facilities now owned by the Methodist Home, which will relocate to Jessamine County after finalizing the sale of its Versailles property to Frontier Nursing University next year. The move to Jessamine will allow the Methodist Home to construct new facilities to better meet the needs of the youths served by its programs. In addition to purchasing the Methodist Home campus property, Frontier Nursing University will own adjacent land occupied and leased by The Brook Golf Course, Stone said. This arrangement will continue into the foreseeable future, she said. Stone said Frontier Nursing University will always retain ownership of its Wendover, Ky., site, the historic home of its founder, Mary Breckinridge. The future role of the Hyden, Ky., campus has not yet been determined, she said. In the years since establishing its distance-learning program in 1989, up to 65 students at a time have been coming to Frontier Nursing University's Hyden campus for their orientation before returning home to do coursework and then coming back to the Hyden campus for a week of clinical simulations before going to a clinical site in their own communities prior to graduating, Stone said. "So it's becoming increasingly difficult to use our current facilities to house the number of students that we have and the number of sessions that we do," said Stone. She said those students have typically taken a two-and-a-half hour bus trip from the airport to the Hyden campus. Frontier Nursing University developed one of the earliest distance-learning programs to meet the needs of potential students who wanted to pursue graduate degrees as nurse midwives or nurse practitioners but could not leave their homes to do so. "And that is our primary goal right now is to offer this type of education to nurses who really can't leave their home," said Stone. ".We even have students who are on naval ships doing our coursework." In the years since Frontier Nursing University began offering distance-learning classes, its enrollment has grown - climbing to around 1,700 students representing every state and several foreign countries, Stone said. "More and more women are seeking out nurse midwifery care," said Stone. She said there are more free-standing birthing centers and hospitals that are employing more nurse midwives. Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, a growing number of nurse midwives and nurse practitioners are being used to provide healthcare, Stone said. "And we know that when you put nurse midwives and nurse practitioners in the mix you actually have better outcomes" - as a result of obstetricians and nurse midwives working as a team, she said. In the last six years, Frontier Nursing University has graduated more than 150 nurse practitioners who are working in Appalachian counties of Kentucky, Stone said. Those numbers show the "huge need" for healthcare providers in rural areas, she said. In 2004, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accredited Frontier Nursing University to offer master's degrees and now the institution has accreditation to offer doctoral degrees, Stone said. Frontier Nursing University was established in 1939 as a very traditional midwifery program. Stone said its students moved to Hyden, where they completed the program in groups of about 10 in what was then the first nurse midwifery program in the United States. "Also, we started the very first family nurse practitioner program in the United States in 1970," Stone said. "So that's who we are . We have a very strong reputation for educating very well-prepared nurse midwives and nurse practitioners." As a private, not-for-profit institution, Frontier Nursing University relies on student tuition (supported by federal financial aid) and donations through fundraising campaigns to cover the costs of its day-to-day operations. Only about 10 percent of its students receive significant financial aid, Stone said. Because FNU students are already nurses, she said they may also receive financial help from their employers. Frontier Nursing University's endowment allowed the institution to enter into an agreement to purchase the United Methodist Home property on Lexington Road, but significant fundraising efforts for the renovation and construction of facilities will also be necessary with this move to Versailles.

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