Pacific Lutheran University’s School of Nursing has received a $1.4 million grant from the Advanced Nursing Education Workforce (ANEW), a program of the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

The grant is targeted at expanding curriculum, doubling student numbers and sending those students into medically underserved areas around the state.

“PLU is a leading center of higher education in the Pacific Northwest, and I commend its commitment to increasing the capacity of the mental health workforce and expanding access to these critical services in the region,” U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said in her letter of support for the grant.

Teri Woo, PLU’s associate dean for graduate nursing programs, commended PLU graduates for seeking out jobs working with underserved communities.

“Our students are driving all over to have experiences working in those areas,” Woo said. “They understand what it’s like to work in an area like that.”

Much of Washington has been declared a Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Area by the HRSA. In other words, there aren’t enough providers to meet demand, due to an uptick in insured patients from the Affordable Care Act, an aging physician population and a tendency for doctors to limit care for Medicaid patients due to low reimbursement.

“These students represent critical support that is needed in our region,” said U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, the representative for Washington’s 6th Congressional District, in a letter of support for the grant co-signed by U.S. Rep. Denny Heck. “Supporting them will help create leaders and role models for future generations across the Pacific Northwest.”