The University of Texas at Tyler and the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration have partnered to advance nurse education and healthcare, meeting patients where they are in East Texas.
With a $1.3 million HRSA grant, The University of Texas at Tyler will create the INTUNE Network, consisting of academic-practice partnerships with local and regional clinics that provides immersive clinical traineeships in diverse and rural populations for primary care nurse practitioner students.
“The term ‘in tune’ means to create harmony between instruments in a musical setting. Similarly, the INTUNE project will create those partnerships that have been carefully crafted to provide primary care and leadership services ‘in tune’ with the needs of a rural/underserved population,” said assistant professor of nursing and project director Dr. Carol Rizer, who has championed for those populations of Northeast Texas for more than 23 years. Rizer has served The University of Texas at Tyler since 2013, and she currently leads family nurse practitioner advanced health assessment courses in the School of Nursing.
The University of Texas at Tyler’s INTUNE Network plans to create synergy between existing primary care medical homes, developing on-call, telehealth and community health coach services to optimize communication, providing awareness, encouragement and guidance through a more easily-navigated healthcare model.
“We hope to help reduce emergency room visits, increase health literacy rates, improve access to care and improve efficiency and coordinated care for underserved/uninsured patients,” Rizer said. “Some of the funding will also help increase the numbers of clinical traineeships for FNP students among rural and underserved populations, thereby increasing the numbers and employment of workforce ready FNP graduates.”
The University of Texas at Tyler FNP program currently contracts with more than 700 clinical placement sites of which at least 60 percent focus on service to rural and/or underserved vulnerable populations.

Fifty-two percent of current FNP graduates, of those reporting over the last five years, are employed in rural and/or underserved areas, medically underserved areas and/or health provider shortage areas. Thirty-four percent are still employed in rural/underserved areas.
Given its focus on vulnerable diverse populations, The University of Texas at Tyler’s family nurse practitioner program fulfills a critical need in Texas. Multiple issues affect the health of Texas citizens including poverty, limited access to care and a shortage of primary care providers, Rizer said. Rural counties in Texas have even higher levels of uninsured, some as high as 50 percent, with well over 282,000 Northeast Texans uninsured. More than half of Texas counties, including many urban counties, need more primary care providers. The greatest growth in demand for nurse practitioners is in rural primary care, according to Rizer.
“The nursing faculty at UT Tyler take pride in knowing that the university is having this type of impact on these important healthcare shortage problems,” Rizer said.
Graduate student nurses look forward to making an even greater impact in East Texas healthcare with the unique and immersive traineeship opportunities the network will foster.
“I believe the HRSA traineeship grant will increase student success by allowing FNP students to cut back on work hours while completing concentrated clinical requirements in practicums,” said graduate nursing student and applicant Melissa Walters of Henderson. “The traineeship grant will also provide a service to the community by securing proficient providers to work in the rural and underserved areas of East Texas.”
Two full-time FNPs will be employed in selected rural/underserved sites. These providers and the first student trainees will begin this fall. Students, certified FNPs or clinics interested in joining the INTUNE Network may contact Rizer,
Several area clinics have joined or expressed interest in joining The University of Texas at Tyler INTUNE Network including North East Texas Health (NETHealth), Family Circle of Care in Jacksonville, Special Health Resources of Texas Clinic of Tyler, Bethesda Clinic, Cherokee County Health Department, St. Paul Children’s Clinic, UT Health Northeast, Bullard Mission Clinic, Sharon Community Clinic, among others. These community partners will assist with providing preceptors and clinical sites for student traineeships.
One of the 14 campuses of the UT System, The University of Texas at Tyler features excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. More than 80 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at The University of Texas at Tyler, which has an enrollment of more
than 10,000 high-ability students. The University of Texas at Tyler offers courses at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine as well as a location in Houston.