Big Sky Roundup

MSU receives $2.2M to recruit, graduate American Indian and Alaska Native nurses

By: - August 5, 2021 2:33 pm

Photo illustration by Marco Verch via Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

A $2.2 million federal grant will help support students enrolled in a Montana State University program that aims to recruit and graduate American Indian and Alaska Native nurses, according to a news release from the campus.

The four-year Nursing Workforce Diversity grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration will allow the MSU College of Nursing to offer scholarships to 15 American Indian and Alaska Native nursing students enrolled in its Caring for Our Own Program, or CO-OP, the news release said. When combined with other funding opportunities, such as the college’s Indian Health Service Scholarship and Montana Advantage Nursing Scholarships, the college is now able to offer funding to almost all of the program’s students, according to Laura Larsson, CO-OP program director and a nursing professor, in the news release.

Larsson said the college is thrilled to receive the grant.

“The Nursing Workforce Diversity funding mechanism was the original funding source for CO-OP when it started back in 1999,” she said in a statement. “It is a privilege to continue to receive this highly competitive, foundational funding source.”

Larsson said a record number of students, 72, are currently enrolled in CO-OP, including seven students who are pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree to become nurse practitioners, according to the news release. It said students from every American Indian reservation in Montana are enrolled in CO-OP, as well as students from throughout the region and across the United States.

Started in 1999, CO-OP aims to recruit and graduate Native American nurses, particularly those who will work in Indian Health Service facilities on reservations or in urban settings.

Larsson noted that in Montana, American Indians represent 6.5% of the population, but only 3.2% of the nursing workforce identify as American Indian or Alaska Native. Nationally, American Indian and Alaska Native nurses represent only 1.2% of the nursing workforce.

“All the current literature suggests that individual health outcomes are improved when you have a nurse who shares your cultural background,” Larsson said. “Increasing the number of American Indian and Alaska Native nurses in the workforce is critical to Montana’s health.”

More information about the MSU College of Nursing is available at To learn more about the college’s Caring for Our Own Program, visit

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