From the very beginning, Frontier Nursing University (FNU) has been committed to serving rural and underserved populations. In 1928, FNU founder Mary Breckinridge established the Courier Program as a way of recruiting young volunteers to serve in Eastern Kentucky. Young people were originally recruited to assist nurse-midwives with everyday tasks, such as accompanying the midwives to home births or grooming and taking care of the horses which were essential for transport.
The Courier Program has evolved into an eight-week summer program for college students. Couriers are immersed in the culture of a rural Appalachian community. They spend the summer shadowing healthcare professionals, leading projects and discovering the unique challenges these communities face.
The Bridge Magazine, a publication of the Kentucky Office of Rural Health, recently published a wonderful story featuring FNU’s Courier Program. In Training the Next Generation of Rural Health Care Providers, writer Robin Roenker tells the stories of students, clinicians, and community members who have been positively impacted by the program.
Couriers exit the program freed from the stereotypes of Appalachia they previously had. Molly Craig, a 2018 Courier, said, “I think there’s a lot of stigma about people residing in rural Appalachia. And through the Courier Program, I learned that rural people really shouldn’t be stigmatized, because that oversimplifies and overshadows their realities.”
Not only are the students transformed through their time in the Courier program, but so are the communities they serve. “Many of the Couriers come to us new to Kentucky and new to the Appalachian culture, but by the time they leave, they’re like family to the people here,” said Ellen Napier, CEO of a clinic for homeless and at-risk citizens.
Applications for the 2020 Courier Program are now being accepted! Applicants must meet the following criteria:
- Completed at least two years of higher education
- Be enrolled in undergraduate-level courses
- Be between the ages of 20 to 25
- Have a passion for service and learning about rural health care