Chances are that as a Nurse Practitioner, you’ve probably heard of the National Health Service Corps’ Loan Repayment Program (NHSC LRP), which awards licensed healthcare professionals up to $50,000 to use towards student loans. In exchange, providers commit two years to treating underserved patients in a health professional shortage area.
At the beginning of each year, the NHSC opens the application cycle up for interested primary care providers to apply for the program. Unfortunately, with such a short open application period that lasts only few months and very specific requirements that must be met for consideration, many providers end up missing out on the chance to submit their applications in time and thus have to wait a full calendar year for another opportunity to apply. Don’t let yourself fall into this category!
Preparing for the application process and familiarizing yourself with the important deadlines in advance of the open application cycle can help you avoid missing the strict time constraints and increase your chances of being selected as an award recipient. Don’t miss these important steps and deadlines when preparing to apply for the NHSC LRP.
1. Sign up for Email Updates with the HRSA
Sign up as soon as possible to receive updates and notifications via email from the HRSA as to when the open application period will start, which is typically in the early part of the year. This way you can complete application as early in the cycle as possible, which the NHSC highly recommends doing to avoid missing the application deadline.
2. Read the Application & Program Guidance
The Application & Program Guidance will be your go-to source on all things related to the NHSC LRP, so be sure to read it thoroughly. It explains in great detail the eligibility requirements, the service commitment, the award process, what constitutes a completed application and specifies the exact supporting documentation that you will need to provide with your online application.
As outlined in the Application & Program Guidance, there are several requirements you must meet in order to be eligible to apply for the program, so take the time to review these requirements first before going through the application process. Notably, you must must already be a graduate of an accredited program, have passed the certification exam, as well has hold a current and unrestricted license to practice as a NP at the time that you submit your application. Nurse practitioner students are not eligible to submit an application for the program unless they are transitioning from the NHSC Scholarship Program.
4. Begin Gathering the Required Supporting Documents
Once you’ve read gained a good understanding of what all will be required of you as an applicant to the LRP, begin gathering the supporting documentation so that you will have it readily available to upload with your online application when the time comes; specifically as it can take some time to gather loan documentation from financial institutions and waiting to do this once the cycle begins can be detrimental.
5. Secure Employment with an NHSC-Approved Site
If you haven’t done so already, you’ll want to begin seeking employment with an NHSC approved site as soon as possible, ideally before the application cycle even opens. Although you are not required to be currently working in an approved site at the time you submit your application, you are required to have accepted a position with one and must be able to prove such when you submit the application. The Health Workforce Connector is a great source for searching for opportunities with approved facilities.
6. Submit your Application by the Application Deadline
The most important deadline set by the NHSC is for the submission of your completed application and the provision of the required supporting documentation, all of which must be uploaded and submitted no later than this specified date and time that which ends the open application cycle, generally occurring in April. The NHSC does not begin reviewing applications until this deadline has passed, allowing providers the opportunity to make edits to their applications up until this point. However it’s imperative that every time an edit is made, the application is resubmitted. Applications that remain in the “In Progress” state after the close of the cycle are not eligible for review or award. The NHSC will not make any exceptions for interested providers who fail to submit, or re-submit, their completed applications by this deadline.
7. Meet the NHSC Clinical Practice Requirements and Begin Employment
The NHSC will provide a deadline by which all applicants must begin meeting the NHSC clinical practice requirements and begin working at the site they’ve secured employment with in order to be remain eligible for the award. This deadline will be sometime after the application deadline, but before the final Notification of Award is given, usually in mid-July.
8. Confirming Your Interest and the Notification of Award
Qualified providers will receive a Notification of Award via email, at which time they will be required to log into their application account to confirm their continued interest and electronically sign their portion of NHSC LRP contract. The Notification of Award is not a guarantee that you will receive the funds, as you must respond by the deadline provided within the email in order to remain eligible, as well as confirm your employment, verify the loans approved for repayment are correct and provide banking information for deposit of the funds.
If for some reason you decide not to proceed in the LRP program, you must decline the offer of an award by selecting the “decline” option on the Confirmation of Interest. A decision to decline the award is final and cannot be changed under any circumstances, and there will not be any opportunities to reclaim the award.
Selected applicants will receive final notification of an award, including the service obligation dates, and a countersigned contract generally by the end of September. Once the contract has been countersigned by the Secretary of the program, the participant is then obligated to adhere to the service commitment. In the event that you decide not proceed in the program after you’ve confirmed your interest, you must provide a written termination request within 60 days following the contract’s execution.
9. Attend the New LRP Awardee webinars
Once the contract is in place, NHSC LRP recipients are required to participate in a New LRP Awardee webinar that will go over the program requirements. Participants will be notified via email of upcoming webinars and other training opportunities with the specific dates and timelines to complete the webinars.