THE CENTER FOR RURAL HEALTH USES A THREEFOLD APPROACH TO expand health care workforce initiatives. It’s no secret that North Dakota, along with the rest of the nation, is in the midst of a health care workforce shortage. Increasing the number of health care professionals is crucial to ensuring access to quality health care in years to come. The North Dakota health care workforce pipeline is long and segmented. To increase the flow of health care professionals out of the pipeline, it must increase in diameter and the valves must ensure seamless connections. Though the time it takes to educate interested and qualified students is lengthy, it is only one part of the pipeline. To facilitate effective flow throughout all parts of the pipeline, the Center for Rural Health at the University of North Dakota (UND) School of Medicine and Health Sciences is using a threefold approach. Funds appropriated by the North Dakota Legislature in the 2009 session are being used to expand workforce initiatives in the areas of health career awareness programs, rural recruitment and retention efforts, and health professions workforce assessment. “The appropriated funds are being leveraged with federal grant funds to maximize the impact of our programs so more opportunities can be made available and ultimately increase the health care workforce,” said Lynette Dickson, MS, LRD, workforce development director at the Center for Rural Health.
Health Career Awareness Exposing young children to health care professions and encouraging older youth to explore health careers are fundamental parts of the pipeline. The Center for Rural Health led health career awareness efforts for students in grades K–12 previously through the Fostering Opportunities in Rural Health Occupations and other programs, but the new initiatives allow for even more students to be reached. This spring, 14 communities hosted Rural Collaborative Opportunities for Occupational Learning in Health (R-COOL-Health) Scrubs Camps for students in grades 5–12. In an effort to help communities “grow their own” health care professionals, partnerships between schools, health care facilities, and economic or job development authorities created innovative programs that increased awareness, interest, and understanding of health careers available in rural North Dakota. “A critical piece of the camps was exposure to a variety of health careers through fun, creative, and interactive activities,” said Dickson. “Student participants even received a scrubs top so they could feel like a real health care professional.” Another new statewide initiative, Health in Partnership with Education (HIPE) Week, underscored the numerous opportunities that exist in the field of health care. After garnering support from more than a dozen state organizations and agencies and receiving a proclamation from Governor John Hoeven, schools and health care facilities sponsored health care-related events and activities during the week in March. Plans are already being made for next year’s HIPE Week. Expanded online resources are also available for students, teachers, and career
Through the North Dakota Health Care Workforce Pipeline
NORTH DAKOTA MEDICINE Spring–Summer 2010
Spring-Summer 2010 Volume 35, Number 2-3