Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Addressing Workforce Issues

HHS has announced that $1.28 million will go to the University of North Dakota’s Center for Rural Health and the College of Nursing to develop and implement an Area Health Education Center Program (AHEC). Additional support for the initiative is being provided by University of North Dakota and the Dakota Medical Foundation to equal a total of $1.6 million.

The new North Dakota AHEC will focus on community-based healthcare training through all levels of the workforce pipeline, from elementary students to healthcare providers. Health career awareness programs will be developed for students and new clinical opportunities will be developed for medical and nursing students at the college and graduate level.

Until now, North Dakota was one of only a few U.S. states without a federally funded AHEC to help clinics and hospitals recruit and retain healthcare workers in underserved areas, address workforce shortages, and educate students on career options in healthcare.

With the funding, three regional AHECs will be developed across the East, Central, and Western regions of the state to provide a variety of training experiences. Three of the centers will link the University of North Dakota with local communities, hospitals, and clinics to augment health-related training activities in each region.

“The Dakota AHEC program is a wonderful partnering opportunity for the UND College of Nursing and the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. We will build relationships with institutions throughout North Dakota to support collaboration between academic partners and community-based programs,” said Loretta Heuer, PhD, Professor, UND College of Nursing, and Co-Program Director of the Dakota AHEC.

In addition, UND just received $750,000 from HRSA to establish a Health Workforce Information Center to act as a single point of entry for health workforce information. The Center will help the health workforce including practitioners, nurses, dentists, pharmacy, mental health, allied health, other trained healthcare providers, and the staff that supports them. The new center’s web site and electronic mailing lists will provide information on health workforce programs and funding sources, workforce data, research, and policy, educational opportunities and models, best practices, and provide information on related news and events.