Arizona AHEC: Meeting a need for healthcare professionals

Access to health care is a right, not a privilege, but millions of Americans lack the ability to obtain health care services that prevent, diagnose, and treat disease and address the determinants social issues that have an impact on health.

Nearly 100 million Americans live in a designated primary care physician shortage area, defined by the Health Resources and Services Administration as areas and populations with a shortage of primary care physicians relative to the population. . In Arizona alone, more than 3.3 million people live in areas with shortages of medical professionals.

But in a 12-month period, more than 1,500 health professions trainees — future doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, phlebotomists, physician assistants, physical therapists, public health professionals and more — participated in community-based experiential training. through a long-standing health science program at the University of Arizona. Since 1984, the Arizona Area Health Education Centers program has served the state by training, recruiting, and retaining the health professions workforce in rural communities and medically underserved.

“My rural medical experiences were critical in preparing me to be a competent full-spectrum family physician,” said Amanda McKeith, MD, resident at UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson Department of Family and Community Medicine. “When your community has limited access to resources and specialists, patients depend on family doctors to provide them with the care they need. My rural rotations ensure that I develop these necessary skills. Where else can you learn to give birth, perform a postpartum tube [ligation]admit a patient to intensive care and perform a shoulder reduction – all in one day? »

Six AzAHEC regional centers improve access to quality health care, particularly primary and preventive care, by improving the supply and distribution of health professionals through university-community educational partnerships in rural areas and medically underserved urban communities under the federal health education program.

A history of developing a diverse healthcare workforce

Almost 80 years have passed since the end of World War II on September 2, 1945, but the legacy of the war lives on, especially in the area of ​​health care. The scale and intensity of the war catalyzed medical innovation, while post-war conditions spurred the expansion of employer-based health insurance.

The explosive population growth seen during the “baby boom” from 1946 to 1964 added 76 million people to the US population. Congress, fearing that there were not enough health professionals to care for the growing population, authorized the area’s Health Education Centers program in 1971 to recruit, train, and retain a hand -work of health professions engaged with underserved rural populations.

Fifty years later, the need persists. There are currently 56 AHEC programs and 235 regional centers in the United States, including six in Arizona. In the past fiscal year, the AzAHEC program and regional AzAHEC centers delivered 12% of the community-based health professions training courses reported by the 56 AHEC programs in the United States.

“Interprofessional and community-based experiential training rotations are critical to improving access to health care for all Arizona residents, especially those who live in underserved rural and urban areas,” said Daniel Derksen, MD. , senior advisor and senior researcher of the AzAHEC program and university. of Arizona Health Sciences associate vice president for health equity, outreach, and interprofessional activities. “Arizona’s first AHEC Regional Center opened in Nogales in 1984. By 1989, we served all 15 Arizona counties through five Regional Centers. Last year we grew to six with the addition of the American Indian Health AHEC Regional Center.

Train culturally appropriate health care providers

The American Indian Health AHEC Regional Center, in collaboration with the San Carlos Apache Healthcare Corporation and Gila River Health Care, implements education and training to improve the supply and distribution of healthcare professionals in tribal communities . They work with many of the 22 federally recognized tribes in Arizona.

“Arizona’s tribes are experiencing a severe shortage of health professionals compared to other areas of the state,” said Leila Barraza, JD, MPH, AzAHEC program director and associate professor of community, environment, and politics at Mel and Enid Zuckerman College. of Public Health. “The Regional American Indian Health Center can begin to alleviate some of these shortages by working closely with our tribal health systems and improving their current workforce strategies.”

On July 1, 2022, the American Indian Health AHEC Regional Center joined five existing AHEC Regional Centers in Arizona: AHEC Central Arizona; the Colorado Plateau Center for Health Professions; Southern Arizona AHEC; the Center of Excellence in Rural Education; and Western Arizona AHEC.

“In my rural health clinic site, I had a wonderful experience. My preceptor was extremely knowledgeable and a great teacher,” said Allison “Kate” Macias, RN, who works at Chandler Regional Medical Center and recently earned a Doctor of Nursing Practice – Family Nurse Practitioner degree from Arizona State University. . “I really enjoyed caring for the patients at this federally licensed rural health center. The population is unique and requires many resources and holistic care. My experience at this clinical site was reaffirmed by the passion for rural and underserved patients and gave me great experience and knowledge to care for them.

Each year, the AzAHEC program and regional centers partner with the nine rural health professions programs based at Arizona’s three public universities – the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and the Northern Arizona University – professional organizations and communities to provide a variety of training and education events. . During the 2021-2022 fiscal year:

1,531 students and residents representing 40 universities and residency programs participated in 3,022 field experiences in Arizona, with 75% indicating that rotation increased their likelihood of practicing in a rural or medically underserved area; 609 students from UArizona, ASU, and NAU received 1,158 educational experiences through the nine rural health professions programs; Nearly 4,500 healthcare professionals attended 136 continuing education events, 90% of whom indicated they were likely or very likely to implement the materials in their practice; 2,749 local community members participated in health education activities and events; 1,376 K-12 students participated in health career programs, with over 97% of high school students saying they were very interested in pursuing health careers; 13 undergraduate students and 92 graduate students received advanced community experiences through the AzAHEC Scholars program.

“I am proud to participate in this important scholarship program. As a future nurse practitioner, I know this opportunity will benefit my practice,” said AzAHEC Fellow Marian Brock-Anderson, MSN, RN, who works as a clinical instructor for the UArizona College of Nursing while pursuing a doctorate in practice. nurse – Family Nurse Practitioner Diploma at ASU. “Rural and underserved communities benefit directly from groups that work in partnership to develop and implement programs that meet their unique needs. »

Related Article

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button