Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Arizona program requires health-care students to spend at least 4 weeks with rural providers

Most states have struggled to attract recent graduates to take medical positions in rural areas. Incentive programs that pay or forgive some or all of school-loan debt haven't done the trick, as recent grads continue to prefer urban areas. Arizona is trying to change that by requiring all health care students at the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona State University to get rural experience, Rachel Leingang reports for Cronkite News at ASU. (University of Arizona photo: Students on rotation in the program)

Each year, as part of the Rural Health Professions Program, students in medicine, pharmacy, nursing, public health and other health care fields at the three schools "spend at least four weeks following rural health professionals and receive additional seminars and mentorship, culminating in a 24-week clinical experience for pharmacy and medical students toward the end of their studies," Leingang writes. "After completing the program, participants can receive a notion of 'Distinction Track in Rural Health' on their transcripts." Last year 870 students participated in the program.

Dr. Jonathan Cartsonis, who heads the University of Arizona program, in which 152 students participated last year, "said the goal is getting more health professionals to work in rural parts of the state," Leingang writes. Cartsonis told her, “We believe once they have a taste of it, they’ll be excited to practice in a rural area. When you’re practicing in a rural setting, you feel like you’re using all the skills you learned in medical school; they’re required on a daily basis.”

Sandy Haryasz, CEO of Page Hospital in northern Arizona, "said the challenges in rural practices often come down to lifestyle," Leingang writes. Haryasz told her, “It gives them an opportunity to see if small-town living is what they need or want—to see if they want to come back to a rural area. It gives them a good flavor of the differences between rural and metropolitan.” (Read more)

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