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JOHN KEENAN
UNMC Strategic Communications

The 2022 Health Workforce Report released by the University of Nebraska Medical Center shows that the number of nurse practitioners in Nebraska has increased significantly and the number of pharmacist practitioners has slightly increased since 2020. caregivers, and an aging health workforce in various fields threatens to exacerbate the current shortage.

This and other key findings of the study are presented in the report. “Nebraska Health Workforce Status: 2022 Update”.

“When health workers work in rural areas, they help provide quality health care as close to home as possible. But they also ensure the economic sustainability and vitality of the communities in which they live,” said Dr. Jeffrey P. Gold, President of UNMC. “The need has never been clearer: we must expand access to the health workforce in rural Nebraska to improve the quality of life for all of our communities, support economic resilience, and increase the number of healthcare workers for decades to come.”

The study, commissioned and funded by the Office of Rural Health Initiatives and the Nebraska Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Program, used the most recent data from the UNMC Health Professions Tracker and the State of Nebraska. The report acknowledges the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the health workforce and the fact that the shortage has worsened since the data was collected.

Research has shown that preparatory programs are important in actively addressing current and expected shortages in rural and underserved communities, and that recruiting and training students from rural and underserved areas, and educating them as close to these communities as possible, is a proven strategy to improve The likelihood that they will return to these areas for practice.

Dr. Andy Craig, Minden Family Physician, UNMC Graduate. KHOP Path Program, said it is important to identify and focus on students who want to participate in rural health care. “Students who grew up in the countryside and want to stay in the countryside.”

He pointed to efforts to expand medical education at the University of Nebraska on the Kearney campus as an important step in addressing staffing and access problems in rural areas.

The new rural health education building will allow more students from various fields of health to study and practice on the UNK campus.
The new rural health education building will allow more students from various fields of health to study and practice on the UNK campus.

Pathway programs have helped in Nebraska, says Nicole Carritt, director of UNMC’s Office of Rural Health Initiatives.

“Nearly 60% of the more than 700 UNMC Rural Health Opportunities Program (RHOP) and Kearney Health Opportunities Program (KHOP) alumni practice in rural Nebraska,” Carritt said.

She added that recent support from the Nebraska Legislature, including funding Healthier Rural Nebraska Initiativethe project, which will expand UNMC’s health care programs at UNK, expands learning opportunities in rural areas.

However, problems remain. The report identified one of the main areas of concern: Nebraska’s aging healthcare workforce. A significant proportion of Nebraska dentists (26.9%), licensed practical nurses (20.6%), orthopedists (20%), physicians (19.4%), optometrists (18.6%) and registered nurses (17.2% ) belong to the pre-retirement age group. 61 years of age or older, and there is a risk of being fired from work in the next 5-10 years. Given the yet-to-be-explored effects of the pandemic on the workforce, the need for innovation to boost the rural health workforce has only increased.

“The number of practicing dentists has decreased since 2019,” Carritt said. “13 of Nebraska’s 93 counties do not have a primary care practitioner, and 16 counties do not have a pharmacist.”

Based on these findings, the report’s recommendations included improvements to existing programs and educational initiatives.

“We need to encourage people from rural and underserved urban areas to become health professionals and practice health care in these communities, especially for health professions that are in significant shortage,” Carritt said. “With the recent support of the Legislative Assembly, UNMC is positioning itself to continue to offer solutions to these problems.”

The report looked at 20 primary health care professions, ranging from physicians and paramedics to nurses, dentists and allied health workers. It also took into account the gender, age, race, and ethnicity of each health worker, and measured the number and proportion of health workers per 100,000 people by county.



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