Disparity in the access and availability of the healthcare workforce has been a long-standing issue in Nebraska, particularly in more rural areas of the state. The current distribution of the healthcare workforce within the state poses significant challenges in the delivery of comprehensive, quality care. The Southeast Nebraska AHEC (SEN-AHEC), along with other professionals in the field, was invited to participate in UNL’s Minority Health Disparities Initiative Conference in late February. The conference focused on the areas of collaboration around rural health issues, identifying ways in which data and technology are improving healthcare for rural populations, and developing strategies for achieving sustainability within rural healthcare, particularly building capacity and healthcare infrastructure in rural areas.
At this event, SEN-AHEC was able to address questions on state-level policies and programs efforts that can be used to help address the problem of shortages in the rural healthcare workforce, strategies to recruit and retain practitioners in rural areas, and what the strategies state policymakers could utilize to improve rural healthcare access. As a panelist, the SEN-AHEC was able to share the current strategies and efforts employed by the entire Nebraska AHEC network to connect students to health careers, professionals to communities, and communities to better health. SEN-AHEC was also able to share our work in creating pipeline programs, such as health career clubs, science meets, and HIPAA training, to expose students and spark an interest in health careers at a young age. The audience was also made aware of our efforts with health career students, especially as we try to expose them to different communities through rotations and community engagement projects in rural Nebraska. As AHEC continues to work in Nebraska to help improve the distribution of healthcare professionals in rural communities, it is valuable to share our work and tout our success as we continue to tackle this difficult issue.