The numbers are daunting: according to the National Rural Health Association, there is one physician for every 2,500 patients in rural communities. This shortage poses a serious challenge to the nearly 3 million rural Veterans who rely on VA for health care.
In recognition of National Rural Health Day, VA’s Office of Rural Health (ORH) is highlighting a variety of programs designed to recruit and retain rural clinicians. These programs offer a range of incentives from professional development opportunities to financial reimbursement.
VA’s workforce development initiatives
The initiatives include $14 million in ORH-funded rural workforce training. In fiscal year 2018, more than 12,300 employees participated in ORH-funded training, including:
- Geriatric Scholars – Trains VA general clinicians to treat older rural Veterans.
- SimLEARN – Uses simulation-based training to improve rural clinicians’ technical skills regardless of location.
- Clinical Skills Training in Women Veterans Health Care – Trains rural providers on unique skills to treat rural women Veterans.
- Rural Interprofessional Faculty Development Initiative (RIFDI) – Provides teaching and training skills for rural clinical educators. These faculty then provide guidance to medical students training in rural VA facilities.
VA also offers a variety of incentives to attract clinicians to practice in rural communities, including financial reimbursement, academic development and skills advancement:
VHA Education Debt Reduction Program (EDRP) – Reimburses student loan payments for health providers in specific, difficult-to-fill positions for up to five years.
VA Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP) – Awards scholarships to students receiving education or training in a health care services discipline to assist in providing an adequate supply of personnel.
VA Specialty Education Loan Repayment Program (SELRP) – Repays student loans for physician residents in medical specialties for which VA determines there is a shortage.
VA Learning Opportunity Residency (VALOR) program – Allows nursing, pharmacy and medical technology students who have completed their junior year in an accredited program to gain paid experience at a VA health care facility.
Join the Office of Rural Health as we celebrate the #PowerOfRural. You can learn more about National Rural Health Day and the health care challenges rural residents face here: https://www.powerofrural.org/.
Thomas Klobucar, PhD, is the Executive Director for VA’s Office of Rural Health