Study Documents Challenges to Health Professional Career Advancement in Rural Areas

For a resident in rural New Mexico many barriers can keep him or her from pursuing or advancing a career in the health field. Not only are the education facilities far away but personal responsibilities, high cost of education, full-time study requirements coupled with the necessity to work may prevent one from getting training and education to help people in the community according to the University of New Mexico Partnership for Training survey.

The University of New Mexico Partnership for Training project developed and implemented a survey of health workers in western New Mexico and Eastern Arizona to better understand factors that impact advancement of health careers for health workers in New Mexico and Arizona Indian Country.  This is a unique, expansive rural area with low population density and unique demographics.

"Typically, the health care providers in many of these rural communities have not been permanent residents and may move from one place to another," said Barbara Overman, PhD, MPH, CNM, MSN, Principal Investigator of the study and Assistant Professor at the UNM College of Nursing. This survey focused on local community residents already working in some way in the health field, who are attuned to the culture and socioeconomic circumstances of the area.

The survey looked at career aspirations and supports needed to attain health career goals. The needs include maintaining a guaranteed salary to support families and pay bills while going to school, courses in the home community for access without extensive costly and risky travel and financial aid. Being sure children are not disadvantaged while in school is important as well in making decisions about taking steps to career advancement.

According to Overman, addressing these concerns will require partnerships and cooperation between the education, health service and community sectors. The education sector will need to bring courses to the community by traditional and virtual means. Career advancement information should be clear, available and published in every health workplace in the community. The community should strive to support the students with financial management supports, learning groups, child-care and invest in infrastructure to support access to Web education.

UNM Partnership for Training, part of a national Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative, focused on increasing the numbers of certified nurse-midwives, nurse practitioners and physician assistants in rural and underserved areas through community-based access to education.

The UNM College of Nursing provides nursing education, research, service, and leadership in nursing for the state and nation. With baccalaureate and master's level education and web-based programs in such areas as acute care, midwifery and community health, the college focuses on asking and answering the most difficult questions about nursing care and how nurses can design and manage health care delivery to meets the needs of the state.

Contact: Angela Heisel, 272-3322

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