Collaboration among medical school, nursing school, and rural health institute aims to bring better care to rural Texas
Texas A&M University Health Science Center (Texas A&M Health) is looking to improve rural health care in Texas with the launch of the Rural Engagement Program. Supported by funding from the Texas Legislature, this state-funded initiative is a collaborative effort between the Rural and Community Health Institute, School of Medicine, and School of Nursing at the university.
The new program aims to address the health care crisis faced by many rural communities, leveraging the expertise of the Rural and Community Health Institute, which has a 20-year track record of supporting rural areas. By integrating resources from the School of Medicine and School of Nursing, the initiative seeks to provide a coordinated and innovative response to the unique health care challenges faced by rural Texans.
The Rural Engagement Program plans to offer support to rural health care organizations, providing one-on-one regional technical assistance, virtual and on-site facilitation, and comprehensive needs analysis. The goal is to help these organizations improve their financial performance, operational efficiencies, quality of care, workforce capabilities, leadership support, and staff training. The program will also assist in the transition to value-based care payment models.
To address the shortage of health care professionals in underserved areas, the program plans to provide more than clinical experiences for students. Through partnerships with local rural communities, health care facilities, physicians, and school districts, the initiative offers unique and immersive rural clinical experiences.
The program's engagement initiatives include K-12 programs like the School of Medicine’s Mini Med Camp and Youth Adventure Program, aimed at inspiring the next generation of health care professionals and bridging the gap between rural students and health care career opportunities.
The School of Nursing will contribute to workforce growth by annually awarding $350,000 in scholarships for registered nurses working in rural areas to obtain their Bachelor of Science in Nursing or an advanced nursing degree or certificate. Plans include integrating rural-specific curriculum, developing a rural fellowship for nurse practitioners, and seeking certification for nurse-led clinics as Rural Health Clinics.
In collaboration with the Texas A&M Health Telehealth Institute, the Rural Engagement Program is working on expanding health care organizations' telehealth capabilities. The Telehealth Institute will enhance the availability of behavioral health care and lay the groundwork for other tele-specialty services in rural communities over the next two years. The institute will also collaborate with the School of Nursing on expanded clinical care and telehealth training innovations.