February 2019 Newsletter

Nebraska AHEC Update: The Newsletter of the Nebraska Area Health Education Center Program

Connecting Students to Health Careers, Health Professionals to Communities, and Communities to Better Health.

Addressing Health in Rural Nebraska: State Senator Tom Brewer Speaks to UNMC Student

With permission from the author, a portion of this article was published in UNMC Today on December 10, 2018.  To read, click here.

To learn more about what the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) is doing to address rural health needs across Nebraska, including in his legislative district, State Senator Tom Brewer visited UNMC in November to learn about telehealth technology and present to students.


During his visit to UNMC, Sen. Brewer learned about telehealth technology through a demonstration between a UNMC geriatric psychiatrist in Omaha with a nursing home provider in Gordon, NE. The power of technology can help increase access, providing quality care to rural communities. Sen. Brewer stated, “If you can see a patient face-to-face, even if just on a screen and with support from a nurse practitioner or other health care professional on the other end, you can complete the cycle of care.”

Sen. Brewer, elected in 2016 to represent the forty-third district (including Chadron, Valentine, and Ainsworth), also presented to UNMC students interested in rural health. Students from the Student Association of Rural Health (SARH), Family Medicine Interest Group (FMIG), and other student interest groups heard Sen. Brewer address the system challenges within health care and the needs of rural populations.

Sen. Brewer, a retired US Army Colonel, shared his personal experience of serving multiple combat tours in Afghanistan and surviving multiple, nearly fatal injuries. Upon his return from service, he was diagnosed with leukemia and received treatment, and these experiences, he shared, allowed him to gain insight into navigating the health care system and influenced his investment in working to increase access to quality health care for his Western Nebraska constituents.

During his presentation, Sen. Brewer recognized the importance of health profession students who have an interest in practicing in rural areas and how engaging them throughout their education could increase their ties to rural communities.

AHEC program associate, Sam Woodruff, serves as an advisor for SARH and shared his thoughts on the recent visit stating, “SARH was honored to host Sen. Brewer. His decorated service as a veteran, personal experiences navigating the health care system, and his sincere interest in addressing health care access in his rural district, provided important insight and information for the student attendees who intend to return to rural communities across Nebraska to practice health care."

SARH currently has ninety-one student members from multiple disciplines and engages students with opportunities to learn from other disciplines, participate in community-based experiences, and hear from health care and community leaders like Sen. Brewer.

(Pictured: Nebraska State Senator Tom Brewer addressing students interested in rural health.)

In Case You Missed It:
Recently Released Tool: Updated National Analysis Related to Health Workforce

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) National Center for Health Workforce Analysis (NCHWA) recently released an updated U.S. Health Workforce Chartbook. The Chartbook provides workforce estimates for thirty-four health professions including physicians, nurses, and laboratory technicians. National vital findings are reported as well as workforce breakdowns by state. To read Nebraska’s state profile breakdown, click here.

Omaha World-Herald Editorial: UNMC Plays a Pivotal Role in Addressing Nebraska’s Rural Health Needs

All Nebraska counties, outside of Douglas and Lancaster, are designated shortage areas for at least one type of physician. This recent editorial recognizes efforts from UNMC to address gaps in the health care workforce and patient care across Nebraska. To read the editorial in its entirety, click here.

To read more about the health workforce data referenced within, you may access Nebraska AHEC’s 2018 Health Workforce Report, here.

From Central Nebraska AHEC: Interprofessional Education Event Targets High School and College Students

central2In November, Central Nebraska AHEC (CN AHEC) used their network to draw over fifty high school and college students from their Health Careers Club, Kearney Health Opportunities Program (KHOP) Learning Community, and the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) science students to participate in an interprofessional education event in Kearney.

Through partnerships with the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and UNK, students rotated through multiple hands-on activities and learned about the role of each health professional in the patient care team. Students were able to hear and participate in the following:

In continuing their effort to introduce students to the various health disciplines, CN AHEC’s Health Career Club will introduce students to dentistry and dental hygiene in February with nursing to follow in March. Additionally, the KHOP Learning Community is set to provide another interprofessional event with UNMC Kearney faculty at the end of February.

For additional information, contact Brandon Drozd, Program Coordinator for CN AHEC.

From Northern Nebraska AHEC: Collaborating with FQHC Leads to New Opportunities for UNMC APRN Students

One of the best ways to show health profession students the benefits of working in a rural community is to provide opportunities for them to learn in and experience living in those communities.

Northern Nebraska AHEC (NN AHEC) is utilizing their longstanding relationship with Midtown Health, a Federally Qualified Health Care Clinic (FQHC), allowing nurse practitioner students part of the Activating Linkages for Graduate Nursing Education and Advanced Practice Partners (ALIGN APP) to volunteer at a small after-hours clinic to gain community-based experience. During the clinic, students work in conjunction with the FQHC’s health care providers to provide care to patients with diabetes or hypertension. Additionally, students learn first-hand about the integrated patient care model utilized at the FQHC. Student experiences have been positive and as a result Midtown Health Center has planned three additional clinics later this year.

Amber Gerweck, a UNMC ALIGN APP nurse practitioner student who will graduate in 2020, had limited awareness of the role of an FQHC before the after-hours clinic and found the experience enlightening. “What a great opportunity, working in this outreach clinic, it would be awesome to work for Midtown Health Center,” said Gerweck.

ALIGN APP nurse practitioner students have been involved in communities in other various ways such as going to senior centers, talking to students at junior and senior high schools about health professions, talking to nursing students at local colleges and universities about becoming a nurse practitioner, working at Husker Harvest days, and helping children at a disabilities clinic. Through these community-based experiences, students are becoming involved, making a difference through their efforts, and building connections throughout rural communities. NN AHEC facilitates opportunities for students to engage in to meet the community health needs while working to grow the future health workforce.

Because of NN AHEC’s longstanding community and academic partnerships, UNMC College of Nursing has partnered with NN AHEC on the ALIGN APP project. Funded by the Health Resource and Service Administration (HRSA) Advanced Nursing Education Workforce (ANEW) program, the ALIGN APP initiative was developed to expand the distribution of advanced practice nursing (APRN) students in family and psychiatric mental health specialties across the state. Through assistance by NN AHEC, ALIGN APP nurse practitioner students engage in community projects and experiences that build relationships and workforce employment opportunities.

For additional information, contact Gretchen Forsell, Executive Director of NN AHEC.

From the Nebraska Panhandle: Game of “Life Course” Allows Students to Understand Social Determinants of Health

Students from Gering, NE recently participated in the game of “Life Course,” as part of a creative way to learn about social determinants of health.

panhandleThrough a partnership with Gering High School Health Occupations Student Association (HOSA) Nebraska Panhandle AHEC’s (NP AHEC), Health Professions Club (HPC) hosted a lunch-and-learn for nineteen students. The HPC offers high school students opportunities to participate in health-related activities and learn about health careers.

The “Life Course” game, developed by CityMatch in Omaha, illustrates how social determinants (e.g., income, zip code, age, social support) impact an individual’s overall health. Wendy Wells, NP AHEC’s education coordinator and a UNMC College of Nursing-Western Division instructor, presented the activity to the HPC and HOSA students in December.

Wells stated, “Addressing such things as social determinants of health with high school students interested in health careers, puts them one step closer to understanding the complexity of health care they will experience as professionals. Acknowledging the myriad of factors that shape peoples’ health care decisions and access to care will assist these future practitioners in developing a deep understanding of the care needed by various populations.”

Through opportunities such as this, NP AHEC helps instruct students on health care career options and initiate networking contacts in the region to strengthen the workforce in western areas of Nebraska.

For additional information, contact Tammy Fehringer, Executive Director of NP AHEC.

(Pictured: Students from Gering High School playing the game of “Life Course”.)]

From Southeast Nebraska AHEC: First Responders Receive Training on Naloxone, Opioid Overdose Reversal Medication

southeastAccording to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2016 there were forty-four opioid-related overdose deaths in Nebraska. While opioid use is not listed as a top-priority in the Nebraska Statewide Health Needs Assessment, opioid use remains a public health issue in Nebraska.

One way it is being addressed is by educating and equipping first responders on how to use the opioid reversal medication, naloxone. Southeast Nebraska AHEC (SE NE AHEC) partnered with Southeast Community College in Beatrice and Wymore Volunteer Fire Department, to co-host two naloxone trainings Beatrice and Wymore, NE in November.

During the trainings, seventy participants consisting of first responders, law enforcement, and public school and college representatives learned how opioids work in the body to cause an overdose, how naloxone (Narcan), a prefilled nasal spray, works to reverse the effects of an overdose, and current laws around the availability and access to the medication.

Nemaha County Sheriff, Sheriff Brent Lottman delivered the training and gave participants naloxone delivery devices to use for practice. Sherriff Lottman, who has experience in emergency medical services and also serves as an adjunct instructor of criminal justice at Peru State College, shared how crucial it is to provide naloxone training in rural areas, stating, “Statistics show in rural areas there is an increased chance of death due to opioid overdose…the time it takes to respond is going to cause more deaths.” Preparing individuals throughout communities on how to administer naloxone increases access and in turn, can help decrease the time it takes for someone to respond. 

SE NE AHEC adapts to emerging health needs within the region to provide and connect health professionals to continuing education opportunities. As a result of the importance of the topic, other communities in the region have requested training.

For additional information, contact Carmen Chinchilla, Program Director of SE NE AHEC.

(Pictured: First responders and community members hearing from Sheriff Brent Lottman regarding naloxone.)