October 2018 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.

Undergraduates explore their future health career training programs at UNMC

With permission from the author, Lisa Spellman, a portion of this article was published in UNMC Today on October 8, 2018.  To read, click here.

Peru State StudentsMore than 120 undergraduate students and their faculty advisors representing three rural health academic pipeline programs attended events at the University of Nebraska Medical Center Sept. 24 and 25. The students come from the University of Nebraska at Kearney as well as three state colleges- Peru State, Chadron State, and Wayne State.

Every fall students enrolled in the Public Health Early Admissions Student Track (PHEAST); Rural Health Opportunities Program (RHOP); and Kearney Health Opportunities Program (KHOP), visit UNMC to get a glimpse into their future as a UNMC student. These early admission programs are designed to address the unique needs of rural and urban underserved Nebraska by encouraging individuals from those areas to pursue a career in the health care fields. Students selected are guaranteed admission to UNMC as long as all stated requirements are met.

UNK StudentsDuring the visit, students have the opportunity to learn more about their future careers in the allied health professions, dentistry, dental hygiene, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, or public health. Students also get to connect with current students in their declared health profession training programs and gain information and tips on how to be prepared to thrive at UNMC.

"The annual visit to UNMC is an outstanding opportunity for our future students to visualize themselves on campus, in their health profession training program, and as a future health care provider," said Nikki Carritt, deputy director of the Nebraska AHEC Program.

Chadron Students"At the same time, it is an opportunity for faculty and staff across UNMC to demonstrate our support and commitment to making their dreams of providing health care in Nebraska's rural communities come true," she said.

While at UNMC, the students toured the campus and attended presentations from faculty. First and second year undergraduate students heard from an interactive panel on how to prepare for academic excellence as a health profession student. Leah Uhilr, a third-year physical therapy student and past RHOP student, shared about her transition from a rural area to Omaha and offered tips on how to evolve study skills to meet the increased rigor of a health profession training program. Third and fourth year undergraduate students attended presentations on financial aid and finding housing once a UNMC student.

Wayne State StudentsStudents had the opportunity to interact with program faculty and their future classmates from other institutions during a dinner. The visit concluded with presentations on leadership across the health professions and stress prevention and management.

To view the entire list of students who attended, click here.

(Pictured: Students from Peru State College. Students from University of Nebraska Kearney. Students from Chadron State College. Students from Wayne State College.)

Highlight: UNMC Family Medicine faculty visit preceptor sites

With permission from the author, Tom O’Connor, a portion of this article was published in UNMC Today on October 5, 2018. To read, click here.

AuburnUNMC Family Medicine faculty are traveling across Nebraska to meet with clinical education partners and preceptors to highlight the Family Medicine Department’s deep appreciation for their dedication to helping shape the careers of future health professionals. During each site visit, the Family Medicine faculty are recognizing UNMC’s appreciation of the providers, nurses, and staff for their dedication to teaching UNMC medical students.  During the visits, faculty are sharing information about the UNMC College of Medicine’s curriculum reform, discussing accreditation requirements for Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), sharing the advantages the volunteer faculty appointment that comes with serving as a preceptor, and using the opportunity to request input from the clinic providers and staff about ways to improve the student and provider experience.

Preceptors provide health profession students with mentored experience, in which practicing health providers instruct and train students as they interact with patients and observe clinical settings. Third-year UNMC medical students complete a six-week family medicine rotation at a rural preceptor site, and it is often considered a highlight of their medical education.

Monty Mathews, MD recently visited Auburn Family Health Center as an appreciation for the center’s commitment and dedication for teaching UNMC medical students.

 “There is no substitute for the on-the-job experience our students receive. It shows them what it will be like when they are physicians in the real world. But, more than that, it exposes them to rural medicine, and for many of them, it will be the impetus for them deciding to practice in a rural community after they graduate”, said Dr. Monty Mathews.

The preceptor visits are being supported in part by the Nebraska Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Program. Chairman of the Department of Family Medicine and Director of the Nebraska AHEC Program, Michael Sitorius, MD discussed the importance of these visits, “Building upon these relationships with our partners not only furthers the Family Medicine Department’s mission but enhances the natural partnership with AHEC." As AHEC works to improve the distribution of health professionals. "Ensuring there are enough preceptors to educate the future health workforce is critical,” said Dr. Sitorius.

Not only are these clinicians serving as preceptors for health profession students, in collaboration with the five Nebraska AHEC centers, many also allow high school and other pre-health students to shadow in their facilities, serve as mentors, lend their free time to speak to students and often act as ambassadors for their communities – important steps for ensuring the health of Nebraska’s rural communities.

(Pictured: Dr. Monty Mathews and staff from Auburn Family Health Center.)

From Central Nebraska AHEC: UNK program addresses need for rural health care providers

Note, this article was originally published by Tyler Ellyson of UNK Communications on October 6, 2018. Photo credit, Corbey R. Dorsey, UNK Communications.

Central AHECHealth care is one of Nebraska’s largest employment sectors, with continued job growth projected as the need for workers to serve the state’s aging population increases.

The demand for health care workers is particularly strong in rural areas, where it’s difficult to recruit and retain these professionals.

At the University of Nebraska at Kearney, there’s a program designed specifically to address the shortage of health care providers in rural Nebraska by offering scholarships, instruction and professional development to students who will eventually practice in these areas.

The Kearney Health Opportunities Program , a partnership with the University of Nebraska Medical Center that launched in 2010, prepares the next generation of health care workers through hands-on training, research and experiential learning opportunities.

“This program benefits the state by developing a pipeline of talented students committed to returning to rural Nebraska to practice health care and alleviate the projected provider shortages,” said Peggy Abels, director of UNK’s Health Sciences Department.

KHOP provides full-tuition scholarships to UNK and guaranteed admission into UNMC, assuming all requirements are met, for students from rural Nebraska who are pursuing degrees in a number of health sciences programs, including medicine, nursing, radiologic technology, medical laboratory science, pharmacy, physician assistant, physical therapy, dentistry and dental hygiene.

The program has grown from eight students in 2010 to more than 75 current participants.

“KHOP has generated increased interest in UNK among potential health sciences students and demonstrated great recruiting potential for UNK,” Abels said.

There are more than 800 students enrolled in health sciences programs at UNK, making it the largest academic department on campus. About 92 percent of these students successfully complete their professional program, and 84 percent of UNK health sciences students were accepted into professional schools or clinical programs last year.

KHOP contributes to the 65 percent acceptance rate into UNMC medical schools for UNK students, compared to the 7 percent acceptance rate for all students over the past 10 years.

With a total capacity of 150 students, there’s still room for KHOP to grow.

“Given the workforce needs in rural Nebraska, additional recruiting and retention efforts are important to the program,” said Abels.

A recent enhancement in this area is the KHOP Learning Community that started this fall.

The learning community provides mentoring, professional development and academic and social support for first-year KHOP students. Members share a floor inside a UNK residence hall — unless they’re part of the Thompson Scholars or Honors Program learning communities – and meet weekly with one of four upperclassmen who serve as mentors. They also take chemistry and another course together.

HenriqueHenrique Adabo, a freshman from Columbus who is part of the KHOP Learning Community, called it a “very valuable” resource.

Adabo, a biology major with a health sciences emphasis, made an immediate connection with other KHOP participants and students who share his pre-medicine track. Since they live on the same residence hall floor and take many of the same classes, Adabo said it’s natural for them to study together and turn to each other when they have questions.

“I got to know everyone and I realized what an advantage that is,” he said.

The mentors are important, too, he said, because they’re also KHOP students who can relate to the freshmen.

“They’ve been in our position,” Adabo said. “They’ve been through the classes we’re going through. If we have a question, they’re always happy to help.”

The KHOP Learning Community includes 40 first-year students, 34 of whom live together at Centennial Tower West and receive a housing waiver worth approximately $2,500.

KHOP participants also have access to on-campus speakers, tours of area health centers and UNMC facilities, career fairs and other events.

Brandon Drozd, program coordinator for the Central Nebraska Area Health Education Center located on campus, said he’d like to further promote research and job-shadowing opportunities and get students thinking about study abroad and mission trips that help them become better health care providers in the future. He also hopes to bring in former KHOP students to talk about the transition process from UNK to UNMC.

“This program serves as an advantage in multiple ways for those students,” said Drozd, a coordinator for the learning community.

For students like Adabo, KHOP and UNK’s Health Sciences Department are providing a path to future careers in Nebraska.

“That’s the reason why I came here,” said Adabo, who plans to be a physician. “I was looking at other colleges, but I knew this was my first option. I knew if I got this scholarship, this is where I’d be going.”

(Pictured: UNK freshman Henrique Adabo, a biology major from Columbus, NE.)

From Northern Nebraska AHEC: Maximizing use of volunteers provides big returns

With limited staff and greater demand to provide additional opportunities to further their mission, Northern Nebraska AHEC (NNAHEC) has become creative in utilizing volunteers to help get the job done.

“Simply put, without volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to offer some of the programs we currently offer. There isn’t enough staff time or dollars to do the work without them,” Gretchen Forsell, NNAHEC Executive Director said.

In 2006, NNAHEC utilized the volunteer corner of the local newspaper to search for interested volunteers and within a week found someone to help with a health career activity. Six months later, another volunteer joined who went on to help NNAHEC off and on for the next eight years. That volunteer soon became a regular working two to three days a week in the office.

“She worked in almost all aspects of the organization, even evolving to assist with program design after all her experience,” Forsell said.

That volunteer also became one of NNAHEC’s biggest cheerleaders, sharing the mission and great work with others in the region. As a result, NNAHEC has a strong volunteer network that benefits the volunteers and the organization. Volunteer duties range from updating past data records, participating at student events such as the Wayne State College Career Day, to answering the phone and other administrative office tasks. NNAHEC partners with volunteers from Integrated Life Choices in Norfolk, NE a local agency that works with people with disabilities and with high school students. One high school student in particular began volunteering as a school requirement and became so interested in a health career she is now a nurse. 

This past July, NNAHEC presented to AHECs across the country about its volunteer program at the National AHEC Organization Conference in Arlington, V.A. During the presentation, NNAHEC shared best practices including how to recruit and onboard volunteers. 

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, Nebraska ranks sixth in the nation for volunteering with over 34% of the population volunteering in some capacity.  Volunteering should be engaging, ensuring that both the organization and the volunteer get the most out of the experience. 

“There are all kinds of people ready to share their skills and expertise with others. Time and talent are valuable resources that AHECs need,” said Forsell.

If you are interested in sharing your time and talents with NNAHEC, contact Gretchen Forsell at gforsell@nnahec.org or 402-644-7253.

From Nebraska Panhandle AHEC: Partnership with UNMC College of Nursing brings benefit to region and students

Panhandle AHECUNMC’s College of Nursing (CON) has partnered with Nebraska Panhandle AHEC to leverage their strong and long-term relationships on the Activating Linkages Interconnecting Graduate Nursing and Advanced Practice Partners (ALIGN APP) initiative. Funded by the Health Resource and Service Administrative (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. Students are immersed in these specialties while learning didactic and clinical competencies preparing them to enter the workforce.

Nebraska Panhandle AHEC connects students to community opportunities and identifies ways to communicate the skills, scope, value, and access to care that ARNP’s can bring to a rural community. The Nebraska Panhandle AHEC also serves as a member of the ALIGN APP advisory board.

Melody Leisy, a UNMC psychiatric mental health ALIGN APP nurse practitioner program (PMHNP) student, is an example of why initiatives such as this are worthwhile. Melody receives a grant from the ALIGN APP initiative through the UNMC CON to pursue her advanced degree. As a first-generation college student, assistance with tuition relieves some financial burdens and allows Melody to focus on her education.

Melody currently resides in Bridgeport, NE with her husband and two sons. A desire to care for others combined with an interest in science, led to Melody become a nurse. Melody has worked as an registered nurse (RN) in a critical care access hospital, in an oncology unit, and as a member of a local emergency response team. However, it wasn’t until Melody began working as a public health nurse for Panhandle Public Health District that she realized she had a passion for community health and decided to pursue her advanced degree as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP).

“Mental health is a disease across the lifespan that I am passionate about. My goals are to be able to provide service in areas that currently have gaps,” Melody said.

Specifically, Melody hopes to provide services to young children and the adolescent population. Melody also has an interest in the relationship between mental health conditions and chronic disease. Currently, Melody is in a clinical rotation with Christine Karell, a PMHNP, and travels to clinic sites across western Nebraska.  

Through the grant from ALIGN APP, Melody can pursue her PMHNP degree and will continue to practice in rural Nebraska as she seeks employment in the area surrounding Bridgeport after graduation in May of 2019.

(Pictured: UNMC student Melody Leisy).

From Omaha AHEC: Former 8th grade science meet participant to present at national conference

Imani Omaha AHECImani Butler, a freshman at Omaha North High Magnet School, was invited to the Nebraska Junior Academy of Sciences (NJAS) American Association for the Advancement of Science 2019 National Conference to showcase her project, ‘No Lye, Girl Bye’, which explores the effects of chemicals and heat on natural hair.

Imani will be one of two students representing her high school and one of eleven students representing Nebraska at the national conference. Nationals are open to ninth and twelfth graders. All high school participants will have their work published in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) scientific journal. During the conference, students will view top-level student science research from across the United States and internationally.

Imani competed in the Metropolitan Science and Engineering Fair/NJAS meet, which was supported by Omaha AHEC, in the spring of 2018. During the competition she placed first in the chemistry category and in the top six overall. She has been an active participant in the Omaha AHEC Health Science Academy.

In addition to science, Imani is an active softball player and hopes to travel the world.

(Pictured: Imani Butler with her science project.)

From Southeast Nebraska AHEC: Continuing education event helps train community partners on life-saving skills

Southeast 1In rural Nebraska, many individuals do not live near a hospital and ambulance wait times can mean the difference between life and death. As a result, the training provided to community bystanders and the rural health workforce is critical.  Southeast Nebraska AHEC (SE NE AHEC) hosted a training event for fourteen community partners on August 30, 2018. School nurses, emergency personnel, AmeriCorps members, and public health staff benefited from the two-and-a-half hour continuing education training on “Stop the Bleed” and “Bloodborne Pathogens”.

“Stop the Bleed”, a national awareness campaign, was presented by Bryan Health’s Brittni Clark, Trauma Outreach and Injury Prevention Coordinator. The training provides community partners the skills to stop an active bleed and to use tourniquets. It is not always emergency responders who are first on the scene of accidents, but everyday individuals in the community. If community members have the right knowledge and skills to “Stop the Bleed” lives can be saved. Participants noted afterwards that this knowledge is especially useful in the age of active shooters. Marlys Koch, a school nurse for Diller-Odell, learned a lot during the event and stated, “I hope to pass this information along to school staff and have our school prepared in an emergency situation.”

Southeast 2Attendees also benefited from training in “Bloodborne Pathogens,” an American Heart Association course. The course covers how to correctly and safely handle bodily fluids with additional information on preventing infections when exposed to blood or blood-containing materials.

SE NE AHEC provides continuing training opportunities, such as this, to health care providers in their seventeen-county region.

(Pictured: Participants learning how to use tourniquets.)