Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) https://www.arh.org a not-for-profit health system with 350,000 residents across Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia and in addition, serving 12 hospitals, multispecialty physician practices, home health agencies, and retail pharmacies.
ARH has a network of more than 600 active medical staff members representing various specialties with more than 5,000 employees just in eastern Kentucky alone and is the largest healthcare provider and employer. However, ARH is really struggling to fill all the jobs required to meet the region’s healthcare needs.
In 2016, ARH formed a partnership with the Galen School of Nursing to open a new College of Nursing in Hazard, Kentucky. Using Appalachian Regional Commission https://www.arc.gov (ARC) support, the school was able to purchase equipment to educate the nursing profession.
Enrollment demand quickly skyrocketed due to the local nursing shortage. The Nursing School used ARC support to expand capacity and then to double the incoming nursing class enrollment but yet the result is that there are still many qualified students who are not admitted due to space.
To actively build up the healthcare workforce in Appalachia, ARH has partnered with the Physician Assistant (PA) program at the Northern Kentucky Campus of the University of the Cumberlands (UC).
ARH is going to provide 300 clinical rotation slots to UC Northern Kentucky Campus PA students. Cumberland’s PA students are required to complete ten months of supervised clinical practice experience in various field in medicine in order to graduate. The partnership with ARH, will enable students from Appalachia to return home and complete their clinical rotations at ARH facilities.
The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics records the median yearly wage of PAs in 2017 to be $104,860. The rate of employment for PAs is growing significantly faster than the national average.
The hope is that by granting opportunities for students to complete clinical rotations in their home communities, students will be able to pursue and benefit from careers in the Appalachian region since there is a push for more high quality healthcare professionals.