State-funded program is collaboration between the Rural and Community Health Institute, School of Medicine, and School of Nursing
BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M University Health Science Center (Texas A&M Health) is stepping up its support for rural health care in Texas by launching the Rural Engagement Program. This new initiative combines efforts from the Texas A&M Schools of medicine and Nursing and the Rural and Community Health Institute to expand the healthcare workforce and bolster the viability of healthcare organizations to better serve rural Texans.
Declining access to health care has become a crisis for many rural communities, and Texas A&M Health has long been committed to addressing this challenge. Now, thanks to funding from the 88th Texas Legislature, the Texas A&M Health Rural Engagement Program is consolidating and amplifying these efforts to expand support for rural healthcare organizations and professionals throughout the state.
The new program brings together resources from the Rural and Community Health Institute (RCHI)—which has 20 years of experience supporting rural communities—with the School of Medicine and School of Nursing to provide a coordinated, interdisciplinary, and innovative response to rural health care challenges.
“Although there are common challenges facing rural health care, each rural community in Texas is unique, with specific needs. By integrating the resources of the Texas A&M School of Medicine, School of Nursing, and RCHI, the Rural Engagement Program can provide a robust menu of support capabilities and assistance that best fits the needs of each community,” said Kia Parsi, MD, executive director of the Rural and Community Health Institute.
The Rural Engagement Program plans to provide support to help rural healthcare organizations keep their doors open and strengthen their services. Participating organizations will be supported by a dedicated one-on-one regional technical assistance coordinator along with virtual and on-site facilitation. Through a comprehensive needs analysis, the Rural Engagement Program will work alongside healthcare organizations in the program to formulate and implement sustainable action plans to improve their financial performance, increase operational efficiencies, improve quality of care, expand workforce capabilities, provide leadership support and staff training opportunities, and assist with the transition to newer, value-based care payment models that incentivize higher quality of care.
The program is also aimed at addressing the critical shortage of healthcare professionals in underserved areas. With additional funding and improved coordination, the Texas A&M medical and nursing schools are committed to providing more than just clinical experiences for students. Through innovative partnerships with local rural communities, healthcare facilities, physicians, advanced practice providers and school districts, the program offers a unique and immersive approach to rural clinical experiences.
The program will also engage K-12 students through initiatives like the School of Medicine’s Mini Med Camp, Youth Adventure Program (YAP), and a spectrum of new and existing healthcare career exploration activities designed to inspire the next generation of health care professionals and bridge the gap between rural students and health care career opportunities.
The program’s inaugural Rural Practitioners of Texas Conference, hosted by the School of Medicine in Fredericksburg on March 22-23, 2024, will provide a platform for healthcare professionals serving rural areas to share insights, explore strategies, and foster collaboration in addressing the unique health care needs of rural communities across Texas.
“I take immense pride in the work being done by the Texas A&M Health Rural Engagement Program and the role the School of Medicine undertakes,” said Amy Waer, MD, dean of the School of Medicine. “Over the past several years, our Rural Medicine Program has played a pivotal role in advancing health care, particularly in developing our physician workforce. The Rural Engagement Program will enable us to make even more meaningful contributions to the well-being of our rural communities.”
To support the growth of the nursing workforce, the School of Nursing will annually award $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. The School of Nursing also plans to integrate a rural-specific curriculum into its degree and certificate programs and develop a rural fellowship for nurse practitioners. Its nurse-led clinics will also seek certification as Rural Health Clinics.
“All Texans deserve access to high-quality health care, and the next generation of Aggie nurses must be well-prepared to care for the rural communities that need them most,” said Leann Horsley, Ph.D., RN, CHSE, CNE, dean of the School of Nursing. “Nursing’s participation in the Rural Engagement Program signifies our continued commitment to serving the underserved and addressing the complex challenges facing health care in a mostly rural state.”
In coordination with the Texas A&M Health Telehealth Institute, the Rural Engagement Program is also working on expanding health care organizations’ telehealth capabilities. The Telehealth Institute will enhance the availability of behavioral health care by extending access to patients’ homes, local clinics and hospitals over the next two years, and will lay the groundwork for other tele-specialty services in our rural communities. The institute will also foster innovations with the School of Nursing in expanded clinical care and telehealth training.
Read more about the new Rural Engagement Program at Vital Record, the online newsroom of Texas A&M Health.
About Texas A&M Health Rural Engagement Program
The Texas A&M Health Rural Engagement Program supports small-town healthcare providers in delivering high-quality care to the rural communities they serve. Leveraging the expertise of the Texas A&M School of Medicine, the School of Nursing, and the Rural and Community Health Institute, the Rural Engagement Program is developing a dedicated workforce deeply committed to rural health care outcomes. We are also bolstering the operational and financial viability of rural healthcare organizations through comprehensive technical assistance. Together with each provider we support, we are broadening access and fortifying healthcare delivery for the millions of rural Texans who make up the backbone of our state.