Report Focuses on Rural Health Care

Senate bill would help overcome shortages.

The Center for Rural Affairs has released a report that examines the critical shortage of primary care providers in rural America, the importance of nurse practitioners as rural primary care providers, opportunities for rural nursing, and ultimately, how health care reform presents opportunities for nurses to improve access to and quality of health care for rural residents.


The author of the report, Melissa Florell, considers the shortage of primary care physicians to be at a critical level. Over 20% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, yet they are served by only 9% of the nation's physicians. This shortage jeopardizes the nation's ability to meet the health care needs of the rural population and the discrepancy is expected to increase in coming years.


As a remedy the report identifies a legislative initiative, SB 790, in the U.S. Senate, that seeks to increase the supply of rural health care professionals, including nurses and nurse practitioners. The Health Access and Health Professionals Supply Act of 2009 introduced by Senator Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., employs a variety of measures to provide opportunities, financial assistance, and incentives for health care practice in rural areas.


The bill would: create a pipeline of middle and high school students interested in studying health care-related fields; increase funding for the National Health Service Corps; create a U.S. Public Health Sciences Track at selected universities to train health care professionals; and the bill would also help hospitals in underserved rural areas start community-based training for health care professionals in high need.

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