BLACKSBURG — A Virginia group is working to bolster the state’s health care workforce.
The Virginia Rural Health Association’s Workforce Initiative is a collaboration with local workforce boards to train people in a variety of health care jobs. They can learn the skills to become licensed practical nurses, certified medical assistants, or to achieve other associate degree-level jobs.
Danielle Montague, program director for the Virginia Rural Health Association, said as the first year of a multiyear grant wraps up, they will make changes depending on the feedback they receive.
“I think it’s going to be really important for us to bring on some participants that have gone through the actual programs and gained employment, so we can hear from their perspectives and hear more from what they need of us,” Montague explained.
An overarching goal of the initiative is to fill gaps in rural health care, but Montague pointed out it is not just a rural issue. A National Association of Community Health Centers report found more than 3 million people in Virginia are medically disenfranchised, meaning they have no or inadequate access to primary care services.
One consideration for entry into the program is whether a person is going to remain in rural Virginia to work in their field of study.
Jenny Bolte, deputy director of the New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Development Board, said the initiative is already making headway to fill the need for registered nurses.
“Those programs are two-year programs,” Bolte noted. “They’re very, very intense, but they get an associate degree. They also get certification as a registered nurse from the Virginia Board of Nursing.”
Bolte noted along with the training, the grant funding provides other necessities like child care, stipends, gas cards and work uniforms to help people stay in school. It is funded through the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration’s Rural Public Health Workforce Training Network Program.