Western Washington Area Health Education Center Programs
WWAHEC envisions a world with 100 percent access to healthcare and zero health disparities. Our values include:
- Creating a strong health care delivery system; This requires a continuum of activities. The pipeline involves recruiting students into health professions; exposure to practice opportunities through rural and urban clinical rotations and clerkships; developing healthy community health services delivery systems which are able to attract and retain providers; and supporting providers in their delivery settings through continuing education activities, professionals linkages and community-academic linkages.
- Developing health care professionals with interdisciplinary and multicultural experiences, and expectations to bridge the gaps in the health care team.
- Training providers together to lead to increased understanding, collaborative relationships, better utilization of personnel and ultimately will contain health care costs.
- Promoting cross-training which maximizes human potential for a health care team and delivers the best service at the best cost.
- Achieving equitable health care access for both rural and urban populations in King County and Western Washington.
WWAHEC’s focus areas include workforce development, health professions education, continuing education for health professionals, community assessment and development of health systems, health promotion/disease prevention/health education, and advocacy for rural and underserved populations in Western Washington through public policy development.
Volunteer/Retired Provider Program
Through the Washington Volunteer/Retired Provider Malpractice Insurance Program, WWAHEC helps place volunteer or retired professionals throughout western Washington, including physicians and physician assistants, dentists, nurses, pharmacists and other health professionals. The program is funded by the Washington State Department of Health and managed through WWAHEC.The program is designed to encourage health care volunteers in Washington State by paying the malpractice insurance premiums for those providing non-invasive care to underserved patients. Volunteers who only use their Washington professional license for volunteer work are additionally eligible for free license renewal. All professional license and malpractice insurance costs, other than late fees and testing fees, are covered by the Washington State Department of Health.
In 2010, volunteer or retired providers cared for more than 104,000 patients in Washington State. Between June and December 2010, the average volunteer donated 40 hours of service and cared for 79 patients.
Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program
WWAHEC's Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program (R/UOP) provides opportunities for University of Washington students between the first and second years of medical school to be placed with a preceptor in a rural or underserved clinical site in western Washington. R/UOP hopes to encourage primary care careers in clinical practice in addition to exposing the students to a rural or undeserved community.
Students receive broad clinical experiences and contact with the community and other members of the health care team. They may complete histories and physicals, assist with office procedures, attend births and assist in surgery. In addition, students have gone on home visits with public health and hospice nurses, worked with other providers, and attended town meetings and community cultural events. Students receive a stipend and funds for travel. They are assisted in locating and paying for local housing.
Youth Health Service Corps
The Youth Health Service Corps is a health career recruitment program that engages high school students in meaningful service addressing community health issues. Student volunteers increase their knowledge about health careers while participating in needed service activities and building their resume for college or work.
At the beginning of the program, students are trained to be adept and culturally-sensitive volunteers. Then they are matched with hospitals, clinics and health-related community organizations in their area for volunteering. A YHSC Certificate of Excellence is awarded upon completion of 50 hours of service. A volunteer completing 100 or more hours of service is eligible for the President’s Volunteer Service Award.
YHSC students meet on a regular basis to plan service-learning projects, discuss volunteering and learn more about career and education opportunities in health after high school. The WWAHEC program began in 2009 and has been embraced by students at more than 10 high schools in Seattle and greater Western Washington.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Rural Outreach Nursing Education is helping to reduce the shortage of nurses in rural Washington
WWAHEC's innovative Rural Outreach Nursing Education (RONE) program is proving key to helping rural Washington hospitals solve their nursing workforce challenges. RONE is a two-year associate degree RN program, designed to use the latest in distance education teaching and technology so that employed health care workers can pursue an Associate Degree in Nursing in their home community. The courses, including prerequisites, are available online through Lower Columbia College in Longview. Clinical education occurs at the student/employee’s hospital or clinic, and is augmented with additional experiences within the student’s community.
The first group of approximately 20 students began classes in January 2009. The clinical training sites for 2009 were in Goldendale, Morton, Port Townsend and Republic. In January 2010, the program enrolled a second freshman cohort class, bringing the total number of students in the program to 25. Two new sites joined in 2010, Chewelah and Friday Harbor. In 2011, approximately 20 students began classes at training sites in Morton, Port Townsend, Chewelah, Snoqualmie, Grand Coulee and Davenport. Nursing staff at the sites serve as clinical educators for the students.
In Washington, RONE’s innovation has been recognized with a Governor's Innovation Award. Nationally the program has been featured at the National Rural Health Association Annual Conference and the National Area Health Education Centers Organization (NAO) Workshop, as well as being featured in the NAO Annual Report.
Project H.O.P.E places high school students in six-week paid internships at local health facilities. Students from rural areas, populations under-represented in the health professions and/or first generation college-bound are encouraged to apply. To gain experience in a broad variety of health professions, interns rotate through several settings under the supervision of staff from hospitals, medical and dental clinics, and long-term care facilities.
In 2010, the Washington state legislature eliminated funding for Project H.O.P.E, which meant no student placements for 2011. Fortunately, WWAHEC was able to secure a small amount of funding that allowed us to place three high school students in Project H.O.P.E internships during Summer 2011. Snoqualmie Valley Hospital, GCI ConnectMD, the Washington State Department of Health and WWAHEC board members all provided funding to allow us to place the three students this summer. Two of the students will be at Snoqualmie Valley Hospital and one at a dental clinic in King County.
WWAHEC continues to seek funding that will allow us to continue the program in 2012.