The Area Health Education Center for Western Washington at Whatcom Community College works with the national AHEC movement to support healthcare delivery systems and access to care through activities that strengthen the healthcare workforce in rural and urban-underserved communities.
AHECWW is actively implementing a range of projects to strengthen the quality, diversity, and distribution of healthcare workforce in rural and urban-underserved areas of western Washington. Explore our primary projects through the links below to learn more:
AHECWW works with the University of Washington School of Medicine to coordinate a four-week, elective immersion experience for medical students. The program is called The Rural and Underserved Opportunities Program (RUOP) and it places students between their first and second years of medical school in community medicine in rural or urban underserved communities throughout the WWAMI region (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho).
Applications will be available in December 2019 for physicians who would like to become a preceptors for a RUOP student in summer 2020.
Students work in clinics and hospitals with preceptors, experiencing their first extended clinical involvement. RUOP provides students with an early exposure to the challenges and rewards of working with rural and underserved communities and develops in students a positive attitude toward rural and urban underserved community medicine. Students also benefit from learning how community health care systems function.
- Along with expanding history-taking and physical exam skills, students participate in a full range of clinical activities. They experience what it is to be a physician.
- Practicing doctors act as role models and provide clinical teaching that can shape students’ professional choices.
- Many RUOP students plan to combine their clinical work with a community medicine experience.
Students also complete a web-based community medicine course with UWSOM mentors.
- Learning about the social determinants of health.
- Assessing the community for health strengths and challenges.
The University of Washington School of Medicine Magazine featured the inspiring story of a similar program (called TRUST) in this video “Spurred to Succeed,” in spring 2018.
AHECWW recruits physician preceptors working in rural and urban-underserved communities throughout western Washington during the winter. Medical students are matched with participating sites during the spring, and summer rotations begin in late June. Contact AHECWW for more information on how to become a preceptor: info@AHECWW.org.
Additional information about the preceptor role and responsibilities is detailed on the University of Washington School of Medicine website for the RUOP program.
AHEC Scholars is a nationwide HRSA/AHEC branded certificate program to prepare and promote a diverse, skilled primary care workforce in rural and underserved communities. The program consists of didactic and clinical/experiential/community learning focused on six core topic areas:
- Interprofessional education
- Behavioral health integration
- Social determinants of health
- Cultural humility*
- Practice transformation
- Current and emerging health issues
Visit Student Resources for more information about AHEC Scholars.
To apply for the online cohort of AHEC Scholars, administered by AHECWW, click here.
*AHECWW prefers the term cultural humility, which acknowledges that mastery of a finite body of knowledge may not be appropriate. Instead, cultural humility invites us to practice the lifelong commitment to self-evaluation, redressing power imbalances, and developing mutually beneficial advocacy partnerships with communities. (Definition adapted from Tervalon & Murray-Garcia, 1998)
As part of our work to support recruitment and expose high-school aged youth to health careers, AHECWW hosts Scrubs Camps and facilitates the expansion of Scrubs Camps across the state.
What is Scrubs Camp?
Scrubs Camp is a one-day workshop for high school students to explore health careers. Scrubs Camps are designed to increase awareness, interest, and understanding of health careers available in Washington through instruction and interactive activities. Students hear presentations from health care professionals and/or educators, and participate in hands-on activities, while also learning about the education and skills required to become a health professional.
What will I do at Scrubs Camp?
Scrubs Camp is often held in the healthcare labs at the local community college. Some camps have also been held at community buildings. Faculty, staff and community members give presentations on healthcare programs offered on that campus. Student are immersed in experiential learning about careers such as Nursing, Medical Assisting, Physical Therapy, Emergency Medical Technicians, Massage Therapy, Dental Hygiene and other fields represented at the local campus. Presenters engage students in hands-on activities like drawing blood, listening to a heartbeat, experiencing electrical stimulation, conducting spirometry assessments, practicing massage techniques and other job-related tasks. A healthy lunch is provided for students along with snacks to keep them energized throughout the day. An advising session is included to inform students on academic pathways for healthcare careers and each student is given resources to take home.
Scrubs Camp is a great way for students interested in a health career to find out all the possibilities and prepare for their next steps in education. Participants get concrete guidance on the training programs required for different types of healthcare careers, including information on financial options.
Scrubs Camps in 2019 took place in Bellingham, Port Angeles, and Montesano. Locations and partners for 2020 Scrubs Camps are in the planning stages.
Contact Deborah Elliott, AHECWW Health Professions Coordinator, at DElliott@whatcom.edu or call (360) 383-3171, for more information on Scrubs Camp 2020.
Scrubs Camp is ready to expand in western Washington
AHECWW looks forward to exploring ways that Scrubs Camp can be adapted to your region. This program has the potential to showcase your healthcare education programs, and also offers an opportunity to partner with industry to highlight local health career options. Let’s collaborate to help address healthcare workforce shortages by building academic pathways!
AHECWW launched Washington State's first Health Professions Affinity Community (HPAC) program in 2018 to encourage high school students to explore healthcare careers. HPAC is a facilitated student activity that meets at participating high schools. Students in the HPAC learn to identify community health issues under the guidance of an AmeriCorps College Access Coordinator. Activities include presentations by healthcare professionals, field trips, and tutoring. HPAC focuses on students from diverse populations that are under-represented in health professions.
AHECWW has continued its partnership with AmeriCorps Campus Compact to continue the pilot project at three Whatcom County high schools in the 2019-2020 school year.
Visit Student Resources for more information about HPAC.
If you are a student interested in participating in HPAC, click here to fill out the HPAC photo release form.
Continuing Education and CME
AHECWW supports didactic and experiential training activities focused on the HRSA Core Topic Areas by providing two Continuing Medical Education sessions annually. Check AHECWW's Resources webpage for information about upcoming free and low-cost CME offerings.
AHECWW hosted these sessions at the 2019 Northwest Rural Health Conference:
- Reducing Barriers to Addressing Behavioral Health at your Rural Clinic
- Ethical Dilemmas in Adult Services: Addressing Chemical Dependency Issues in Rural Families
- Telehealth Innovation Panels: Operations, Services, and Strategies
- Telehealth Implementation
- Cultural Competency vs. Cultural Humility: Improving Cross-cultural Communication
- Cultural Humility Linguistics Experiential Workshop
- A Pebble in a Pond: The Far-reaching Effects of Addiction among healthcare professionals
- The Threat from Within: Our Trust Betrayed (Addiction among healthcare professionals)
- Health Professional Suicide Prevention
- Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment (SBIRT): An Overview
- Behavioral Health in the Workplace: Strategies for Prevention, Detection, Intervention, and Monitoring
- Transition to Value Based Purchasing
Find additional trainings and other resources for healthcare professionals.
The 2020 Northwest Rural Health Conference will be March 23-25, 2020, at the Davenport Grand in Spokane WA. The 2020 conference theme is "Rural Values: Shaping Care -- Inspiring Success." Visit the Washington Department of Health Rural Health page to stay updated.
The Northwest Rural Health Conference addresses varied facets of providing health care in rural settings including critical access hospitals, rural emergency medical services, rural health clinics, home health and other health organizations.
The 2019 Northwest Rural Health Conference was hosted in Seattle, welcoming more than 400 health professionals and presenters.
Presentations from the 2019 Northwest Rural Health Conference can be accessed here.
The University of Washington School of Nursing, Kaiser Permanente Washington, and AHECWW have partnered on an innovative Nurse Education, Practice, Quality and Retention (NEPQR) Program, "Registered Nurses in Primary Care," to meet ambulatory care education needs. This is a $2.8M grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
The purpose of the four-year training program is to recruit and train nursing students and current registered nurses (RNs) to practice at the full scope of their license in community-based ambulatory care teams. This work will emphasize chronic disease prevention and management in health professional shortage areas (HPSA), medical underserved (MU) and rural ambulatory care settings.
AHECWW sits on the partnership advisory committee for this project, and will work in partnership to develop immersive rural clinical placements for participating students, with the aim of increasing recruitment from underserved communities and improving the diversity of the nursing workforce.
- Washington State has an RN shortfall that is expected to grow over the next 12 years
- The RN shortfall is greatest in rural WA, where the number of RNs is fewer (per 100,000 populations)
- Chronic disease rates are increasing along with a growing and aging population, amplifying the need for RNs in ambulatory care
AHECWW works with partners across the state to make it easier for healthcare students to map their academic pathway to healthcare and STEM certifications and degree programs. There are a vast number of outreach programs throughout the Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (WWAMI) region striving to bring individuals who are underrepresented in the health care fields toward college level training in the health sciences.
The project includes two main components:
1. Healthcare Career Path Program mapping:Compiling data about all the career pathway programs in the WWAMI Region, making it accessible in a searchable database and interactive map to students, advisors, and educators via a website and app.
- Link participants and volunteers to programs
- Encourage programs to work with neighbors and create opportunities for cooperation
- Identify both areas of overlap and where there are gaps in programming
- Improve data collection and measurement of the impact of career path ("pipeline") programs
- Research methods to track student outcomes
Visit the Northwest Health Career Path website to see for yourself!
2. Healthcare Career Path Summits:Convening annual information-sharing events to link programs with each other and with participants.
Partners in development include:
- UW School of Medicine Service Learning
- UW Family Medicine Interest Group (FMIG)
- UW Center for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (CEDI)
- Eastern Washington Area Health Education Center (EWAHEC)
- Seattle Data For Good
Visit Student Resources for more information.
Washington Resources Group
As part of the statewide effort to recruit and retain health professionals working in rural and urban medically underserved areas, AHECWW participates in the Washington Resources Group (WRG) to plan and provide presentations to student groups and training sites related to workforce recruitment and retention in underserved areas.
Visit the Washington State Department of Health WRG page to learn more about the WRG.
Strengthening the Local Nursing Workforce for Rural and Tribal CommunitiesAHECWW conducted an assessment of needs and possibilities for a distance-learning program to train talent--and address nursing shortages and distinctive healthcare needs--in rural and tribal communities. View the report here.
AHECWW offers Cultural Humility trainings for health professionals, students, and community partners and is in the process of planning a series of offerings for the 2019-2020 project year. Below are some on-line training resources that provide a useful foundation for beginning to apply Cultural Humility principles in clinical practice:
- Cultural Humility: People, Principles and Practices - Part 1 of 4
- Toward Health Equity: Mindfulness and Cultural Humility as Adult Education
- Cultural Humility: A Concept Analysis
Behavioral Health Workforce ExpansionAHECWW has also been in collaboration with the UW AIMS Center and the Allied Health Center of Excellence to promote a process via the Washington State Mental Health Summit to develop educational, licensure, and certification programs for medical paraprofessionals in behavioral health at the bachelors and associates degree levels. Work group members have been collaborating on pathway development and AHECWW participated in the Inspiring Innovations Summits, held in Spokane and Seattle, spring 2019, to explore actionable steps toward workforce expansion.
About the Host College
Whatcom Community College is a regionally and nationally accredited college with an accomplished faculty and staff who serve nearly 11,000 students annually. On its 72-acre campus in Bellingham, Wash., and through online courses, Whatcom offers transfer degrees, professional-technical training programs, as well as basic education, job skills, and Community & Continuing Education classes. According to the Aspen Institute (2016), WCC is rated among the top nine community and technical colleges in the state and recognized as one of the leading community colleges in the nation. Established in 1967, Whatcom has been accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities since 1976.
Additional project-specific funding supports AHECWW work from the Chuckanut Health Foundation for the HPAC program, and the Perkins Grant from the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges, for the Primary Care Needs Assessment project.
This project is/was supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number U77HP03022, for the WWAMI Area Health Education (WWAMI AHEC) Program Office and its five regional Centers in the total amount of $679,700 for the 2019-2020 fiscal year (with a 1:1 total match of $679,700 from non-federally funded governmental sources). This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.