Earlier this month, Duke University PA Program Director Jacqueline Barnett, DHSc, MSHS, PA-C, made a trip to Capitol Hill to brief congressional staff on the unique impact that the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) has on PA students and graduates.
Barnett represented PAEA alongside panelists from the Association of Clinicians for the Underserved (ACU), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American College of Physicians (ACP), and the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). At the briefing, she relayed her experience as a former NHSC scholar, her track record of practice in underserved areas, and the importance of continued and strengthened NHSC support in expanding access to care to those most in need.
“The congressional briefing provided a wonderful opportunity to serve the PA profession and to sit alongside passionate leaders to advocate for funding that is so critical to fulfilling a basic human need: access to health care. It almost seems unreal in this day and time that we are still facing and fighting for some of the same access to care issues that existed when the PA profession began over 50 years ago,” said Barnett.
Discussing the impact of the NHSC on the PA profession specifically, she cited Health Resources and Services Administration data over the past five years indicating that PAs comprise a significant portion of the NHSC workforce — with over 1,100 PA participants each year. An NHSC Scholar alumna herself, she went on to echo the sentiments of other panelists regarding the long-term implications of NHSC funding for rural and medically underserved areas, noting that the vast majority of NHSC clinicians continue to provide services in these areas following the completion of their service obligations.
In February of this year, Congress enacted a short-term extension of NHSC funding through the end of fiscal year 2019. Additional funding was included in the omnibus appropriations bill, which passed in March following a sustained grassroots advocacy campaign by PA education advocates. PAEA joined ACU, AFFP, ACP, and NACHC in calling for improved stability for the NHSC through longer funding extensions and increased investments to meet applicant demand.
“Our nation is struggling to recruit and retain behavioral health, dental, and primary care providers, especially in medically underserved communities,” said Barnett. “Now, more than ever, we must strengthen NHSC investment in these communities in an effort to promote the health of children and ultimately improve the health of the nation. PAs and PA educational programs want to play a significant role in improving the health of underserved communities, and NHSC funding is critical to promoting these efforts.”
For questions about PAEA’s advocacy related to the NHSC, please contact advocacy@PAEAonline.org.