Educating Congress About Clinical Sites

The leaders spoke at a panel titled “Increasing Access to Care in Rural and Underserved Communities: Barriers in PA Education,” intended to educate congressional staff on the role of PAs in filling workforce gaps and the critical need to address clinical site shortages.

Following opening remarks from Alex Eveland, the legislative director for Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI), on the role of PAs in meeting the rural health workforce demand, Immediate PAEA Past President Lisa Mustone Alexander, EdD, MPH, PA-C, provided an overview of the geographic distribution of health professional shortage areas throughout the United States. She underscored PA practice patterns in rural and underserved settings — with a particular emphasis on federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics, and critical access hospitals.

Providing the perspective of a preceptor of PA students in a rural federally qualified health center, Tom Harward, PA-C, discussed his experiences training students at the Belington Medical Clinic in Belington, West Virginia, and the importance of clinical training experiences in the retention of graduates in rural and underserved areas.

Harward’s remarks were followed by a presentation on clinical site shortages from Michael DeRosa, PhD, MPH, PA-C, chair of PAEA’s Government Relations Steering Committee and chair of the Department of PA Studies at Samuel Merritt University. DeRosa highlighted PAEA’s research on the growing number of PA programs paying for some or all of their students’ clinical rotations and the implications these payments have for program expansion and student debt. He went on to describe existing federal and state efforts to address preceptor shortages through state tax and federal reimbursement incentives.

Karen Graham, PhD, PA-C, a member of PAEA’s Government Relations Steering Committee and clinical associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse PA program, concluded the briefing by describing current and previous investments in provider education, such as graduate medical education to support physician residency training and the Graduate Nurse Education demonstration program for advanced practice registered nurses. Graham concluded by requesting support for H.R. 1686, the Physician Assistant Education Public Health Initiatives Act, which would authorize $25 million in grants to PA programs over five years to support clinical rotations in federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics, and critical access hospitals.

PAEA would like to thank the office of Congressman Ron Kind and the panelists for their role in making this event a success and for advocating for the future of PA education and the profession.