Rural nurses wanted; UW partnership helps meet the need

Leticia Rodriguez, ’19, is one of those rare clinicians who choose to return to work in the rural community where they grew up. The nurse practitioner moved her family back to Yakima two years ago when she joined the Children’s Village as a developmental-behavioral specialist. Some of her patients come from very rural areas of Central Washington where there are no health-care providers.

Rodriguez sees a growing demand for medical services in her community. So does the UW. A National Rural Health Association study found that residents in rural areas face worse health outcomes than their urban counterparts. With less access to primary and preventive care, they have shorter lives and are less likely to survive a major health event like a heart attack or stroke. In Washington, more than a million people—14% of the state’s population—live in rural communities.

Because evidence shows that students who train in rural settings are likely to return to those or similar communities, Premera Blue Cross has granted the UW $4.7 million to lead a program placing nursing students in rural practices throughout Washington. Through the Rural Nursing Health Initiative, 20 students each year over the next four years will find clinical placements.