Rural healthcare leaders are increasingly tasked with the responsibility of providing health access to 21% of the national population with only 10% of the provider workforce (Sonenberg, Knepper, & Pulcini, 2015). Provider recruitment strategies offering loan repayment have had some success in the short term, but are less impactful at creating a long-term retention rate, unless the providers have an existing connection to either the community in which they are working or rural healthcare (Renner et al., 2010).
Responding to this data, a demonstration project has been created in Colorado to test a rural focused “grow your own” advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) model. This model is designed to recruit RNs from inside rural communities to return to school and become primary care providers within those communities upon graduation. The project offers stipend support with assistance in the school application process, educational support, clinical and job placement assistance, and monthly coaching. Additionally, communities are asked to provide matching funds to support the APRN students with a goal of creating a self-sustaining model that will build a continuous pipeline of APRN providers. This strategy avoids the costly need to recruit and relocate providers who have no ties to the community.
The initial response from rural nurses and communities around the state has been overwhelmingly successful. This success suggests that this model could serve as a new and sustainable strategy for building a rural APRN provider workforce pipeline while ensuring access to a primary care health provider for all people living in rural areas.