White House Rural Council’s Health IT Initiative Helps Community Colleges Tailor Programs to Workforce Needs

By John White, Judy Murphy, and Thomas Morris

With a major workforce transition underway in many rural hospitals and health clinics, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) hosted a conference call with staff from nearly 80 rural community colleges recently to discuss federal resources available to expand training for health information technology workers.

Putting the I in Health IT LogoDeveloping an adequately trained health IT workforce in rural areas is imperative, and new programs are available to provide incentives for eligible health care providers and hospitals to adopt and meaningfully use electronic health records.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the health IT workforce will increase by 20 percent by the year 2016.  A significant part of that growth will come in rural areas, which are served by approximately 2,000 rural hospitals, 3,700 Rural Health Clinics and approximately 3,000 Community and Migrant Health Centers that are either located in or serve rural communities.

In small rural hospitals and clinics, health IT workers may have multiple roles and responsibilities. Community colleges will be the place where many employers and employees turn for training and re-training to implement and maintain these systems.

Activities and programs at agencies across the Federal government are designed to support and expand workforce training for health IT workers, including:

    • As members of the White House Rural Council, HHS and ED are working together to ensure that rural community colleges are aware of and have access to federal resources to create these high-skilled, in-demand career pathways.
    • In August 2011, President Obama announced a partnership between HHS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture – another member of the WH Rural Council – to make it easier for rural health care providers to purchase health IT and expand training of rural health IT  workers. HHS has also worked closely with the Departments of Labor and Education to support this initiative.
    • The HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) created a community college consortia to educate health IT professionals, which is a part of ONC’s Health IT Workforce Development Program. The program to date has trained over 13,000 health IT professionals – 10 percent are from rural areas.  All colleges in the consortia are offering distance learning to make the training available to students in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
    • ONC funded five universities to develop a library of health IT training materials.  The materials are designed to be used by instructors to create a curriculum.  Community colleges, supported by ONC grants, have used this material to create curriculum for training students in six workforce roles.  These community colleges are a resource for other colleges interested in starting training programs.
    • Health IT training materials are available on the Department of Labor’s Virtual Career Network. The final version of the curriculum released under the original ONC Health Curriculum Development Centers Program grant is available for anyone to freely download from the National Training & Dissemination Center (NTDC) Web site.

Click here (doc) to review a transcript of the health IT call with rural community colleges.

John White is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education. Judy Murphy, RN, FACMI, FHIMSS, FAAN, is Deputy National Coordinator for Programs and Policy in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and Tom Morris is Associate Administrator for Rural Health Policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Mentor Helps Native American Student Overcome Prejudice

Nellie Two Elk, a political science student at South Dakota State U.

"My passion lies in coming back to help," says Nellie Two Elk, a political science student at South Dakota State U.

Nellie kept a room full of 450 Indian Educators captivated as she shared what it was like to spend her first 5 years of life in Washington, DC and then move back to the Rosebud Indian Reservation as her father’s job changed.

At the South Dakota Indian Education Summit in Chamberlain, S.D. in late September, she explained, “In Washington, DC I never felt the effects of racial prejudices, but when I moved back to South Dakota, I felt that prejudice from my Native American peers, even though I am Native American.”

According to Nellie, her lighter toned skin and her lack understanding of their challenges set her apart as an “apple” and “white,” so she was not accepted by her classmates. Her pain was apparent as she shared, but what really struck me was how Nellie was able to triumph over her difficulties through the support and mentoring of her father.

“My father taught me that pride in my identity is a good thing and instilled many virtues in me,” she said. The importance of a mentor role in the lives of young people was heard repeatedly throughout the Summit, and Nellie’s story gave a first-hand account of the impact that relationship can have on young lives.

The theme for this year’s Summit was “Supporting Culture, Building Expectations, Creating Partnerships.” Participants celebrated this theme partly by adopting the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards that were created earlier this summer by the state Board of Education. This work will provide the roadmap for educators all across the state to teach the culture and history of South Dakota’s Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people to promote understanding of the culture to help students like Nellie. Teachers spoke about how these Essential Understandings will help our Native American youth to develop the pride in identity that Nellie spoke so eloquently about.

Nellie, now 20 years old, is studying Political Science at South Dakota State University, and although she is away from the Reservation while in college, her goal is to return and try to help in whatever ways she can. “My passion lies in coming back to help,” Nellie shared.

After hearing her moving story, I look forward to seeing what this amazing young woman will do during her life.

Sharla Steever

Sharla is a 2011-2012 Classroom Teacher Ambassador Fellow from Hill City, S.D.

Read another post by Sharla about Indian education and the Rosebud Reservation.

ED’s Office of Indian Education

Bureau of Indian Education

Native Americans Tell Duncan About the Need for Reform

Arne is honored to receive a star quilt from Rosebud Elementary School.

Arne is honored to receive a star quilt from Rosebud Elementary School.

Todd County high school student body president Grace One Star spoke eloquently during a meeting with education leaders concerned about American Indian achievement.

“It’s the lack of hope around us that makes us turn to gangs and the bad things some of us get involved in,” Grace said during the Aug. 26 Rural and Indian Education Roundtable at Rosebud Elementary in the Black Hills of South Dakota “We need our teachers and leaders to bring us hope, not more brand new textbooks.”

During the discussion, teachers, leaders, and families from rural areas spoke about issues of extreme poverty, unemployment, and the heartbreaking loss of culture and language taking place on the reservations. In particular, they spoke about the challenge of recruiting and retaining quality teachers and leaders in their economically depressed and remote area.

Secretary Arne Duncan listened and affirmed the need for the federal government to increase their interest in education on Reservation schools, and for the schools to help retain the native language and culture and to recruit and retain great teachers and leaders.

After participating in the roundtable discussion, Duncan attended the commencement at Sinte Gleska University in Mission, South Dakota. It was the first time that a U.S. Secretary of Education has given the commencement address at a Tribally Controlled University.

As Secretary Duncan and other state and federal officials entered the room, a drum circle and tribal royalty danced them in. Duncan welcomed the crowd in Lakota, the native language of the Rosebud Sioux people, and spoke about the importance of the Four Virtues of the Lakota: Wisdom, Bravery, Fortitude, and Generosity. “Education is the key to Lakota future,” Duncan said. “The Lakota must speak the Lakota vision.”

Sharla Steever

Sharla Steever is a Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow from Hill City, South Dakota.

Link to the Rural Education Resource Center

You Teach Where?

Sharla Steever

Yes, that is the response I receive almost every time I meet someone from a large urban area and try to explain where I live and teach. We really do have schools in South Dakota, and it is one of the most beautiful places on earth in my opinion.

I have lived my entire life in rural SD, both on the rolling plains of the central and eastern parts of the state and in the amazing Black Hills of the far western region.

I currently live and teach in the small artsy community of Hill City, SD — the school district for Mount Rushmore. I love the diversity of our tiny town. We have families that homesteaded here and have lived off the land all of their lives, wealthy retired people, young families that enjoy the small town life we offer but work in the larger community of Rapid City, and a large for our area Latino population. A local sawmill and the logging industry make up a large number of our employed population, as well as tourism. Our little school (450 K-12) is approximately 45% free and reduced lunch, and 25% Latino.

One thing that I have always felt strongly about is that I want to know that my students in my little classroom are getting the same kind of quality education that they could get in other schools across the U.S. I became Nationally Board Certified for that very reason — to push myself to be a teacher that could offer a world-class education to every student that walks through my door.

It is also why I am so excited to be a Teaching Ambassador Fellow this year. I am so inspired to know that the U.S. Department of Education is interested in the issues that face regions like my rural state, just as they are interested in the many other kinds of issues for urban and suburban areas. I am humbled and very excited to serve in this capacity this year and know that the growth I will gain this year will help me continue to be a leader not only in my school, district and state, but also at the national level.

I can’t wait for the adventures that await me this year.

Sharla Steever
NBCT – 4th Grade Teacher
Hill City Elementary

FFA at White House Rural Economic Forum

“I was an FFA member back in the day” … “Some of my greatest memories are as a student in a rural setting” … “We believe in the future of agriculture and in students like you.

Comments like these were common from White House Staff, business leaders and attendees at the White House’s Rural Economic Forum held at Northeast Iowa Community College on August 16. State FFA Officers from Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois joined rural advocates, small business owners, cabinet members, my national FFA officer teammate, Wyatt DeJong, and me in a discussion focusing on rural America.

Riley Pagett and Wyatt DeJong at the White House’s Rural Economic Forum

The day was a success in developing ideas for effective rural communities, recruitment to such areas and other issues involving rural persons and businesses. The day also marked a great step forward for the American education system. People became more aware of the importance of education of people of all ages from all walks of life through breakout sessions. Business and industry leaders, staff, cabinet members and others brainstormed ideas in which we could enhance rural America – educational standards, increased broadband coverage, and opportunities for students to return to production agricultural areas and family farms were topics covered. Thoughts in the breakout sessions were solidified during President Obama’s remarks to the group.

“It’s always a mistake to bet against America. It’s always a mistake to bet against the American worker, the American farmer, the American small business owner, the American People,” President Obama said. As the President wrapped up the rural economic development forum, he said he has confidence in our nation’s economic recovery and is encouraged by what he saw on his trip through rural Iowa and Minnesota.

His comments seemed to motivate attendees and summed up the day. He explained that the future direction of the Rural Council is to support the work done that day and the work of rural people he had encountered during his term.  He thanked “the future farmers” for our commitment to young people, agriculture, education and rural America.

To me, his comments spoke highly of today’s youth and of what we had achieved that day in Iowa – awareness, need for opportunity in rural areas and a sense of community among all.

Riley Pagett
Oklahoma student
2010-11 National FFA President