Nixon plan pledges millions to MU health facilities

Thursday, January 29, 2009 | 5:42 p.m. CST; updated 11:06 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 29, 2009

COLUMBIA — MU could receive about $9 million per year from the Caring for Missourians initiative, one of Gov. Jay Nixon’s proposals to expand and enhance health profession education across the state.

The funds would be used to hire more faculty and support staff, and to acquire technology and supplies, said Kristofer Hagglund, associate dean in the MU School of Health Professions. Classroom and laboratory renovations could also take place on a small scale, he added.

“The entire proposal is about increasing the capacity of our health professions program,” Hagglund said.

The annual budget increase would provide MU with the resources to educate an additional 81 students a year, Nixon said at a news conference Thursday at the Sinclair School of Nursing. He introduced the program Tuesday in his State of the State address.

The Caring for Missourians initiative would put $39.8 million into health professional education across the state, Nixon said. The program would put an additional 916 health care professionals into the workforce in the next four years.

MU would receive about 23 percent of the total program funding, which still needs legislative approval.

At MU, the schools of medicine, nursing and health professions would all receive money for health care, including physical therapy, nursing, dentistry and medical technology.

“Across the board, we will have the capacity to expand,” Nixon said Thursday.

Hagglund, who worked on the initiative from the MU end, said the program would address the critical issue of rural health care.

Missouri's rural areas, especially, are seeing a shortage in health care professionals, he said. Schools across the state would be able to recruit from their areas and send trained health-care professionals back into their communities.

The initiative also addresses the health of the state's population.

“Healthy people will be more productive,” Hagglund said. “It is a tremendous advantage to keep our population healthy, and this is the best way to do that."

Nixon said the demand for skilled health professionals has been persistent in the state.

“Caring for Missourians invests our resources in a way that will put more Missourians to work,” the governor said.

Nursing student Dominique Laforgue said she appreciates the benefits of health-care education, given the shortage of professionals.

“You have a sense of feeling that you will have a job when you graduate,” said Laforgue, a fifth-semester student. “You don’t have to worry. You can focus on your education.”

Chancellor Brady Deaton reiterated the university’s excitement over additional resources that would allow the health professional schools to accept more students into their programs each year.

“We prepare students for the next century,” Deaton said Thursday. “You train people for the jobs of today. You educate people for the jobs of tomorrow.”

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Mike Sykuta January 30, 2009 | 9:44 a.m.

Perhaps I'm missing something, but if there is a shortage of health professionals, why would a student have any concern about the possibility of finding a job upon graduation? This program will, if anything, make it more difficult to find a job (all else equal) because there will be more people looking for jobs in that field. Granted, if there really are health care organizations that cannot find enough professionals to fill existing jobs, then that shouldn't be a problem. But in any event, I don't understand how students training for a profession that currently has a "shortage" could be worried about finding a job.

Could it be that the mismatch is not just in the number of trained workers versus the number of jobs, but also the location of those jobs compared to where workers want to live? Could it be that rural hospitals and clinics cannot pay people enough to come live in their communities and work in their facilities, because there are plenty of better paying jobs in non-rural areas?

If that's the case, then the value of this program is that it will drive down salaries/wages in non-rural areas (by increasing the number of people who want those jobs too), thereby making rural communities more competitive in the marketplace. I wonder whether people in those positions have considered that implication.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 30, 2009 | 10:16 a.m.

It is a fact our Mental Health Community nation wide is short on employees and active case workers.

(Report Comment)
Mike Sykuta January 30, 2009 | 11:11 a.m.

In which case, students preparing for that profession should not be at all worried about finding a job after graduation, right? That's the comment from the article that really caught my attention and got me thinking about the issue.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 30, 2009 | 11:47 a.m.

Mike I think too many times students do not want to go into the Mental Health Worker field due to long time phobias and misinformation that has permeated communities across our nation.

(Report Comment)
Kristofer Hagglund January 30, 2009 | 1:47 p.m.

Mr. Sykuta raises the question of whether the health professions students should have to be concerned about finding employment upon graduation. It is an insightful question given the statement from the student quoted in the article. But, the health workforce shortage is substantial in almost all of the health professions fields, especially nursing. In fact, the shortages are significant enough and the maldistribution so severe, that some have described the health care workforce shortage as a crisis. Caring for Missourians is a tremendous step toward reducing the shortages, but not so much of a step that there is any risk of saturating the market in the near future.

By objective data, students need not worry about finding employment upon graduation. Having said that, students are frequently apprehensive about future employment; concern of this nature is a natural part of thinking about the transition from education to employment.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 30, 2009 | 2:23 p.m.

If the ultimate goal is better patient care, would the profession object to expanding the H-1B program to bring in more foreign doctors and nurses, at least until schools catch up with demand?

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 30, 2009 | 4:14 p.m.

"I really thought about enduring 4 more years of school to become a psychologist. I'm not sure I could handle the mis-wiring in some minds though."

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 30, 2009 | 6:09 p.m.

Not everybody is cut out for that kind of work obviously. It takes somebody with alot of patience,understanding,nurturing and one lotta love in their heart.

They are a special breed apart from the norm that is for sure and as such these citizens who choose to go into this field are often times very much loved and appreciated in the Mental Health Care Community by both co workers and clients alike.

Needless to say it also hurts both co workers and clients deeply and emotionally when just one of them leaves.

This is the issue obviously some bureaucrats and citizens at large do not fully understand,nor can.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking January 30, 2009 | 9:35 p.m.

The problem is, that students today often graduate with high levels of debt. They have to take the best paying job they can, and that is generally one in a city. It's an unusual graduate that can take a low paying health care job in a small town, and often it's someone from a privileged background who may not want to live rurally.

Expanding the health care programs will not solve this problem.


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 31, 2009 | 3:53 a.m.

Well Mark you have all of the answers in your last post there so why not "present some comprehensive solutions in detail" so that all may know here just why you think as you do.

They give you lots of characters per post here to do that plus multiple postings in a row too.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 31, 2009 | 8:15 a.m.

The confusion is due to considering the health care profession as a whole versus looking at it in discrete segments. As Chuck has noted, there are shortages in mental health care. Then there's a larger problem of medical students choosing specialized careers versus going into general practice, creating shortages of general practitioners. That, in turn, relates to geographic distribution, where large areas of rural America lack a sufficient number of health care professionals.

Bottom line: In addressing the problem we need to do so on more than a "broad brush" basis.

(Report Comment)
Kristofer Hagglund February 3, 2009 | 9:09 p.m.

A further note about the geographic maldistribution problem. One reader proposed expanding the H-1B visa program. This has a lot of potential, but this would have to be done at the federal level. Another option that is being considered as part of the economic stimulus package is to increase funding for the "National Health Service Corps." This will be of tremendous benefit to the nation, as a whole, if it is approved. Again, however, this is a federal program and will be available to all states.

Another reader noted the high level of debt incurred by the students drives them to higher paying positions in the urban areas. That is a good point and particularly a problem for physicians. The Caring for Missourians program, however, provides funding for a wide variety of health professionals who are recruited from, and trained in, their local communities. We know that the vast majority of these newly graduated professionals will stay and work in their local communities. So, even though it will not solve the physician maldistribution problem, it will go a long way toward providing needed care in the underserved areas of Missouri.

Finally, Missouri's mental health system is under significant strain. There are, indeed, too few providers. Caring for Missourians will not be able to meet the tremendous need of our citizens with mental health disorders. There is more work to be done.
Kristofer Hagglund
Associate Dean
School of Health Professions

(Report Comment)

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