WHA Board member and Gundersen Boscobel Area Hospital and Clinics CEO David Hartberg testified before the Senate Revenue, Financial Institutions and Rural Issues Committee on legislation creating a grant program in Wisconsin to incentivize the creation of new clinical rotation opportunities for advanced practice clinicians in rural communities. Hartberg was joined by George Quinn, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Medical Education and Workforce, on May 24 for the hearing on Senate Bill 161.
“Advanced practice clinicians are playing increasingly important roles on our patient care teams, especially in rural Wisconsin where our workforce shortages can be more acute,” said Hartberg. “With limited financial resources and staff that have several roles in our organization, it can be difficult to find the time and money to support this type of clinical training. Senate Bill 161 provides incentivize funding that encourages facilities like mine to take on the additional cost of training a student in a rural rotation.”
Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point), the lead author of Senate Bill 161, discussed during his testimony how this bill is modeled after the state’s widely successful graduate medical education (GME) grant program, with a matching contribution from Wisconsin hospitals to address an important workforce need that exists in rural communities. He said Senate Bill 161 would replicate the model we have built for GME to attract and expose more advanced practice clinicians to rural communities, because significant needs exist for these providers in rural Wisconsin.
“In those counties that have a hospital’s vacancy rate for advanced practice clinicians, 80 percent have a vacancy rate greater than 10 percent. It should come as no surprise to anyone of us that many of those counties are in rural Wisconsin,” said Testin.
“Creating these training opportunities in rural hospitals takes time, money and a significant buy-in from hospital leadership and the community,” said Rep. Deb Kolste (D-Janesville), a lead co-author of Senate Bill 161. “The unique opportunity with this bill is that the applicants can tailor training programs to meet the needs of their community.” Rep. Romaine Quinn (R-Rice Lake) is the other lead co-author of Senate Bill 161 in the Assembly.
“WHA was proud to partner with the authors of Senate Bill 161 to craft this legislation, designed to leverage a ‘grown our own’ model that has been successful in attracting and retaining more physicians to Wisconsin and apply that same concept to the needs that exist for advanced practice nurses and physician assistants in Wisconsin’s hospitals and clinics,” said WHA President/CEO Eric Borgerding.
“This is just one more way to encourage people that may not otherwise be interested in going to some of our rural communities to take a look at rural Wisconsin,” said Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), chair of the Committee. “Once we have them in—in our case—southwest Wisconsin, they find it’s not a bad place to live, raise a family and have a good career.”
“I want to thank you for bringing this forward,” said Sen. Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville), a member of the Committee. “I served on a rural hospital board for eight years, and the majority of our time we spent recruiting doctors. It’s a very difficult job when you are in a rural area, and I think this could be a real incentive to get people to come and stay in rural areas. I think people are recognizing the real value of advanced practice nurses and physician assistants.”
The bill, which has received broad bipartisan support, also has received support from several other individual provider organizations including the Wisconsin Academy of Physician Assistants, Wisconsin Association of Nurse Anesthetists and the Wisconsin Nurses Association.
In related news, on May 25 the Joint Finance Committee adopted the policy provisions in Senate Bill 161 into the state budget and authorized $1 million in funding for the program over a two-year budget period. The budget bill still needs approval from the full Assembly, Senate and Gov. Scott Walker before the provisions would be enacted into law. See the related story
in this issue of The Valued Voice