Healthcare Workforce Initiative
In 2011, the SMHS Advisory Council prepared and released its first biennial plan for addressing the future health care workforce needs of North Dakota.
Called the Healthcare Workforce Initiative (HWI), the plan identified specific steps to reduce disease burden and increase the provider workforce through programs designed to increase provider retention for practice within the state, as well as expand the provider network through class size enlargement. The HWI received strong support from University of North Dakota leaders, the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS) Advisory Council, and a wide variety of constituencies around the state.
That same year, the North Dakota Legislative Assembly approved the plan and determined that the HWI would be implemented in two phases:
The first phase, which included the drafting of the School’s First Biennial Report: Health Issues for the State of North Dakota, was implemented immediately following the close of the Legislative Assembly in the summer of 2011, and inaugurated planning on a variety of programs designed to: 1) reduce disease burden (including the initiation of a Master of Public Health training program as a joint undertaking by the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University, and a program to address geriatric patient needs); 2) increase retention of health professional graduates for practice in North Dakota; 3) increase health program class sizes; 4) and increase the efficiency of care delivery in the state.
Following the release of the Second Biennial Report in 2013, North Dakota’s 63rd Legislative Assembly endorsed full implementation of the second phase of the HWI. Authorization and funding were forthcoming to permit complete implementation of the four core strategies noted above. Accordingly, medical student class size at the SMHS was increased by 16 students per graduating class (to 78 total per cohort), health sciences students grew by 30 students per year across a handful of departments, and a variety of rural-focused residencies and fellowships were added. Coincident with the growth in class sizes, construction began on a new SMHS building designed to accommodate program growth. The building was completed on time and on budget, and opened during the summer of 2016 to welcome the incoming medical school Class of 2020 and the health sciences classes that started later that fall.
Now that the HWI is fully implemented, dozens of additional medical and health sciences students, and a variety of post-MD degree trainees, are being educated through the UND SMHS each year, relative to 2012. In addition to expanding SMHS class sizes, the HWI utilizes a number of strategies to maximize success in increasing North Dakota’s health care workforce:
- Acceptance of students to medical school weighted toward those from rural areas of North Dakota.
- Tuition forgiveness for those who commit to practice in a rural community in the state (RuralMed).
- Increased longitudinal experiences in rural communities (our ROME and MILE programs).
- Increased geriatrics, population health, and public health focus.