Community College's Contributions to the Education of Allied Health Professionals in Rural Areas of the U.S.

Research center:
Lead researcher:
Project funded:
September 2009
Project completed:
December 2012
Statement of the Problem: Health care delivery in the U.S. relies heavily on allied health professionals, and much of allied health education takes place in community colleges. Community colleges are believed to make major contributions to the production of allied health professionals who work in rural areas, but this has not been well quantified.

Goals: This study will 1) identify rural-serving community colleges across the U.S., 2) describe how rural allied health professions education currently is being allocated and delivered, 3) describe 5-year graduation trends for specific allied health professions that can be job-ready after completing programs at these community colleges, and 4) explore the associations between the availability of rural community college allied health education programs and community economic status and regional allied health workforce demand (as measurable through secondary data sources).

Methods: To accomplish these goals, we will begin by classifying community colleges using the Katsinas classification system of rural-serving community colleges and we will subsequently refine the Katsinas scheme to assign colleges to sub-rural area types by summarizing the proportion of rural population within a specific drive-time perimeter surrounding the college. Also, we will interview health education program administrators from a small, geographically-diverse sample of the institutions to describe how specific programs and capacity are allocated, their use of distance education, and their methods to coordinate and maximize clinical training sites. Finally, we will summarize allied health program completion data for the identified rural-serving community colleges, and will explore associations between the colleges' location, allied health program output, and measures of community economic status and proxy measures of health workforce demand.

Anticipated Publications: The project findings will be presented as a Final Report and associated Policy Brief, a manuscript to be submitted for publication, and at national research and policy meetings.