Maria Spetzler

Nurturing future provider growth, fostering provider pipeline

Delivering the baby of a mother whom you cared for when she was a child. Working with three generations of the same family who all struggle with diabetes. Celebrating milestones across a lifespan.

Health care providers in rural areas experience unique bonds with those for whom they care, involvement that extends beyond a routine clinic visit. Nurse practitioner and physician assistant students at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis encounter similar scenarios during clinical rotations in rural settings, becoming better prepared providers along the way.

“I really liked my time in Eureka, where I saw patients enough times to build up my confidence and focus in on the areas that I needed to,” says Carly Hustrei, a physician assistant alumna of the Class of 2016 who served a four-week primary care rotation in Humboldt County, California.

The School of Nursing’s nurse practitioner and physician assistant programs emphasize community-based, primary care clinical experiences with clinical rotation sites in urban and rural settings throughout California. In order to expand the number of rural sites, school leaders partnered with health organizations and providers in Humboldt County. The program began with eight students in one clinic in 2014-15 and has grown to 18 students spending four- to six-week rotations at 10 different clinical sites in 2017.

“There’s nothing better for someone who’s learning health care to work in a rural area,” says Maria Spetzler, a UC Davis physician assistant alumna and School of Nursing preceptor. “You learn to make decisions about things you would otherwise be punting to a specialist.”

Building a team is key to success. “UC Davis was looking at rural areas for students to complete rotations, and Partnership HealthPlan of California wants to increase access to care in our rural footprint in Northern California,” adds Cody Thompson, provider recruitment coordinator. “We have so many quality providers in this area. We just need to recruit additional individuals to join that team.”

The School of Nursing is committed to building a sustainable, long-term pipeline of future clinicians dedicated to rural health care in Humboldt County and beyond.

“I see the students go away with their eyes wide open about what it means to have good health and what’s involved in that,” says Jennifer Heidmann, medical director for PACE at Humboldt Senior Resource Center. “Hopefully they find this work exciting and will come back to work in our community.”