Building long-term staffing solutions through health centers

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Health centers in Colorado and across the country are facing staffing shortages, and recruiting people into entry-level positions can be especially difficult.

Elena Thomas Faulkner, CEO of the National Institute for the Advancement of Physician Assistants, said more could be done to connect people who might be interested in a healthcare career but cannot afford an education. in medicine or nursing, with a health center operating in their community.

“So we find those clinical partners first,” Faulkner explained. “And then we work with clinical partners to recruit people from their communities into the program who have had an interest in entering healthcare, but really haven’t found an accessible entry point.”

Faulkner pointed out that some of the best recruits are people who have been patients and want to give back. As students learn to become physician assistants, they apply these skills on the job and can see future career opportunities firsthand.

Faulkner added that many students have family obligations, so paying them and offering them flexibility in hours, so they can continue to work part-time, are also key to maintaining staff flow.

Physician assistants are essentially the choreographer of the advanced primary care practices deployed in federally licensed health centers, including teams of medical, dental, and behavioral health providers.

Faulkner argued that paramedics have a huge impact on overall team performance.

“And if you talk to doctors or nurse practitioners, they’ll tell you that one of the biggest factors in their day-to-day satisfaction is the physician assistant they have with them,” Faulkner reported. “And how it facilitates their role and the care of patients.”

Faulkner emphasized that as health centers seek short-term staffing solutions, it is important that physician assistants learn a strong foundational knowledge and learn advanced skills to position them for future success, as as a health care provider, in operations or administration.

“That we also really think about what serves the student,” Faulkner emphasized. “It’s not just an entry-level position, although that’s important, but also a position that they can really build on to be able to advance their careers.”

This story was originally published by the Public News Service. For more information, visit And subscribe now to Public News Service’s “2020Talks,” a daily 3-minute podcast that will answer all your election questions.

Maria J. Book