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This post comes to us from our Texas 3RNet member, Lorena Payne and the Texas Department of Agriculture:

Following college, graduates in the healthcare field often look for immediate employment. With tight competition in metropolitan areas, job seekers are often surprised to discover that rural employers have a lot to offer thanks to valuable grants through the State of Texas.

One of the said grants is the Rural Communities Health Care Investment Program (RCHIP) which utilizes funds provided by the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) to assist rural communities in recruiting healthcare providers to practice in their community by providing partial student loan reimbursements or stipend payments. According to the TDA, the program is paid for by a permanent endowment established from the tobacco settlement for the State of Texas. 

Nobody understands the value of RCHIP more than Dr. Mitch Akers. Previously the recipient of the grant in 2015, Akers knows first-hand how helpful it is in relieving the financial burden students are faced with after college.

“One of the reasons I, and most I know in healthcare, choose this field is because of our genuine interest in wanting to help people,” Dr. Akers explains. “For me, there’s nothing more rewarding than helping someone regain their health and get back to their lives.”

Akers currently serves as the director of rehabilitation at Eastland Memorial Hospital in Eastland, Texas. He found employment at the rural hospital through the RCHIP program.

Not only has RCHIP allowed Akers to find gainful employment in a short amount of time, but the program has eased the financial burden he and countless other students are faced with after college.

Eastland Memorial Hospital currently has five physical therapists on staff. Department services include outpatient physical therapy, cardiac rehabilitation, wound care, inpatient/swing bed care, and speech therapy.

“It’s been an awesome place to work,” Akers adds. “Like many rural regions, our hospital is the center of our community, and it’s been a privilege to be part of such a vital asset for locals.”

As demand in Eastland for healthcare services continues to grow, the hospital is growing its physical therapy department. Akers says that in 2017 alone, Eastland Memorial Hospital has used the RCHIP grant to recruit additional physical therapists to the department.

“Rural areas can sometimes have a difficult time luring individuals to their communities. A lot of candidates these days prefer to live and work in large cities,” Mitch explains. “RCHIP has proven to be an extremely valuable program for us to be competitive in recruiting. The program has helped us find new team members while costing the hospital nothing. It’s a win-win all around for the employees, the employer, and – most importantly – the community.”

To learn more about job opportunities in Texas, visit Texas' state page on 3RNet.

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