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Jen Higgins, 3RNet’s Ohio member, is the Director of Workforce Development at the Ohio Association of Community Health Centers (OACHC). OACHC is the primary care association representing the state of Ohio, with 43 members that are FQHCs or FQHC look-alikes.

Jen is responsible for assisting with recruitment and retention of key staff in Ohio’s FQHCs. Jen is also charged with development of workforce related programs, trainings, and conference materials. She works collaboratively with medical schools, state departments, rural and public health organizations, foundations, and other institutions on a number of projects in relation to workforce development.

We spent a few minutes visiting with Jen about her role as Ohio’s 3RNet member, working to support health care in Ohio through recruitment and retention, and what makes Ohio unique.

Why do you feel strongly about what you do?

Before I started my career, I knew I wanted to help people. This line of work is a natural fit for that as there is such a shortage of primary care clinicians not only in Ohio, but nationally. The work is challenging, which keeps me focused.

We try to bring the right people together (member contacts) and provide them with training on best practices, new innovations and link them to resources such as an online library; anything to help make their work life easier.

Retention is something we have focused on a lot in the last year. If you aren’t retaining employees, your recruitment efforts double. Retention takes some strong problem solving. It’s helpful for our members to have a third party dive in and define some goals for retention. That’s something I am proud to help with.

Why rural or underserved?

We’re fortunate enough we serve both populations. When you think about people having a voice, those in rural or underserved areas can often be overlooked. These are populations that may see problems more over other populations.

When I work with medical students, I want them to work with these folks because I want them to see they can have more than just a job – they can really make a difference and help not only a patient, but in turn a whole family and community. There’s no other reward like that.

Why Ohio?

Rural Ohio does not compare to other rural areas across the country. If you’re in Ohio, even if you’re rural you’re typically only an hour or so from where you can get access to care. This also means you are within an hour or so of a major metro area, which is helpful for retention purposes.

We have a large membership base (43 members) where some states larger than Ohio may only have seven or eight members. It’s easier for us to get out to Ohio facilities and get to know our members. This means that I know our members really well, and I am able to help them better and better answer questions potential providers may have.

In Ohio, you can live on the water, in the valley, near a waterfall, next to a cornfield, but you’re not so isolated.  You can live rural and still be very close to a major metropolitan city. We have coastline, we have really beautiful areas in the southwest. We have three major metropolitan cities where families can have it all. We have four seasons; there is nothing more beautiful than fall in Ohio. Most important, we are very grounded.

Tell us about loan repayment in Ohio.

We’re fortunate to have loan repayment programs through the Ohio Department of Health. We also have some independent programs above and beyond the National Health Service Corps. There have been some changes to what sites are eligible for loan repayment in the last few years. We keep on top of these and can help guide people through the ins-and-outs of these changing programs.

To learn more about Ohio, including job opportunities and loan repayment options, visit the Ohio 3RNet page or contact Jen Higgins, 3RNet’s Ohio member.

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