Lane County was on the brink of a healthcare crisis. A shortage of primary care physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners had been documented in a variety of reports by the Oregon Health Authority. In addition, large numbers of primary care workers in Lane County retired and the Trillium Community Health Plan CCO, reported about 11,000 new members who had no designated primary care provider.
This Oregon Solutions project aimed to increase access to primary care by increasing the numbers of physician assistants and nurse practitioners being trained and working in Lane County.
There was a documented shortage of physician assistants and nurse practitioners in Lane County. A 2014 Oregon Health Authority report said that in 2020 there would be a provider shortage of physician assistants and nurse practitioners (in any type of practice) in Lane County. The report numbers did not include retirements, any reduction in practice hours, and relocations out of the community.
Governor Kate Brown designated this effort an Oregon Solutions project in May 2015 and appointed Juine Chada (US Senator Wyden’s Office) and Debi Farr (Trillium Community Health Plans Public Affairs Director) as co-conveners to lead a team of primary care providers, health care organizations, and higher education organizations to create a plan to increase the number of physician assistants and nurse practitioners delivering primary healthcare services in Lane County. The Oregon Solutions project team participants represented a cross-section of the community.
Project team members learned that it is critical to recognize that, in some respects, physician assistants and nurse practitioners receive significantly different training, and differ in philosophy and professional practice with patients. The project team initially identified three key areas to focus their efforts:
- Increasing clinical rotation and practicum capacity
- Locally enhancing student incentives
- Exploring whether local classroom capacity was needed in Lane County
The project team developed a Community Action Plan and signed a Declaration of Cooperation. The goals and aspirations represented in the declaration formed a public statement of intent to participate in the project, to strive to identify opportunities and solutions whenever possible, to contribute assistance and support within resource limits, and to collaborate with other team members in increasing the number of these practitioners providing primary care in Lane County.