The recent guest column by Dr. Emily Briggs and Christy Francis urging the Texas Legislature to take action to heal our rural health care system lists “address our rural health care workforce shortage” as the first agenda item in a “multi-pronged strategy.” 

We agree with that statement and believe we need to go further to support healthcare professionals. Rural communities across Texas are struggling to hire and retain doctors, nurses, techs, and other crucial staff. Yet, Hidalgo County consistently has one of the highest unemployment rates in Texas — reporting a staggering rate of 9.3% in 2021. 

Most trained professionals are not relocating to rural communities to practice. Instead, we must encourage local young people and adult learners to pursue a rewarding career in healthcare. A major part of that is making nursing degrees attainable and affordable for all those interested. 

At WGU Texas, a non-profit, accredited online university, we strive to reach potential students who are currently not being served well, particularly students of color, those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and those in rural areas. At WGU Texas, students can complete courses remotely and, thanks to our competency-based learning model, often at an accelerated pace. 

I’m proud to share that there are more than 27,000 nursing students currently enrolled at WGU’s Michael O. Leavitt School of Health. Our online nursing school is ranked as one of the nation’s top nursing programs, and as of 2021, 17.2% of all RN to BSN graduates nationally were WGU-educated. 

It’s not just about providing a valuable service but empowering rural learners to pursue competitive and fulfilling careers that benefit their local communities. 

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Linda Battles, regional vice president and WGU Texas Chancellor. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Battles can be reached by email via: [email protected].

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