Center Profile - North East Oregon Area Health Education Center - NEOAHEC

NEOAHEC Programs Go Virtual!!!

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, NEOAHEC decided to take their pipeline education programs to a whole new level. NEOAHEC adapted all of their programs to virtual platforms in order to reach more students, and provide education to those across the state of Oregon.

NEOAHEC first started by adapting their popular MedQuest Camp. Normally this is a weeklong in-person camp held on Eastern Oregon University's campus, but due to physical distancing, MedQuest Camp Director, Hailey Hulse and NEOAHEC Executive Director, Meredith Lair, used Google Classroom to create a virtual camp.

By offering camp via Google Classroom many doors were opened to kids who were quarantined and unable to participate in their summer plans. MedQuest Camp was also offered free of charge in order to provide an opportunity that would not add to the financial burden that has affected many during the pandemic. Seventy-two students registered for the virtual camp and were dispersed throughout the state including students from Multnomah, Harney, Union, Wasco, Umatilla, Lane, Jackson, Hood River, Wallowa and Baker Counties.

“This year’s camp was the perfect opportunity to provide resources to high school students across the state. Although we were bummed that the in-person camp didn’t occur, we were still excited to provide an opportunity for kids to gain insight into healthcare. I thought by making this camp virtual we would be able to give kids an inside perspective on the daily lives and attitudes of those serving in rural healthcare, while still following the safety precautions implemented during this time,” said Hailey.

Historically job shadows are the highlight at our MedQuest camp. It was important to the NEOAHEC team to think about how to provide something as similar to in-person MedQuest as possible. Interviews with individuals working in health care and virtual tours of a hospital was the best way to give campers a chance to see what it was like to be a part of a healthcare team. There was a wide range of careers highlighted through recorded ZOOM interviews including, Medical Assistants, Pediatricians, Nursing Students, Medical Students, Phlebotomists, Registered Nurses, Pharmacists, Scribes, Physical Therapists, and others. With the help of Grande Ronde Hospital students were also able to see inside the units of a hospital. The tours included, the Emergency Department, Intensive Care Unit, Medical Surgical Floor, Family Birthing Center and an Operating Room Tour.

We are hopeful of an in-person camp next summer, but if it is not possible due to the pandemic, we will use this experience to create an even better virtual MedQuest camp.

NEOAHEC Executive Director, Meredith Lair and NEOAHEC Program Coordinator and MedQuest Camp Director, Hailey Hulse are using their experience from Virtual MedQuest to transform some of NEOAHEC’s other pipeline programs into virtual experiences. This includes the following: Girls in Science, Future Health Professionals of Oregon (FHPO), and the Health Speakers Series.

Girls in Science is an annual collaboration between NEOAHEC and Eastern Oregon University that provides girls in grades 6th through 8th with an exciting day of hands-on STEM exploration! It allows students to dive head-first into an engaging science mystery that explores topics in chemistry, biology, mathematics, and computer science. With Covid-19 being the topic of interest, this year's camp will be transformed into a virtual experience for students investigating the science behind the CoronaVirus. We are hoping to provide an at home “hands on experience” by supplying kits to students to do activities at home with the help of students and faculty from EOU. Although this camp has not fully been finalized, we are excited to continue our work with EOU faculty to provide a Virtual Girls in Science Camp this fall.

Future Health Professionals of Oregon (FHPO) is a dual credit online Eastern Promise course for high school students who are interested in learning about the exciting world of health careers. This fundamental starting block for students interested in healthcare exposes participants to contemporary topics in the field, allows them to research a multitude of health careers, and concludes with a four-year degree plan.

The course also satisfies PES 131—a required course for all tracks within EOU's Physical Activity & Health Program—and is delivered through Eastern Oregon University's Canvas platform by approved high school teachers who have previously participated in NEOAHEC's annual GO-Healthcare Professionals Summer Institute.

The Eastern Oregon University Health Speaker Series has also been adapted to a virtual experience for students. The EOU Health Speakers Series is a collaboration between the EOU Preprofessional Health Club, and NEOAHEC. They bring local health professionals and representatives from healthcare programs to provide a day in the life of health professions. This year's plan is to have one speaker the 3rd Thursday of each month present live to the EOU Pre-Health class. Sessions will be recorded in order to reach the online students or students who are unable to attend. Some of the professions will be Registered Dieticians, Dentists, Doctors, Nurses, and much more. Speakers are chosen based on the club’s interest in careers. Although the scheduled speakers are not yet finalized, we look forward to offering this educational opportunity to students who are interested in pursuing a career in the healthcare field.

Meredith and Hailey both agreed that the initial transition to virtual programs was not something that they were expecting nor was it without struggles, but with teamwork, dedication and determination to still provide students with resources, they are excited to keep developing and implementing educational platforms that can reach students across the state.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Education in Eastern Oregon

Northeast Oregon Area Health Education Center (NEOAHEC) has received a $1 million grant to expand the 3-year Doctor of Nursing Practice Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) educational program from Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) to a distance delivery model serving Eastern Oregon. Success will be achieved throughout this grant by providing education for individuals that already hold a bachelors degree, or higher, in nursing, who live in Eastern Oregon, and retaining them in the region as highly skilled workforce. By growing our own PMHNP’s, NEOAHEC will positively impact workforce available to serve the mental health needs of our region. A large portion of the funding received by NEOAHEC will fund scholarships for students to further reduce the barriers associated with returning to school. Three students from eastern Oregon have accepted admission to start the program later this month. The students are spaced throughout the region in Baker, Umatilla, and Wallowa counties.

Meet the Students

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PMHNP Student Darren Ramcharan

Darren is a registered nurse currently working at the prison in Pendleton. He has lived in Eastern Oregon most of his life, which has helped him to understand the background, challenges, and perspective of his future patients.

I have seen firsthand working both in an acute and public health setting in the emergency department and currently in the state prison system that there is an extreme lack of mental health providers and community options locally for the mentally ill to receive the proper care. By pursuing my PMHNP and bringing my education back to my community I will be able to make a difference by providing the care that this community desperately needs.”

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PMHNP Student Nathan Neff

Nathan is a pastor and registered nurse currently working in Baker City. Nathan has spent the majority of his life in Baker City, and has seen first hand the need for qualified and competent mental health providers.

“I anticipate that having another mental health provider with a spiritual and medical background will be a significant impact in Baker County. I appreciate the opportunity to go back to school, and NEOAHEC’s work to bring this program to eastern Oregon has opened some great doors.”

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Jacki Russell PMHNP Graduate

Jacki recently completed her Bachelors of Science in Nursing from the OHSU School of Nursing in La Grande. Her background prior to nursing was social services, and she lives in Wallowa.

“Wallowa County does not currently have any practicing PMHNP's living in our area and I hope to help fill that gap in the future. I also have an interest in public health and community health. I feel that there will be opportunities for collaboration with community partners, and other service providers to address needs in my community related to mental health.”

More Information

Admission for year two will open in the early winter. More information about this program can be found by clicking this link:

Psychiatric Mental Health NP

Watch this informative video about the PMHNP Program