Psychology Openings through the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program
The National Health Service Corps is a federal program administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The National Health Service Corps recruits health professionals of varied disciplines, including psychology, to work in underserved communities across the United States. Underserved communities are federally designated health professional shortages areas (HPSAs) that exist all across the country. The NHSC estimates that there are currently approximately 50 million Americans that reside in federally designated HPSAs and are medically underserved, meaning they have limited access to primary health care due to financial, geographic, cultural, or language barriers. Many times these HPSAs are located in rural areas where the closest clinic is miles away or in urban neighborhoods where economic and cultural barriers prevent people from seeking and receiving the health care they deserve.
The NHSC works to improve the recruitment and retention of health professionals in underserved communities by offering workforce development through programs offering financial assistance to health professionals. The NHSC Loan Repayment Program recruits fully trained health professionals to work in federally designated HPSAs in return for federal assistance with the repayment of qualified federal loans, in addition to income provided by the health care facility in which they are employed. The Loan Repayment Program hopes to recruit health professionals that have demonstrated an interest in working with underserved communities and remaining in HPSAs beyond their commitment to the NHSC.
Currently the need for psychologists in the NHSC exceeds the number of applicants. As of March 2008, there are over 250 vacancies listed for clinical psychologists across the country. In order to participate in the Loan Repayment Program, psychologists must find a facility or site that is 1) designated as a mental health professional shortage area and 2) willing to hire them. The current list of openings can be found at HRSA's site.
FY 2009 Appropriations Effort
The President's FY 2009 budget proposes $121 million for the National Health Service Corps, a $3 million (2.4 percent) decrease from the FY 2008 omnibus appropriations. In the past 5 years funding for the NHSC has been cut by $47 million, over 27 percent of a budget that was already insufficient in FY 2003. Consequently, the NHSC has reduced annual scholarship and loan repayment awards by over 25 percent during that period (from 1,351 awards in FY 2003 to 1,012 in FY 2007). To address the deficiencies, Education-GRO, in collaboration with other NHSC stakeholder organizations, is strongly urging a steady and sustainable increase in funding starting with a $200 million appropriation for the NHSC in FY 2009. An appropriation of $200 million would restore the NHSC to its comparable FY 2003 levels ($171 million plus $29 million for inflation).