To learn closer to home

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | February 13, 2012

Janae Nienhueser grew up in York, Neb., and she loves the feel of her hometown. She was, she realized as she got older, lucky to grow up in a place like that.

And as a second-year student in the three-year doctor of physical therapy program at UNMC, she now realizes another thing: In York, they were lucky to have primary health care available locally.

Watch a video featuring Janae Nienhueser.
In rural Nebraska, not everyone does:
  • 13 Nebraska counties have no medical radiographer;
  • 24 counties have no physician assistant; and
  • 25 counties have no physical therapist.

A need on the homefront

The state needs more allied health workers who would work in rural Nebraska - the way Nienhueser plans to someday.

That plan suits her. Janae followed an older brother to the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and a younger sister followed her.

A nurturing environment

"I selected (UNK) because of its welcoming campus that offered that friendly, small-town feel that I had grown to cherish," she said.

And there were great opportunities there. She completed a semester-long internship at a PT clinic. She worked in UNK's research program. She got into UNMC's PT program on her first try.

The allure of home

She's had a good experience at UNMC. And Omaha has been an adventure. But Nienhueser wishes she could have gotten the same education in Kearney.

It would have been more affordable. It would have allowed her to maintain her support system and contacts. It was where she wanted to be, and where she wanted to stay.

Work where the heart is

And in some cases, that might keep a great prospect in rural Nebraska.

"Our experience has demonstrated that if students interested in rural practice are provided opportunities to obtain their education in rural communities, they have a greater likelihood of returning to those communities to practice after graduation," said Kyle Meyer, Ph.D., senior associate dean of the School of Allied Health Professions at UNMC.

Making her case

On Feb. 2, Nienhueser testified before the Nebraska Legislature's Appropriations Committee in favor of LB 1055. As part of the "Building a Healthier Nebraska" initiative, it supports a proposed $19 million, 30,000-square-foot addition at UNK that would include expansion of the Kearney-based UNMC nursing division and the addition of UNMC allied health professions programs on the UNK campus.

It would provide opportunities for someone like Janae -- who wanted to learn where she wanted to stay.

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