Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities and assist unemployed workers. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve these outcomes are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Creating a pathway to the health careers: Health career recruitment programs provide educational and career supports to individuals from groups that are underrepresented in health professions. These programs aim to increase the diversity of the health care workforce by removing barriers underrepresented groups face in accessing training and career opportunities in areas like nursing, medicine, or research.

  • Tailoring programming to different age groups: Most recruitment programs focus on preparing either high school students for post-secondary training (e.g., to become a registered nurse) or undergraduate students for an advanced degree (e.g., medical school), though certain programs work with younger students.

  • Providing support services: Programs vary in the services they offer, but common supports include career and academic advising, admissions counseling, access to advanced classes in health science subjects, practical work experiences and internships, skill-building workshops, or case management.

  • Flexibility in program offerings: Since there are a wide range of program models, health career recruitment programs can be administered by nonprofit organizations, government agencies, colleges, health care systems, and more. Programming is similarly varied and may be offered virtually or in-person at high schools, colleges, research centers, hospitals, clinics, or other health care contexts.

  • Building students’ professional networks: Many programs focus on expanding participants’ personal and professional networks, often by identifying health care professionals to mentor participants, connecting participants to employers and training programs, and hosting social events that encourage participants to build relationships with one another.

Multiple studies with rigorous designs show that there is some evidence for health career recruitment programs as a strategy for improving academic outcomes and increasing enrollment in post-secondary health programs.

  • A 2022 research synthesis identified health career recruitment programs for minority students as a scientifically supported strategy for increasing academic achievement. Specific outcomes with strong evidence include high school grades, high school completion, college entry, college retention, college graduation, and medical school acceptance.

  • A 2009 research synthesis found that health career pipeline programs are consistently associated with positive outcomes for racial/ethnic minority and disadvantaged students in terms of academic performance and the likelihood of enrolling in a health professions program.

  • Engage with students early: Many post-secondary and advanced degree health career programs have strict, rigorous admissions criteria, such as particular undergraduate science courses and standardized test scores. To ensure participants meet these requirements, recruitment programs should engage students well before they would be applying for admission (e.g., a program aimed at increasing college admission should begin working with students before their senior year of high school).

  • Address common barriers to health careers: Many students do not consider health careers as a result of factors like the cost of training, access to high-quality advising, and other societal barriers. Recruitment materials and training should include content on how students can address these barriers.

  • Supplement training with experiential education: Programs should include experiential components, like site visits or summer camps, that show participants what it is like to work in given health careers. These experiences can help participants better identify and commit to a career path that fits with their needs and interests.

  • Tailor student supports to admissions requirements: There are a wide range of program models that include advising to students, which may be delivered by professional coaches, instructors, mentors, hospital staff, and more. Those offering guidance should be sure to address individual student needs, such as on post-secondary or graduate admissions processes, career pathways, important courses to take, and internships or other experiences. Doing so will better position students to advance further in the health career pipeline.

  • Incorporate mentoring into program design: Programs should connect students with current physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and medical students who can serve as mentors. Doing so can help students shape their coursework, expose them to new career paths, and expand their professional networks.