Finding students, however, is not an issue. Smith says there are plenty of eager students in rural areas who'd love to work in healthcare HIT. However, resources can't accommodate everyone.
It's fairly similar to the nursing shortage," he says. "The students are there. It's just the fact that we have to have the clinical sites, the on-campus facilities and the faculty to produce those professionals. It's the same way with HIT. We know the students are there. We've seen it. But we have to ramp up and have the facilities and faculty and clinical sites to make that happen."
"The availability of clinical sites for rural areas has always been an issue too because of the distances involved," he says. "Our rural hospitals can only take so many students and give them a good experience. Sometimes our students have to travel a ways to more urban or suburban settings to get their clinical experience and that can be a challenge."
"Faculty recruitment is not the highest thing on the list but there are times when recruiting qualified, experienced healthcare faculty to rural areas can be a challenge," he says.
When asked what the federal government can do to help rural community colleges train HIT professionals, Smith had a ready answer: "Obviously grants and funds are always welcomed."