Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Update: SC AHEC Regional Centers Pivot Continuing Education Programs Online

We know that even through unprecedented times, health professionals still need continuing professional development to maintain certifications and licensure. To continue to be able to offer education to the professionals in their communities, the regional South Carolina AHEC centers quickly began transitioning scheduled continuing professional development programs from in-person events to webinars. Here are some brief highlights:

Lowcountry AHEC worked with longtime instructor Francine Muscarella, LMSW, LCSW, to offer her already scheduled courses The Art of Leading and Are You Running Out of Time? as webinars to professionals statewide. The transition allowed a multidisciplinary group of attendees to still participate in learning opportunities without leaving their homes. “Huge thanks and shout out,” remarked one attendee, “to all those involved to take this from an in-person class to transition it on short notice to a webinar.”

Likewise, Mid-Carolina AHEC cancelled all in-person educational courses through at least April 30 and transitioned existing programs to online, enduring or webinar format.  Specifically, they offered an already scheduled four-part leadership series and a program on the ABC’s of pediatric care as webinars. The programs were also recorded and will be available as on-demand videos for professionals who were not able to attend the webinars.

Many people may be feeling more stress during this time. To address that, Pee Dee AHEC hosted a webinar on April 3 about how to manage and cope with stress during the COVID-19 epidemic.  Susie Owen, a licensed clinical social worker, provided strategies to adjust to our new “abnormal,” assess the impact of disruptive events, and the do’s and don’ts for coping. Continuing education credit was available but the course provided useful information for health professionals and community members alike and nearly 200 people attended.

Upstate AHEC has also transitioned its in-person programming online. They have worked with frequent partner and presenter Pam Collins to plan a series of short webinars for school nurses. Since many schools are currently closed, the two programs, Legal Issues and Documentation for School Nurses and Professionalism in Nursing, have been a great opportunity for school nurses to obtain necessary continuing professional development. Upstate AHEC plans to offer these webinars again for anyone who would like to attend.

To see all upcoming learning opportunities, visit the statewide South Carolina AHEC continuing professional development calendar at https://www.scahec.net/calendar.html.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

A COVID-19 Update from Our Executive Director

At South Carolina AHEC it is our mission to serve the state to ensure each and every community has the healthcare workforce and access it needs. In times like these, it’s even more important to support our healthcare professionals and the health workforce pipeline and, as the pandemic evolves, we are here for you.

Just in the past couple of days we have: 
  • Assisted two universities in meeting requirements of their interprofessional education (IPE) curriculum by providing access to AHEC Scholars online programs
  • Provided information about the Health Careers Program (HCP) modules to the SC Department of Education to list with their health sciences curriculum as they transition to online learning
  • Adjusted student housing needs and protocols and assisted with relocating clinical placements while tracking new policies from many institutions
  • Moved numerous live continuing professional development (CPD) events to webinars to help healthcare professionals maintain access to education towards their licensure and certifications

As we move forward, we continue to serve the state by leveraging our available technology. We have extensive online learning and webinar capabilities that are available to support our healthcare workforce. We are available to help healthcare organizations, academic institutions, traditional education programs and others to become proficient with technology and reach their students and professionals.

Do you need help moving your healthcare workforce programming online during the coronavirus outbreak? Are you looking for online educational resources that can be completed from home? Across the South Carolina AHEC System, even though many of us are working remotely, we remain open and fully operational to assist. Please reach out to one of our regional centers or the program office if we can help in any way.

Ann Lefebvre
SC AHEC Executive Director



South Carolina AHEC Continuing Professional Development Programs

South Carolina AHEC supports the state’s healthcare workforce by offering educational programs to many healthcare professionals. Programs provide knowledge and updated information to healthcare professionals across multiple disciplines so they can provide the best possible care to communities.

Our continuing professional development programs identify the educational needs of healthcare professionals and provide programs designed to enhance clinical skills and maintain professional licensure and certifications. Programs are delivered through traditional methods and innovative technologies.

In addition to in-person programs hosted throughout the state by the four regional AHEC centers, a large library of online and on-demand education is available via the South Carolina AHEC Learning Portal and AHEC U.

Especially during a pandemic, it is imperative that our healthcare workforce is able to maintain their licensure and certifications. As such, we are doing our best to maintain continuing professional development programming.

In collaboration with our instructors and our participants, in-person continuing professional development programs across the state are being transitioned to remote learning via WebEx or rescheduled if the program requires hands-on or in-person training components. This decision is being made on a program-by-program and regional basis. The regional AHEC centers will be in touch with registered participants about upcoming programs.

In the meantime, please check out the wealth of educational programs available online from the South Carolina AHEC System:
·      AHEC U

For more information about South Carolina AHEC continuing professional development opportunities, please visit our regional AHEC centers’ websites:
·      Lowcountry AHEC
·      Mid-Carolina AHEC
·      Pee Dee AHEC
·      Upstate AHEC




Lowcountry AHEC Supports IV Therapy Provision with Training

While the placement of an intravenous line in healthcare is often routine, a practice or facility’s ability  to offer IV therapy to patients provides many benefits to the patient and the practice. To that end, Lowcountry AHEC offered an “Introduction to IV Therapy” continuing professional development course in January to healthcare professionals, including nurses from Methodist Oaks Retirement Community and surgical assistants from Mooresville Oral Surgery.

Taught by 2014 SC AHEC Educator of the Year Wilma Rice, MSN, RN, CEN, the course covered best practice guidelines as well as demonstrations. Participants then completed a skills demonstration to assess what they learned.

Methodist Oaks Retirement Community is a continuing care retirement community in Orangeburg that provides independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing care. The facility is planning to increase the availability of IV services for the community and will permit IV insertions, maintenance, and treatment in their rehabilitation department. Nurses from Methodist Oaks participated in the January training, as well as attended an additional IV therapy course held in December. Their goal is to have all nurses confident in the initiation as well as maintenance of an IV.  

Mooresville Oral Surgery in North Carolina is preparing their surgical assistants to initiate IV access so the surgeon can administer moderate sedation for patients. This improves the practice’s workflow to free up additional time for consultations or post-operative assessments, as well as providing the surgeon with additional time to complete other clinical responsibilities. After the skills portion of the program, surgical assistant Amy Hecker explained what it was like learning to initiate IV access, “I’ve never been more scared, yet excited to see red!”  

To learn more about Lowcountry AHEC continuing professional development programming, visit the Lowcountry AHEC website.

Partnerships That Work for Rural

Since 2007, Mid-Carolina AHEC has been an active member of the Upper Midlands Rural Health Network (UMRHN), a 19-member consortium serving Chester, Fairfield and Lancaster counties. UMRHN members began meeting in 2004 in order to formalize their healthcare partnerships within mutual service areas.  Karen Nichols, UMRHN executive director, shares that the network and region “have benefitted in a number of ways from the partnership with Mid-Carolina AHEC.”


 Mid-Carolina AHEC works with the UMRHN outreach committee to provide annual continuing education to school nurses and social workers in an effort to improve competencies in managing chronic conditions for school-aged children. The annual workshop provides a central location for nurses in the region to receive training on emerging topics. Particularly in underserved and under-resourced areas, school nurses play a key role in the safety and social support of children who might not receive care anywhere else. Mid-Carolina AHEC provides qualified speakers and corresponding CEU’s to the school nurses, social workers, and counselors who attend the training.

Beyond continuing professional development, Mid-Carolina AHEC supports student training as well. Working with the clinical faculty from the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) in Spartanburg, MUSC Health Lancaster Medical Center, and the local Director of Student Medical Education (DSME), Mid-Carolina AHEC was instrumental in helping UMRHN develop a rural interprofessional student experience for third year medical students to observe the Care Transitions Intervention (CTI)® program. The CTI® program results in better coordination among healthcare providers and measurable improvements for the patient as they become empowered to manage their chronic health condition(s). The rural, interprofessional student experience provides an opportunity for students to better understand how social determinants of health affect patient outcomes.  

Amanda Fernandez, VCOM third year medical student, describes her experience, “The care transitions home visits are very beneficial to the patient’s overall care. On my visit we were able to provide information and education regarding the patient’s post-op instructions and discharge notes. We also helped the patient schedule her very first appointment with a primary care provider. I find that this will aid the healthcare system by providing assistance and education to the patients who need it most.” 

Irini Guda, CTI® project director, explains that “the students’ interaction with the CTI coach and patient provides an opportunity to reinforce patient education and to follow up on health outcomes.”


Mid-Carolina AHEC also hosts multiple meetings at its facility including UMRHN board meetings; the Population Health Summit; Eat Smart, Move More; LIVE Healthy SC and Healthy SC meetings. Mid-Carolina AHEC director Cheri Plyler is currently serving her second term as the chair of UMRHN.  Through Mid-Carolina AHEC’s involvement with UMRHN, the 18 members across the rural, three-county area are kept up-to-date with training, professional development and workforce development opportunities. As the convener and catalyst for health professions education, recruitment and retention, Mid-Carolina AHEC is proud to serve as an integral partner in these rural communities in the region.  

To learn more about Mid-Carolina AHEC programming, visit the Mid-Carolina AHEC website.

Pee Dee AHEC Hosts Innovative Training: Bal-A-Vis-X

In January, more than 40 participants from seven states attended Pee Dee AHEC’s Bal-A-Vis-X two-day training. Bal-A-Vis-X is a series of exercises that improve balance, hearing, vision, and brain/body integration. It focuses on sensory integration, balance, cross body, and mid-line movements to help improve gross and fine motor skills. It can also improve attention and focus in patients and students.  

Bill Hubert developed and founded Bal-A-Vis-X more than 20 years ago. He travels across the United States providing trainings to occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech pathologists, counselors, social workers, athletic trainers, teachers, and more. Bill uses tools such as balance boards, sand-filled bags, and racquetballs in a series of over 300 exercises. These materials and exercises are used to promote and develop balance, rhythm, focus, and movement. Occupational therapist Angela Morph has attended this training multiple times and explained the difference it makes in her work, “I thoroughly enjoyed it and was able to learn more. I have already started using it with most of my patients again with some new techniques and already see a difference.”

Bal-A-Vis-X transcends individual disciplines and its techniques can be applied with a range of ages from pediatric to geriatric populations.  Michael Cillo attended the training and agrees with its wide-ranging uses, “Fantastic program! Best professional development I’ve ever attended. Practical and science proven ways to help children and adults.”  

Interested in learning more about Bal-A-Vis-X? Pee Dee AHEC will be hosting the two-day, 17-hour training October 16-17, 2020, in Hartsville. This is a great opportunity to learn new strategies that can be used across disciplines and for a variety of populations. Find out more on Pee Dee AHEC’s website.

Upstate AHEC Leverages Blended Learning in Continuing Professional Development

Upstate AHEC is utilizing a blended education model for a portion of its continuing professional development programming to support training for health professionals. The blended/flipped classroom is beneficial because it allows flexibility and ownership in the learning process. Health professionals are able to complete much of the coursework in their own time, at their own pace, without taking time off work to attend a full day or multiple day training. The flipped classroom also encourages participants to be more accountable for the learning process and allows them to move at their own pace as needed. By blending a hands-on lab training with the lecture, participants are able to apply the skills learned in the online lecture under the in-person guidance of their instructor. This reinforces the skills learned and allows the learner to put the new knowledge into practice.

Prisma Health Lila Doyle nursing home, AnMed Health Rehab, and the Greenville County Detention Center in the Upstate have partnered with Upstate AHEC to complete IV certification of their employees via the blended learning approach: the participants complete the online lecture and post-test via AHECU and then attend a 4-hour lab to practice their skills and complete their competency check-off with an Upstate AHEC instructor.

“All of our LPNs must be IV certified to be able to place and maintain IVs in our facility,” explains Callie Urban, BSN, RN, CRRN, hospital educator at AnMed Health Rehabilitation Hospital, “This course provides them with the certification and skills they need to be successful with IVs. The course is also offered to our RN’s who are interested in improving their skills or that have limited experience with IV placement. Our staff that have attended the course come away with more confidence in placing and maintaining IV access. I have noticed a marked improvement in their skills and confidence after I attended the course.” 

Additionally, Greenville County Schools have used the blended learning modality to train their school nurses in tracheostomy care for the children in the school system with tracheostomies. After completing the online coursework and post-test ahead of time, the school nurses completed a hands-on practice and competency check-off during their back-to-school meeting in August. 

Upstate AHEC also works with Bon Secours St. Francis in Greenville to complete their medication administration and vital signs training and assessment of their outpatient staff utilizing the blended learning method. As part of the new-hire orientation week, the employees attend a 4-hour vital signs training and lab check-off at Upstate AHEC after completing the online lecture modules. The new hires then also attend either an eight-hour or four-hour medication administration lab. The length of the lab depends upon the new hire’s previous experience and training in the healthcare field. Certified Medical Assistants (CMAs), LPNs, RNs, PAs, and Nurse Practitioners attend the four-hour training while the radiology technicians, newly certified medical assistants, and unlicensed personnel attend the full eight-hour training day.  

Bon Secours St. Francis nursing professional development coordinator Trudy Ackard, MSN, RN explained the benefits of working with Upstate AHEC for training, “The consortium collaboration provides an avenue between a community-based organization and an area healthcare system, in order to provide an evidence-based blended curriculum and training to the system’s medical group clinical staff. An added benefit is that it introduces the medical group clinical staff to AHEC’s resources and continuing education opportunities to grow both professionally and personally during their healthcare career.”

To learn more about Upstate AHEC continuing professional development opportunities, please visit the Upstate AHEC website.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

South Carolina AHEC Scholars Program Welcomes New Scholars


The South Carolina AHEC Scholars Program seeks to encourage and prepare tomorrow’s health professionals to become leaders in interprofessional, transformative practice for rural and underserved areas. The program, now in its second year, recently welcomed its latest Scholars with a statewide orientation. South Carolina AHEC Health Professions Student (HPS) coordinators from all four regional centers hosted the students in-person in Charleston and Columbia as well as online, using videoconference technology to connect the groups.

New Scholars in attendance highlighted the program’s interprofessional and inter-institutional focus: of the 18 students in attendance, they represented six professions (MD, nurse practitioner, PharmD, physical therapy, physician assistant, and social work) and two academic institutions (MUSC and UofSC).

Scholars were engaged and excited to be a part of the program. Katherine Olsen, a UofSC PharmD student elaborated: “I feel that the AHEC Scholars Program has been extremely influential during my time in pharmacy school.  I have grown to have a further appreciation of other disciplines as well as help rural communities in South Carolina, which is one of my favorite aspects of the program!”

“We have been very pleased with our AHEC Scholars program,” explained Stephanie Flowers, Pee Dee AHEC HPS coordinator, “Our first two cohorts are a diverse, interprofessional group of students who are actively engaged in making an impact in rural primary care for our state. They have been working diligently while in the program and their energy is sure to empower them once in the field!”

To learn more about the South Carolina AHEC Scholar Program, please visit our website. In addition, find out more about regional HPS programming by contacting the regional HPS coordinators via their respective websites: Emily Warren and Kimbley Stephens at Lowcountry AHEC, Casey Cato and Julie Ghent at Mid-Carolina AHEC, Lance Butler and Stephanie Flower at Pee Dee AHEC and Tina Fulton at Upstate AHEC.

Partnering to Encourage Future Health Professionals

Mid-Carolina AHEC’s Health Careers Program (HCP) is proud to announce a continued partnership with Prisma Health Richland. Recently, Mid-Carolina AHEC HCP students had the chance to participate in a reality-based education program that introduces adolescents to the Level 1 Trauma Center through Project READY, Prisma Health Richland’s community outreach program.
Lara Peck, program coordinator for Project READY, begins the session with a presentation explaining various behaviors that lead to traumatic injury. The presentation included a brief anatomy lesson of various body parts, such as the brain and spinal cord, that might be impacted in a trauma event. Students also met a presenter who experienced a traumatic injury as a child, leaving her lower body paralyzed. The presenter shared her story about her accident and experience as a patient and gave the students the opportunity to ask questions about her experience and how she lives her daily life.  
Later students were able to take a tour of the Prisma Health Trauma Center. Nurses met with the students, explaining various procedures and allowed students to get acquainted with the equipment used to treat injuries. After visiting the trauma bay, students were able to observe how an operating room was prepared for surgery. They concluded their tour with a visit to the morgue and then a trip to the physical therapy level where students had the chance to experience what it’s like to be a patient recovering from a trauma event. 
“Throughout the course of this program, I was overwhelmed with many emotions,” explained HCP student Selby A.. “Participating in Project READY gave me a great sense of accomplishment. I have numerous goals that I want to achieve before college and programs that introduce various careers is a wonderful opportunity.
The 2019-2020 Health Careers Program students and Mid-Carolina AHEC would like to extend gratitude to the Prisma Health Richland Project READY coordinator and medical staff for their dedication to community outreach and student education.  Find out more about Mid-Carolina AHEC’s Health Careers Program online.

The Health Professions Pipeline in Action

In 2002, Stacey Price was a medical laboratory technician seeking to advance her career by pursuing a Bachelor of Science in health science at the Medical University of South Carolina. As a health professions student, she participated in Lowcountry AHEC’s South Carolina Rural Interprofessional Program of Training (SCRIPT).
Fast forward to 2020 and Stacey is working with Lowcountry AHEC, teaching health professionals phlebotomy as well as volunteering to share her knowledge and experience in clinical laboratory science with high schools students in the Health Careers Program. She is a positive role model and partner for AHEC stating, “Lowcountry AHEC and the SCRIPT program enriched my knowledge while encouraging me to share my skills within my rural community.” It is people like Stacey that make our AHEC pipeline work!
To find out more about Lowcountry AHEC's programming, please visit their website.

Upstate AHEC Employees Earn Mental Health First Aid Certifications

Upstate AHEC Continuing Professional Development
Coordinator Lauren Taylor with Mental Health First Aid
Instructors Krissi Raines and Brittany Alga
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a globally recognized program that originated in Australia in 2001. Participants can become certified in youth or adult MHFA through an eight-hour course in which they learn skills to help someone with a mental illness or someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis. Trained first-aiders are then able to use skills and techniques learned during the training to provide aid to someone in need until appropriate professional treatment and support can be arranged.

Adults spend roughly a third of their adult lives working, and having employees complete a program like MHFA can be essential in creating a mentally healthy workplace in which individuals feel valued, supported and respected. Many workplaces have an automated external defibrillator (AED) and have trained their staff on how to use it properly. Staff generally know when and how to summon emergency help for a physical ailment. However, they are actually more likely to come in contact with someone having a mental health crisis than they are someone having a heart attack.

While Upstate AHEC has supported MHFA programs in rural communities of the upstate, recently Upstate AHEC staff members recognized the importance of this skillset by participating in the training program themselves. Now team members can use the skills they learned through MHFA both in and outside the workplace. After completing the trainings, Upstate AHEC staff reported an increased confidence in assisting someone who may be experiencing a mental health crisis. Staff members have also found strategies learned in the MHFA programs useful in dealing with their own personal emotions and challenges as well.

I am pleased that Upstate AHEC’s staff had the opportunity to become Mental Health First Aid certified by taking advantage of our continuing professional development team’s Mental Health First Aid courses,” explained Upstate AHEC executive director Nita Donald. “The Mental Health First Aid training courses teach participants to be aware and notice signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use disorders.”

More information about Mental Health First Aid is available online. Information about other upcoming continuing professional development courses is available on the Upstate AHEC website.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Get to Know the South Carolina Office for Healthcare Workforce



Did you know that nurse practitioners are the fastest growing licensed health profession in South Carolina (Figure 1)? Or that in more than a third of South Carolina counties, the growth of physicians isn’t keeping up with population (Figure 2)? Data such as these are available thanks largely to the South Carolina Office for Healthcare Workforce.

The South Carolina Office for Healthcare Workforce, or OWH, is a statewide resource that studies the issues affecting the balance of supply and demand for different types of health professionals in South Carolina. Its mission is to develop accurate, reliable information about the state’s healthcare workforce and to make that information widely available to support planning and policy decisions. It routinely disseminates reports, maps and data briefs, as well as the South Carolina Health Professions Data Book

The OHW was established in 2009 as a program within the South Carolina AHEC program office in Charleston with funding from The Duke Endowment. In 2016, OHW became a permanent statewide resource when South Carolina AHEC received recurring funding from the South Carolina Legislature to support OHW’s ongoing work.

In 2019, Katie Gaul came onboard as director of the OHW as Linda Lacey, the founding director, prepared for retirement after 10 years of service to the state. Katie leads the OHW team in identifying, gathering, analyzing and reporting data to create a better understanding of the current supply of nurses, physicians, pharmacists, dentists and other health professionals in South Carolina. OHW investigates how the supply of professionals may change in the future based on the education pipeline and changing health system and informs estimates of demand based on employment patterns, practice characteristics, and needs of the population.

The OHW team works closely with state agencies such as the Office of Revenue and Fiscal Affairs, SC DHEC’s Office for Primary Care, and the SC Department of Health and Human Services, as well as educational programs, employers and others to develop the information South Carolina stakeholders need to make informed policy decisions related to the healthcare workforce. As time and resources permit, the team also works with partners, such as the South Carolina EMS Association, on profession-specific studies.

Do you have a healthcare workforce question you would like studied or data you are seeking? The OHW team is always available as a resource for those looking at the state of the healthcare workforce. Reach out to the OHW team at scohw@musc.edu for more information.

Find OHW reports, maps, data briefs and more online at www.scohw.org, and sign up for the OHW e-news list to be notified of new data and reports as they are released. 

2019 Regional Highlight: Lowcountry AHEC


Lowcountry AHEC partnered with the SC Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative of the Department of Mental Health and held 3 suicide screening continuing education events, reaching approximately 200 participants. In addition, 29 counselors and psychologists were trained as trainers using the Mental Health America of South Carolina curriculum. These trainers used the toolkits to teach and counsel teachers and students. Evaluations show that approximately half of the counselors had used one or more parts of the curriculum successfully.


Visit Lowcountry AHEC's website to find out more about their continuing professional development programs.

2019 Regional Highlight: Mid-Carolina AHEC


Mid-Carolina AHEC’s Health Careers Program provided 1,291 hours of academic advising, online modules, mentoring, health careers programs/training and service learning opportunities to 67 students from 18 high schools in the 11-county region.  Participating high school seniors who complete at least 100 hours of programming were eligible to enroll in the Certified Nurse Assistant Training Program (CNATP).  Since 2013, 27 HCP students have completed the CNATP and worked in healthcare while completing their undergraduate degree.

Visit Mid-Carolina AHEC's website to find out more about their Health Careers Program.

2019 Regional Highlight: Pee Dee AHEC


Pee Dee AHEC’s Health Careers Program has grown tremendously to offer more opportunities to high school and college students in its 12-county region. New initiatives include partnering with work-based learning programs, coordinating and instructing health career structured programs, hosting field experiences, participating in 12 career fairs, and establishing eight regional internships. In an effort to broaden pipeline initiatives, partnerships now include six middle schools, 23 high schools, four regional technical colleges, five universities, and three transition-to-employment programs. 

Visit Pee Dee AHEC's website to find out more about their Health Careers Program.

2019 Regional Highlight: Upstate AHEC


Upstate AHEC started offering blended learning programs in early 2018. These popular courses allow healthcare professionals to get clinical experience with expert instructors while spending less time in the classroom. Participants complete a didactic lecture and pass a test online ahead of time and then attend a hands-on demonstration and check-off in the lab with a qualified instructor. Upstate AHEC offers blended learning opportunities for a variety of professions in topic areas such as IV Therapy, Medication Administration and Tracheostomy Care and continues to grow this area of offerings.

Visit Upstate AHEC's website to find out more about their continuing education programs.