According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, by 2036 the US will experience a nursing shortage of more than 437,000.

Rural areas like Cochise County already face challenges recruiting and retaining healthcare professionals, which is why Health Director Barbara Lang hosted a forum focused on needs and opportunities within the local healthcare workforce.

In 2022, there were over 12,000 healthcare positions in Cochise County. By 2032, that number is expected to increase by 20%.

“When we go out, that’s where we meet our workforce. When you interact with the community that’s the best way to fill your office,” Lang said, addressing the group.

That community she’s talking about includes students, especially those actively participating in groups like HOSA, geared toward future health professionals.

Martha Alonso, advisor for Douglas High School’s HOSA chapter, says their biggest need is volunteer opportunities, even though chapter members completed 737 hours this school year.

“That’s where we struggle though, although that seems like a lot and it seems amazing, remember we have 123 kids. It’s very difficult to get them all opportunities in the communities.”

Lang says the information from Friday’s will be shared and used in future forums to improve the county’s health care.

“I think sometimes people have a narrow view of healthcare,” said Lang. “It’s really about the whole person. It’s about making people whole and making sure that their lives are the best that they can be.”