LITTLE ROCK – This week, I met with doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville who have been on the front line of saving lives during this coronavirus pandemic. They were tired and stressed, but their work makes me grateful for their services and sacrifice. Today I’d like to talk about the need to find more people such as those to enter the field. I am hopeful that the sight of their heroic service will inspire others to choose a career in health care.

The numbers of those in the health care profession nationally and in Arkansas have been declining for years. This worldwide health crisis has highlighted the shortfall and the urgent need to correct it. There never has been a greater need for young people to enter the health care profession.

The reasons for the decline are many, but the result is that as health care professionals retire, there aren’t enough people to replace them. Americans are living longer, which means the number of people in need of medical care is growing as the number of providers shrinks. In the rural areas of Arkansas, the situation is even more challenging.

As the coronavirus has billowed across our nation like a toxic fog, the illness has illustrated the complicated nature of our health care system. We have seen how various medical specialties intersect, and that each is essential: Medical doctors and doctors of osteopathic medicine. Paramedics. Emergency room doctors and registered nurses. Respiratory therapists and licensed practical nurses. Home health caregivers. Researchers. Medical technicians. That is a very short list of the many important jobs in the health care field.

A health care career offers many benefits. You can find a job almost anywhere you want to live, and the jobs pay well.

But there is more to it than the personal benefit. Health care is a higher calling, much like any other public service. Those who choose that path often are called upon to put the good of others before personal comfort and convenience, as thousands have done during the pandemic. The hours are long, the work can be difficult. But there are the bright moments when someone saves a life or a homebound patient rewards a health aide with a smile of gratitude.

Arkansas is growing and in need of more people who are willing to commit to that level of service. Our state needs young professionals with fresh perspectives to help us figure out new and better ways to deliver health care. We need tech-savvy professionals who elevate our health care system, which benefits all Arkansans: A tech-savvy health care system attracts high-quality business and industry and enhances Arkansas’s general quality of life.

COVID-19 has changed everything about our lives. We have no idea how long we will be fighting the current battle, but the health care professionals who are guiding us through this time inspire confidence and hope. My hope is that their inspiration will attract a new generation of professionals to accept the call.

Asa Hutchinson is the 46th governor of the state of Arkansas. Visit the Governor’s website at governor.arkansas.gov .

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