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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
Health Resources and Services Administration
Health Workforce

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA)?
    A HPSA is a geographic area, population group, or health care facility that has been designated by the Federal government as having a shortage of health professionals. There are three categories of HPSAs: primary care (shortage of primary care clinicians), dental (shortage of oral health professionals), and mental health (shortage of mental health professionals).
    HPSAs are designated using several criteria, including population-to-clinician ratios. This ratio is usually 3,500 to 1 for primary care, 5,000 to 1 for dental health care, and 30,000 to 1 for mental health care.

    Learn more about Health Professional Shortage Areas.

  2. I am in the U.S. on a J1 visa and am interested in shortage areas for my subspecialty. I also would like a J1 visa waiver.
    There are no Health Professional Shortage Area designations for subspecialties. HPSAs may have primary care, oral health or mental health designations.
    Resources for health professionals interested in working in underserved areas:
    Waiver of the J1 Visa Two-Year Foreign Residence Requirement

    Find Health Professional Shortage Areas (HSPAs) by Address

    Find Medically Underserved Areas (MUAs) by Address
    National Health Service Corps Job Opportunities in high-need HPSAs, even if you are not a NHSC participant or applicant
    National Rural Recruitment and Retention Network
    (not a U.S. Government Web site)
    State Primary Care Offices

    You may also contact individual States for their Conrad 30 programs -- search [name of State] Conrad 30.

  3. Where can I learn more about the Proposed Rule: Designation of Medically Underserved Populations Areas and Health Professional Shortage Areas published in the Federal Register on February 29, 2008?
    You will find the Proposed Rule Federal Register Notice with links to clarifications, press releases, and background documents on the HRSA Web site.

  4. I am looking for a complete and current list of all county or sub county areas designated as health provider shortage areas.
    It is possible to download files from the HRSA Geospatial Warehouse. There is a lot of information, so it is important to select only what you really want using the filters and sorts. It can take a long time to access the data during the busy part of the day, so you may wish to try early or late in the day.
    For less than a complete list, please visit http://hpsafind.hrsa.gov/ and look under "Find Shortage Areas: HPSA by State and County." Here you can select a state, a county or counties, and discipline if you are looking for a more limited set of information.

  5. How do I find a copy of the HPSA Application?
    There is no formal application form. We recommend that you contact your State Primary Care Office (PCO). The PCO is the primary contact for OSD in developing and reviewing designation requests and updates. You can review the HPSA Designation Criteria and Guidelines to see what the criteria and data are needed for applying.

  6. How many HPSAs are there in rural and frontier areas of all states and U.S. territories?
    You can download a custom report from our web page at the HRSA Geospatial Warehouse. You can also look under 'Quick Access Reports,' click onto Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) and then select Designated HPSA Statistics, which will provide data on HPSAs by region, state, discipline, and metropolitan/non-metropolitan status. Frontier HPSAs are not separately identified in this summary table.

  7. I am the surveyor responsible for federal certification of rural health clinics. How do I find an initial application, located in a HPSA or MUA, and designated or updated in the current or prior 3 years?
    This information is available at: http://hpsafind.hrsa.gov/. Select the "Advanced Search" option (on the right side of the page) and then the geographic area of interest. At the bottom, you can select by the date of last update. This will select those HPSAs within the time frame you request for a specific area. You can also download from the HRSA Geospatial Warehouse and filter by date of last update or date of designation.

  8. If a county has a listing of a low income population, but is shown as "proposed for withdrawal", what does that mean? Is it considered designated until the proposal has been accepted or does proposed withdrawal mean it does not currently qualify as a HPSA?
    It means that the HPSA no longer meets the designation criteria based on data reviewed or submitted. The status will be changed to "withdrawn" when the next Federal Register Notice is published.

  9. How can I find the date an area received its HPSA?
    This information is available at http://hpsafind.hrsa.gov/. Select the 'Advanced Search' link (on the right side). Then select your options and retrieve the data. The right-hand column ('Last Updated') shows the date an area received its HPSA or was last updated.

  10. How do I locate the census tracts or census divisions for a particular address?
    This information is located on our web page at the HRSA Geospatial Warehouse. It will also identify any HPSAs that may be in that location.

  11. How do I find the scoring criteria for HPSA?
    A copy of the Federal Register Notice of the HPSA scoring criteria is available on their website.

  12. Could you please explain the rationale behind including the percent of elderly in a community to determine an MUA/MUP?
    The basic idea when the Index of Medical Underservice was developed in the 1970's was to use factors that were related to, or recognized as proxies for, healthcare service needs. The percentage of the population, age 65 or over, was included because the elderly tend to have a greater need and demand for health services.

  13. I am a primary care provider and would like to obtain loan repayment by working in a shortage area. Could you help me?
    The National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program offers primary care medical, dental, and mental and behavioral health providers the opportunity to have their student loans repaid while serving in communities with limited access to care. You may also want to contact the State Primary Care Offices in states where you are interested in working.

  14. I need information on loan repayment for nurses working in shortage areas.
    HRSA offers two loan repayment programs for nurses working in designated Health Professional Shortage Areas. Primary care nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and psychiatric nurse specialists are eligible to apply to the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program. Registered nurses, including nurse practitioners are eligible to apply to the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program.

  15. We applied for a HPSA designation and haven't received a response. How long does the designation process typically take?
    HPSA requests are usually processed in the order of receipt, so the time for review depends on the volume of cases at a given time. Our goal is a 60-90 day turnaround, although complex cases may require additional information and further review. After 60 days you may contact the analyst for your area; the list of staff and the areas assigned can be obtained by sending an e-mail to sdb@hrsa.gov.
Related Links

State Primary Care Offices for designation application help and State shortage information

Exchange Visitor Program for physicians with J-1 visas working in HPSAs

National Health Service Corps scholarships & loan repayment in return for service at NHSC-approved sites in greatest-need HPSAs

Medicare PSA/HPSA Physician Bonus