Addressing labor shortages within nursing and allied health professions, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, requires increasing persistence and equity among community college students pursuing these fields. In this study, we adapted and combined three values-based interventions (values affirmation, goal congruence, and utility values) into one treatment, delivered via interactive text messages, with the goal to support reenrollment among pre-allied health students during the pandemic. Using institutional data from a statewide community college system, we randomized pre-allied health students who were enrolled in Fall 2019 and/or Spring 2020, and who had a valid mobile number on file, into treatment (n = 1,649) or control (n = 1,650) groups. Fully treated students received an average of 17 text messages over 8 weeks of Summer 2020; control students received business as usual support from the college. After adjusting for baseline differences in prior enrollment, the treatment significantly increased reenrollment by 3 percentage points (74% vs. 71%). Examination of individual differences revealed that effects were concentrated among men (+11 percentage points), Black/African American students (+7 percentage points), and students who were not enrolled in Spring 2020 (+13 percentage points). Values-based interventions, therefore, can be an important tool for addressing shortages and inequities in healthcare education and the labor force, an important step toward improving public health. Moreover, community colleges seeking to engage students who withdrew before or during the COVID-19 pandemic should leverage evidence-based practices to boost reenrollment.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Ross E. O'Hara, Betsy Sparrow, Lois Joy