Student Program

“Theory to Practice”

Want to help others while furthering YOUR career?

What is a Rural Health Coach?

A Rural Health Coach is a student with a health or a social service focus who has been screened and deemed eligible for Western Illinois University’s “Theory to Practice” course. After being accepted, the new coach will serve as a trusted liaison between the hospital and client to facilitate access to services and improve patient engagement. In addition to helping the at-risk population, the student increases his or her health knowledge and self-sufficiency through a range of activities such as outreach community education, informal coaching, social support and advocacy.

Who Are We Looking For?

  • A compassionate, resourceful student to meet directly with at-risk clients on a weekly basis
  • Someone who is non-judgmental, has great social skills, and is able to develop a rapport with others
  • A person who cares about his or her community
  • Someone willing to learn about healthcare from the client perspective
  • A student who is interested in ‘hands-on’ experience

What are our Program Goals?

Becoming a Rural health Coach means you will work with a multi-disciplinary team to assist clients at high-risk or with chronic conditions to improve health outcomes and provide support through referrals to various community agencies including home health, pharmacy, primary care providers, food pantries, etc. In addition to assisting the clients in leading a healthier life and providing social support for many clients, this “hands-on” experience, along with WIU’s curriculum, give you a competitive edge to advance your career.

Who Do Health Coaches assist?

  • Clients with multiple chronic diseases
  • Patients discharged at high risk or families determined as high risk
  • Clients with insufficient income to meet medical needs
  • Patients who may have frequent falls or who visit the emergency department frequently

How Can I Become Involved?

The “Rural Health Coach Program: Theory to Practice” course is offered through independent study. The first semester involves assigned readings and weekly meetings with the coordinator and guest speakers. The second semester involves client visits involving approximately 1-2 hours of off-campus work each week. Students can continue their efforts through subsequent semesters at the discretion of the coordinator.


For more information, contact Mary Jane Clark, West Central Illinois AHEC Director, at 217-357-6832 or

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