Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does it mean to be in “compliance” with my Corps service commitment?
     

    The mission of the National Health Service Corps is to build healthy communities by supporting qualified health care providers dedicated to working in areas of the United States with limited access to care. Our goal is to support you in your service to your community.

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    Being in compliance means you are fulfilling your agreement to:

    For full-time providers
    • Provide 2 years of full-time clinical practice
    • Practice at the approved site(s) stated in your contract
    • Maintain your professional license and, if applicable, your certificate or registration in the State where you practice
    • Complete and return the employment verification form every 6 months

    For half-time providers
    • Provide either 2 years or 4 years of half-time clinical practice
    • Practice at the approved site(s) stated in your contract
    • Maintain your professional license and, if applicable, your certificate or registration in the State where you practice
    • Complete and return the employment verification form every 6 months

  • When does my service commitment begin?
     

    Check your contract for the start and end dates of your service commitment. Your service commitment begins on the effective date of your contract, which is the date it is signed by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or his/her Designee.

    Please note that you are not able to receive service credit for work at your site before your contract start date.

  • What is considered “full-time” clinical practice?

    With the exception of participants in the half-time program (see the next question), Corps members are required to practice full-time at their approved sites. Full-time clinical practice is defined as a minimum of 40 hours per week, for at least 45 weeks each year.

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    Please note:

    • The 40 hour per week may be compressed into no fewer than 4 days per week, with no more than 12 hours of work to be performed in any 24-hour period.
    • Practice at the NHSC-approved sites(s).
    • Time spent “on-call” does not count toward the 40 hours.
    • You may not receive service credit for hours worked over 40 hours a week, and you cannot apply excess hours to any other work week.

    For all providers (except the two categories noted below):

    • At least 32 of the minimum 40 hours per week must be spent providing direct patient care or teaching in the outpatient ambulatory care setting at your site.
    • The remaining eight (8) hours of the minimum 40 hours per week must be spent providing clinical services for patients or teaching at your site, providing clinical services in alternative settings (e.g., hospitals, nursing homes, shelters) as directed by your site, or performing practice-related administrative activities.
    • Practice-related administrative activities cannot exceed 8 hours of the minimum 40 hours per week.
    • Teaching activities at your site can not exceed 8 hours of the minimum 40 hours per week, unless the teaching takes place in a Teaching Health Center.  Teaching activities in a HRSA-approved Teaching Health Center cannot exceed 20 hours of the minimum 40 hours per week.

    For OB/GYN physicians, family medicine physicians who practice obstetrics on a regular basis, providers of geriatric services, certified nurse midwives, and pediatric dentists:

    • At least 21 of the minimum 40 hours per week must be spent providing direct patient care or teaching in the outpatient ambulatory care setting at your site during normally scheduled office hours.
    • The remaining 19 hours of the minimum 40 hours per week must be spent providing clinical services for patients or teaching at your site, providing clinical services in alternative settings (e.g., hospitals, nursing homes, shelters) as directed by your site, or performing practice-related administrative activities.
    • Practice-related administrative activities cannot exceed 8 hours of the minimum 40 hours per week.
    • Teaching activities at the approved service site cannot exceed 8 hours of the minimum 40 hours per week, unless the teaching takes place in a Teaching Health Center.  Teaching activities in a HRSA-approved Teaching Health Center cannot exceed 20 hours of the minimum 40 hours per week.

    For mental and behavioral health providers:

    • At least 21 of the minimum 40 hours per week must be spent providing direct patient care (patient counseling) or teaching in the outpatient ambulatory care setting at your site during normally scheduled office hours.
    • The remaining 19 hours of the minimum 40 hours per week must be spent providing clinical services for patients or teaching at your site, providing clinical services in alternative settings (e.g., hospitals, nursing homes, shelters) as directed by your site, or performing practice-related administrative activities.
    • Practice-related administrative activities cannot exceed 8 hours of the minimum 40 hours per week.
    • Teaching activities at the approved service site cannot exceed 8 hours of the minimum 40 hours per week, unless the teaching takes place in a Teaching Health Center.  Teaching activities in a HRSA-approved Teaching Health Center cannot exceed 20 hours of the minimum 40 hours per week.
  • What is considered “half-time” clinical practice?
     

    Half-time Corps members are required to practice half time at their approved sites. Half-time clinical practice is defined as a minimum of 20 hours per week (not to exceed 39 hours per week), for at least 45 weeks each year. Those members in the half-time program agree to either a 2-year or 4-year initial service commitment.

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    Please note:

    • The minimum 20 hours per week may be compressed into no fewer than 2 work days per week, with no more than 12 hours of work to be performed in any 24-hour period.
    • Practice at the NHSC-approved sites(s).
    • Time spent “on-call” does not count toward the 20 hours.
    • You may not receive service credit for hours worked over 20 hours a week, and you cannot apply excess hours to any other work week.

    For all providers (except the two categories noted below):

    • At least 16 of the minimum 20 hours per week must be spent providing direct patient care or teaching in the outpatient ambulatory care setting at your site.
    • The remaining four (4) hours of the minimum 20 hours per week must be spent providing clinical services for patients or teaching at your site, providing clinical services in alternative settings (e.g., hospitals, nursing homes, shelters) as directed by your site, or performing practice-related administrative activities.
    • Teaching and practice-related administrative activities cannot exceed a total of 4 hours of the minimum 20 hours per week.

    For OB/GYN physicians, family medicine physicians who practice obstetrics on a regular basis, providers of geriatric services, certified nurse midwives, and pediatric dentists:

    • At least 11 of the minimum 20 hours per week must be spent providing direct patient care or teaching in the outpatient ambulatory care setting at your site during normally scheduled office hours.
    • The remaining 9 hours of the minimum 20 hours per week must be spent providing clinical services for patients or teaching at your site, providing clinical services in alternative settings (e.g., hospitals, nursing homes, shelters) as directed by your site, or performing practice-related administrative activities.
    • Teaching and practice-related administrative activities cannot exceed a total of 4 hours of the minimum 20 hours per week.

    For mental and behavioral health providers:

    • At least 11 of the minimum 20 hours per week must be spent providing direct patient care (patient counseling) or teaching in the outpatient ambulatory care setting at your site during normally scheduled office hours.
    • The remaining 9 hours of the minimum 20 hours per week must be spent providing clinical services for patients or teaching at your site, providing clinical services in alternative settings (e.g., hospitals, nursing homes, shelters) as directed by your site, or performing practice-related administrative activities.
    • Teaching and practice-related administrative activities cannot exceed a total of 4 hours of the minimum 20 hours per week.
  • How much time can I take off for vacations and other personal time?
     

    Full-time providers
    You can take off up to 7 weeks (35 work days) each service year for vacations, holidays, professional education, illness, or any other reason. If you need additional time away from your site during the year, you must contact the NHSC to request a suspension of your service commitment or discuss other options.

    Half-time providers
    You can take off up to 35 half-time workdays (140 work hours) each service year for vacations, holidays, professional education, illness, or any other reason. If you need additional time away from your site during the year, you must contact the NHSC to request a suspension of your service commitment or discuss other options.  

  • Can I get service credit for teaching?
     

    The NHSC now allows service credit for time spent teaching, within certain parameters. For full-time LRP participants teaching activities at the approved site shall not exceed 8 hours of the minimum 40 hours per week, unless the teaching takes place at a HRSA-approved Teaching Health Center. Teaching activities in a HRSA-approved Teaching Health Center shall not exceed 20 hours of the minimum 40 hours per week. Teaching and practice-related administrative activities shall not exceed a total of 4 hours of the minimum 20 hours per week for half-time program participants.

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    Full-time providers
    Up to 8 hours per week may be spent teaching in the clinical setting at your NHSC-approved site. These 8 hours may be considered part of the your direct patient clinical care hours at your site.

    In addition, the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Bureau of Health Professionals has established a Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program with the designation of Teaching Health Centers (THC). Full-time NHSC members teaching in these facilities will be allowed to count up to 20 hours per week spent teaching toward their service commitment. This only applies to full-time NHSC providers at HRSA-approved THCs. Learn more about the THC Program (PDF - 60 KB).

    Half-time providers
    Up to 4 hours per week may be spent teaching in the clinical setting at your NHSC-approved site. This also applies if you are completing your service commitment at a THC.

  • How do I complete my in service verifications?
     

    You must complete an in service verification for each six months of service to verify that you are meeting the terms of service for the program.  The in-service verification will be available through the Customer Service Portal on the first day of the month following the end of your six-month verification period. 

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    As soon as your verification is available in the Portal, you will receive an email message notifying you that your in service verification is due. You will then need to log on to the Portal to access and submit the verification. Once you have completed this process, your site administrator will receive a message informing them that they need to review and submit the verification online as well.  By submitting this verification, your site certifies your compliance with the applicable clinical practice requirement during that 6-month period. The verification will also record any time spent away from the site.
  • How do I submit verification of payment for my loans to the NHSC?
     

    You are required to submit documentation verifying that all award funds received from the NHSC was used toward the approved educational loans included on your Payment Authorization Worksheet (PAW). Loans that do not appear on the PAW should not be paid with NHSC award funds. In order to submit verification of payment, please log into the Customer Service Portal and select “Ask a Question.” There, you will enter a comment stating that you are providing us with a payment history from your lender/servicer accounting for the payment of your full award disbursement.  You will then be able to upload an electronic copy of your payment history under the “Upload Document” section.

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    You will need to provide us with a statement from your lender(s)/servicer(s) showing that the included loan balances were reduced by the total amount received. Submission of payment verification is a requirement to be deemed eligible to extend your service and receive a continuation contract award. In addition to payments made, the statement must include payment dates,  your name and other identifying information.

    There are two distinct options for submitting this documentation:

    1. 1. You may submit your payment documentation via the Customer Service Portal by selecting “Ask a Question.” There, you will enter a comment stating that you are providing us with a payment history from your lender/servicer.  You will then be able to upload an electronic copy of your payment history under the “Upload Document” section.

    Or, if applying for a continuation:

    1. You must submit your loan payment documentation with your continuation contract application.

    Please remember that all payments must be made and payment verification submitted and received by the NHSC prior to the end of your service period.

  • My supervisor has requested that I work in other locations. Are these locations considered part of my NHSC-approved site?

     

    Your contract lists the location of your NHSC-approved site(s), which is where you must serve your required clinical hours. If your organization has multiple locations, each of these sites must be approved. A provider can practice in an alternative setting during the hours allowed for administrative use, if it is within the scope of practice of the site.

    Before making any changes to your service location, you must notify the NHSC to find out if the new site is an NHSC-approved site. Be aware, if it is not an approved service location, you may not receive service credit. Beginning with 2012 loan repayment program awardees, if you are working at a site that is in a high-need HPSA (defined as a HPSA score of 14 or above), any additional sites must also be high-need HPSA sites.

  • Can I leave my site for a new one?

     

    We understand that situations may arise where completing your service commitment at your approved site isn’t possible. However, the NHSC must approve any transfers, even to another approved site. To avoid violating your service commitment and breeching your NHSC LRP contract, if you are considering a change in location or adding a location please contact the NHSC in writing to gain the program’s approval, prior to executing any change(s). You can make your request by using the Customer Service Portal or via phone at 1-800-221-9393.

    Beginning with 2012 loan repayment program awardees, if your site is in a high-need HPSA (defined as a HPSA of 14 and above), you must transfer to another high-need NHSC-approved service site. The NHSC will not approve a transfer to a new site with a HPSA below 14.  

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    If you are unable to complete your service obligation at your NHSC-approved site, contact us immediately, and we will work with you to help resolve the situation. Your service specialist will work with you to explore options to allow you to fulfill your service commitment.

    You must also notify us in writing and specify the issues or concerns that affect your ability to fulfill your service commitment. To do so, you may contact the NHSC through the Customer Service Portal or via phone at 1-800-221-9393.

  • How can I request a suspension or waiver?
     

    In certain situations, we may agree to suspend or waive your service commitment if completing it becomes impossible or would involve an extreme hardship. A suspension of your service may be granted for a temporary situation, while a waiver of contract obligations may only be granted in the rare instance where a Corps member becomes permanently unable to meet their service commitment.

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    In order for you to apply for a suspension of up to 1 year for medical or personal reasons, you must provide independent medical documentation of a physical or mental health disability, or a terminal illness of an immediate family member, that results in your temporary inability to fulfill the NHSC service commitment. For information on applying for a suspension for maternity/paternity leave or military service, please see the questions that follow.

    To submit your request for a suspension or waiver, please logon to the Customer Service Portal.

    Although we cannot guarantee that we will approve all requests for a suspension, we will work with you to ensure you are able to fulfill your service commitment. If we do approve your suspension, your service commitment end date will be extended accordingly.

    Please also note that time away from your site during a suspension must be documented on your 6-month service verification form.

  • I’m expecting a child. How do I request leave?
     

    Please let the NHSC know of your pending maternity/paternity leave and provide documentation from your doctor. If your leave will be 12 weeks or less, notify the NHSC through the Customer Service Portal and document your leave on your 6-month verification form. If your maternity/paternity leave will be more than 12 weeks during a service year, you will need to request a suspension based on documented medical need.

  • I have been called to active duty in the Armed Forces. How do I request leave?
     

    If you are a reservist called to active duty, you will be granted a suspension for up to one year beginning on the activation date noted in the call to active duty order.  In addition to the written request for a suspension, please submit a copy of your call to active duty order.

    We will extend your suspension if your period of active duty continues. Please note that your time of active military duty will not be credited toward your service commitment and that your end date will be extended accordingly.

  • My facility has asked me to work less than full time. Can I still fulfill my full-time commitment?
     

    For full-time providers only: If you are a full-time provider, you are required to work a minimum of 40 hours per week at your NHSC-approved site(s). If a situation arises where this is not possible, contact the NHSC. We will work with you and your site to explore options to allow you to fulfill your service commitment.

  • Can I request to work part time at my site?
     

    For full-time providers only: Yes. If your current commitment is to serve full time and you would like to work part time, you can apply to the half-time program if the following conditions apply:

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    (1) Your NHSC-approved site agrees in writing that you may convert to half-time clinical practice.

    (2) You are a Federal employee or a Private Practice Assignee. The half-time service option is not authorized for Private Practice Option (PPO) providers.

    (3) You agree in writing (by signing an amendment to your NHSC LRP full-time contract) to complete your remaining service obligation through half-time clinical practice for twice as long as your full-time commitment.

    If you are approved to convert to half-time status, your service obligation end date and your allowable leave will be adjusted accordingly. Additionally, you must fulfill your remaining service commitment through half-time clinical practice — you cannot go back to full-time service once you convert to half-time status.

    However, should you apply for and receive a continuation contract once your initial commitment is complete, you can request to convert back to full-time status at that time.

    For more information, see the Full to Half-Time Conversion Request FAQs (PDF - 115 KB).

  • What do I do if I lose or have a restriction placed on my license, and can’t continue to practice?
     

    Please see the answer to the next question.

  • I have been or believe I may be laid off. What should I do?
     

    In either of these situations, please contact the NHSC immediately by making a request through the Customer Service Portal or calling 1-800-221-9393. We will work with you and your site to explore options to allow you to fulfill your service commitment.

  • I am planning to quit my current position. Can I find another way to fulfill my service commitment?
     

    Please do not resign from your site without our approval. We understand that situations may arise where completing your service commitment at your approved site isn’t possible. However, we must approve any transfers, even to another approved site.

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    To avoid violating your service commitment and breeching your NHSC LRP contract, if you are considering a change in location or adding a location please contact the NHSC to gain the program’s approval, prior to executing any change(s). You can make your request by using the Customer Service Portal.

    If you are unable to complete your service obligation at your NHSC-approved site, contact us immediately, and we will work with you to help resolve the situation.

    The NHSC will work with you to explore options to allow you to fulfill your service commitment.

    You must notify us and specify the issues or concerns that affect your ability to fulfill your service commitment. To do so, use the Customer Service Portal to submit your request.

  • What happens if I do not complete my service commitment?
     

    If a situation arises where you feel like you may not be able to complete your service commitment, please contact the NHSC right away by making a request through the Customer Service Portal or calling 1-800-221-9393. We are here to help and will work with you to find a solution to your particular situation.

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    In the unlikely event that you are unable to complete your service commitment and you have not received a waiver, you will be placed in default and will be required to pay back an amount equal to the sum of the following: 1) the amount of the loan repayments paid to you representing any period of obligated service you have not completed, 2) $7,500 multiplied by the number of months remaining in your service commitment for full-time clinical practice ($3,750 for half-time), and 3) interest on the above amounts. This amount will be a minimum of $31,000 and must be paid within 1 year from the date of default.