Category Archives: Rural

Dec 3 2013
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The “Next Best Thing” to Being There: Robots Expand Physicians’ Reach

Telepresence robots are expanding access to specialists in rural hospitals experiencing shortages of physicians, and in other hospitals throughout the country, reports the Associated Press.

Devices such as the RP-VITA, introduced earlier this year, can be controlled remotely with a desktop computer, laptop, or iPad, allowing physicians to interact with patients through video-conferencing via a large screen that projects the doctor's face. An auto-drive function allows the robot to find its way to patients' rooms, and sensors help it avoid obstacles. It also gives the physician access to clinical data and medical images.

Dignity Health, a hospital system with facilities in Arizona, California, and Nevada, started using telepresence robots five years ago to promptly evaluate patients who had potentially suffered strokes.  Dignity now has robots in emergency rooms and intensive care units at about 20 California hospitals, giving them access to specialists in areas such as neurology, cardiology, neonatology, pediatrics, and mental health.

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Nov 7 2013
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The Country Doctor: Study Anticipates a Disappearing Breed that Doesn’t Bode Well for Rural America

Rural counties throughout the United States may be hardest hit by the country’s anticipated shortage of primary care physicians (PCPs), according to a new study from the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho) Rural Health Research Center at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Researchers point to several factors that have implications for rural counties:  PCPs deliver the majority of health care in those areas; a substantial percentage of primary care providers in the United States are approaching retirement age at the same time that fewer new medical school graduates are opting for primary care specialties; and demand for health care services is expected to increase as the population ages and millions gain health insurance coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

The study, which used data from the American Medical Association and the American Osteopathic Association 2005 Physician Masterfiles, found a higher percentage of PCPs near retirement in rural counties than in urban ones, with the percentage increasing as the degree of rurality increased. (Physicians 56 or older in 2005 were considered to be near retirement and were the primary focus of analysis.) The 184 counties in the top 10 percent of near-retirement PCPs were characterized by lower population density and lower socioeconomic status, as measured by low education, low employment, and persistent poverty.

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Oct 30 2013
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Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies

Seth M. Holmes, PhD, MD, is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars program and an assistant professor of public health and medical anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. The following is an excerpt from his recently published book, Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States.

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“The first Triqui picker whom I met when I visited the Skagit Valley was Abelino, a thirty-five-year-old father of four. He, his wife, Abelina, and their children lived together in a small shack near me in the labor camp farthest from the main road. During one conversation over homemade tacos in his shack, Abelino explained in Spanish why Triqui people have to leave their hometowns in Mexico.

In Oaxaca, there’s no work for us. There’s no work. There’s nothing. When there’s no money, you don’t know what to do. And shoes, you can’t get any. A shoe like this [pointing to his tennis shoes] costs about 300 Mexican pesos. You have to work two weeks to buy a pair of shoes. A pair of pants costs 300 Mexican pesos. It’s difficult. We come here and it is a little better, but you still suffer in the work. Moving to another place is also difficult. Coming here with the family and moving around to different places, we suffer. The children miss their classes and don’t learn well. Because of this, we want to stay here only for a season with [legal immigration] permission and let the children study in Mexico. Do we have to migrate to survive? Yes, we do.

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Aug 21 2013
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Influencing Young Doctors

The news media has recently covered some innovative programs that are influencing the choices and attitudes of the next generation of doctors.

American Medical News reports on the Buddy Program, which pairs first-year medical students with early-stage Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. The program empowers patients, and also serves as a valuable learning tool for the students, heightening “their sensitivity and empathy toward people with the disease.” The program was developed at the Northwestern University Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago; Boston University, Dartmouth College, and Washington University have replicated it.

NPR reports on a program at the University of Missouri School of Medicine that is encouraging more young doctors to pursue primary care in rural areas. During the summers, the school has been sending medical students to work alongside country doctors. While school officials caution they can’t be sure about the reasons, they have discovered that students who took part in the summer program were more likely to become primary care doctors who practice family medicine.  Some 46 percent of participants are choosing to work in the country after completing their medical training.

Read more about the Buddy Program in American Medical News.
Read more about the University of Missouri’s summer in the country program on NPR.org.

Jun 21 2013
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"My Definition of Diversity Was Altered When I Had the Opportunity to Experience Life Differently"

Cindy Anderson, PhD, RN, WHNP-BC, FAHA, FAAN, is a professor and associate dean for research at the College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines, University of North Dakota. A Robert Wood Johnson Nurse Faculty Scholar, she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Salem State College, and both a Master of Science degree in parent-child nursing and a PhD in physiology from the University of North Dakota. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.

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I was born and raised in the Boston area which we always referred to as the “melting pot.”  My grandparents emigrated from Eastern Europe and I grew up hearing stories of the “Old Country” which included both fond memories and atrocities that drove them to leave their homes and find a better way of life in America. As a second-generation American, I have always embraced the common and unique perspectives of others from a variety of backgrounds.

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I began my career as an Air Force nurse, advancing my opportunity to engage with others from varied backgrounds and cultures. In the course of my career, I found myself stationed at the Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota. My initial perceptions were based upon the stereotype that North Dakota was a rural, isolated state with little diversity. My misperceptions were quickly reversed when I had a chance to engage with the community. My awareness and respect for the unique diversity of rural North Dakota has steadily grown over the last three decades which I have been fortunate to spend in this great state.

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Jun 19 2013
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Graduate Medical Education Funding Is Not Helping Solve Primary Care, Rural Provider Shortages, Study Finds

From 2006 to 2008, 158 of the country’s 759 residency sponsoring institutions and teaching sites did not produce any primary care graduates, according to a study published online last week by Academic Medicine. Less than one-quarter of medical school graduates entered primary care during those years.

The study also found that physician shortages in rural and underserved areas persist; only 4.8 percent of 2006-2008 graduates practice in rural areas. Nearly 200 institutions produced no rural physicians, more than half produced no Health Service Corps graduates, and 283 produced no physicians practicing at Federally Qualified Health Centers or Rural Health Clinics.

Graduate medical education (GME) distribution is uneven, the researchers found, and provides more support to subspecialty programs than to primary care programs. The top 20 primary care producing institutions (where 41 percent of graduates were in primary care) received $292 million in total Medicare GME payments, while the bottom 20 (where only 6.4 percent of graduates were in primary care) received $842 million in these funds.

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May 2 2013
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A Personal Mission: Bridging the Oral Health Care Gap

Monique Trice, 24, is a University of Louisville School of Dentistry student who will complete her studies in 2015. Trice completed the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP) in 2008 at the University of Louisville site. Started in 1988, SMDEP (formerly known as the Minority Medical Education Program and Summer Medical and Education Program), is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation–sponsored program with more than 21,000 alumni. Today, SMDEP sponsors 12 sites, with each accepting up to 80 students per summer session. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.

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Diversity is more than ethnicity. It also includes geography, perspective, and more. I was raised in Enterprise, Ala., which is in Coffee County. The community’s demographic and geographic makeup set the stage for an oral health care crisis. Here’s how:

  • Enterprise is a community of 27,000 and just 15 licensed general dentists, three Medicaid dental providers, and zero licensed pediatric dentists to service Coffee County, a population of 51,000. In 2011, Alabama’s Office of Primary Care and Rural Health reported that 65 of the state’s 67 counties were designated as dental health shortage areas for low-income populations.
  • According to this data, more than 260 additional dentists would be needed to bridge gaps and fully meet the need. For some residents, time, resources, and distance figure into the equation, putting dental care out of reach. In some rural communities, an hour’s drive is required to access dental services.
  • Lack of affordable public transportation creates often-insurmountable barriers to accessing dental care.
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Growing up in a single-parent household, my siblings and I experienced gaps in dental care. Fortunately, we never suffered from an untreated cavity from poor oral health care, but many low-income, underserved children and adults are not so lucky.

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Mar 7 2013
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Building a Statewide Nursing Education Framework: Maine's Nursing Student Placement Program

Sherry Rogers, RN, MSN, NEA-BC, is Chief Nursing Officer at Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan, Maine. She is co-chair of Maine Partners in Nursing Education and Practice, a project of Partners Investing in Nursing’s Future, which is a partnership of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the Northwest Health Foundation.

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Maine is a rural state with the least dense population among states east of the Mississippi. The greater Portland area in southern Maine contains 20 percent of Maine’s residents, while northern counties have fewer than one person per square mile. A drive from the state’s southernmost hospital to its northernmost school of nursing would take approximately seven hours by car. The rural nature of Maine provides unique challenges to the state’s 13 nursing schools when it comes to placing students in their needed clinical hospital rotations. I am helping to oversee a program aimed at overcoming those student placement challenges.

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Our project, called Maine Partners in Nursing Education and Practice, partnered with the Maine Department of Labor to link the state’s schools of nursing with hospital clinical rotation sites by implementing a Maine region of the Massachusetts Centralized Clinical Placement (MCCP), a web-based program that streamlines the scheduling and management of clinical nursing education placements between health care organizations and nursing programs. The system is owned by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE) and can be viewed at www.mcnplacement.org.

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Feb 21 2013
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Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge: What’s in the Latest Issue

Have you signed up to receive Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge? The monthly Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) e-newsletter will keep you up to date on the work of RWJF’s nursing programs, and the latest news, research and trends relating to academic progression, leadership, and other critically important nursing issues.  These are some of the stories in the February issue:

RWJF Scholars Work to Strengthen Rural Nursing
Remote communities like Crawford, Colo. and Chokio, Minn. now have improved access to local health care, thanks to programs that are offering distance education and other innovative ways to educate nurses. Suzan Ulrich, DrPH, CNM, FACNM, associate dean of midwifery and women’s health at Frontier Nursing University and an RWJF Executive Nurse Fellow, is just one of the RWJF scholars working to increase access to high quality nursing care in underserved and hard-to-reach rural areas. Several Partners Investing in Nursing’s Future programs—from Alaska to Wyoming to North Carolina—also are focused on improving care in rural communities.

RWJF Nurse Scientist Discovers New Health Benefits of Tai Chi
During her 15 years studying and practicing nursing in Hong Kong, Ruth E. Taylor-Piliae, PhD, RN, FAHA, learned firsthand about the health benefits of Tai Chi, a Chinese martial art involving slow physical movements, extended concentration, and relaxed breathing. A cardiovascular nurse scientist and RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar, Taylor-Piliae was well aware of the health benefits of Tai Chi and wondered if the practice carried similar benefits for stroke survivors, a population she studies in her research. She conducted a study on the effects of Tai Chi in adult stroke survivors, often prone to losing their balance, and found that the practice may reduce falls.

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Aug 22 2012
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Oral Health: Putting Teeth Into the Health Care System

Last week, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and The Alliance for Health Reform sponsored a briefing to discuss oral health care in the United States, particularly for children and other vulnerable populations.

The discussion was co-moderated by David Krol, MD, MPH, FAAP, RWJF Human Capital Portfolio team director and senior program officer. “Oral health is an integral part of overall health,” he said. It faces the same challenges as overall health care, including “racial, ethnic, geographic disparities in disease and access to care, financing challenges, issues of determining and maintaining quality of care, and workforce controversies.” Krol said he would like to see “all conversations on health and health care… naturally include oral health.”

In 2009, preventable dental conditions accounted for more than 830,000 emergency department visits nationwide, Julie Stitzel, MA, of the Pew Center on the States’ Children’s Dental Campaign told the audience. Children were the patients for 50,000 of those visits. “There’s a real opportunity for states to save money because these visits, again, are totally preventable,” she said. “We know that getting treated in an emergency room is much more costly than the care delivered in a dental office, and states are bearing a significant share of these expenses through Medicaid and other public programs.”

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