Celebrating Rural Healthcare
By Dr. Michael Bush, Holy Rosary Healthcare Chief Medical Officer
National Rural Health Day provides an opportunity to celebrate and increase awareness of rural healthcare and the unique needs that come with rural America.
I spent 30 years working in the emergency department at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings and have had an opportunity to work in smaller hospitals across our region, including Miles City, Glasgow, Poplar, and Crow Agency. Admittedly, I was initially under the impression that most patients with a significant injury in eastern Montana would end up being cared for in Billings.
During one of my first shifts in the Holy Rosary emergency department, I took a call from a physician assistant in Broadus about a young, injured cowboy who had been thrown from his horse with four broken ribs and a small collapsed lung. He wanted to send the patient to us at Holy Rosary for his care. It was perfectly appropriate for us to care for the patient at Holy Rosary and keep him much closer to home. The patient did well in our care and was able to return home after a short stay. This was the type of patient that I previously thought would have ended up in Billings because of my lack of understanding of the capabilities of our small, rural, or even frontier hospitals and the talented and experienced caregivers that work in these facilities.
Our rural communities are wonderful places to practice medicine. However, one of the challenges we face is attracting and retaining healthcare workers. We know that recruiting workers from within our rural communities is the best way to build and support our healthcare workforce. We must ensure our community and students understand the opportunities in our rural healthcare facilities as we train our best and brightest to help maintain the healthcare services our community needs:
- We are proud to partner with Miles Community College to help train nurses and other medical professionals at Holy Rosary.
- We have several physician assistants in our community that did part of their training locally through Rocky Mountain College in Billings.
- We have physicians in Miles City who did part of their training here through the University of Washington School of Medicine's WWAMI Regional Medical Education Program.
- We will soon have the opportunity to train more with the addition of the new Rocky Vista University Montana of Osteopathic Medicine located in Billings.
- There is also an initiative to start a rural training track in Miles City for family physicians from the Montana Family Medicine Program, which ideally will improve both physician recruitment and retention in eastern Montana.
At Holy Rosary Healthcare, we proudly partner with these organizations, and many others, to ensure our eastern Montana communities have access to the healthcare services and treatments they need to live their healthiest lives.