The blog below comes from Kingman Regional Medical Center (KRMC). They share their experience in facing one of the biggest challenges for rural hospitals, physician shortages. After you have had a chance to read about what KRMC is doing to address the physician shortage in rural Arizona, let us know your thoughts. Generating meaningful conversations around the health issues facing us here in Arizona is another way we are working to make our state the Healthiest State in the Nation!
The United States is currently facing a shortage of physicians, especially in rural areas. The situation is expected to get worse― more than one-third of our nation’s doctors will reach retirement age in the next ten years. At the same time, America’s baby boom generation is getting older and sicker, which is accelerating the need for additional healthcare.
The situation has become so critical that new bipartisan legislation, called the “Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019,” was just introduced in the U.S. Senate on February 6th. The law would open up 15,000 more Medicare-supported physician training positions at teaching hospitals throughout the country.
According to Brian Turney, Kingman Regional Medical Center Chief Executive Officer, attracting adequate numbers of healthcare providers is one of the hospital’s biggest challenges― both now and for the foreseeable future.
“Like the rest of the country, we need more providers to meet healthcare needs in our community. But, the nationwide shortage of doctors and other healthcare providers continues to intensify,” Turney states.
KRMC has a robust recruiting program to attract healthcare providers to Kingman. In fact, over the past two years, 24 doctors, 10 nurse practitioners, and 4 physician assistants have joined KRMC.
But, according to Turney, it’s still not enough to meet demand.
“Wait times to see certain specialties are longer than we would like. People get frustrated when it takes weeks or months to see a provider and I don’t blame them,” he says.
The hospital continues to work on alleviating the problem, which includes some innovative training.
Expanding primary care options in our community
KRMC’s Family Practice Residency Program includes nine residents at various stages in their 3-year residency. While training at KRMC, the residents provide a full array of medical services to people at every stage of life— from infants to the elderly.
The residents care for patients at KRMC’s Family Practice Residency Clinic located in Kingman and helps meet the growing need for primary care in the community. Patients gain the added benefit of having at least two physicians involved in their care—a resident physician and an experienced teaching physician. Also, as part of their training, resident doctors take extra time with their patients. As a result, clinic patients receive attentive and thorough care.
As the assistant medical director of the clinic, Dr. Cano completed his own residency at KRMC in 2015. “I believe in the program,” he said. “It shapes excellent family physicians who are skilled in quality patient care.”
Developing emergency medicine physicians
KRMC is the only rural hospital in Arizona to have an Emergency Medicine Residency Program. Here, future physicians gain vital experience in rural emergency medicine while training in KRMC’s busy emergency department.
The Emergency Medicine Residency Program is led by Dr. John Ashurst, who moved to Kingman from Pennsylvania to specifically manage the endeavor. Currently, the program has slots for 18 emergency medicine residents who work under the supervision of licensed emergency-medicine physicians.
Competition is very stiff among medical school graduates to get into KRMC’s Emergency Residency Program. For example, in 2018 the program received over 500 applications. These were narrowed down to the top 90 candidates. From those, only 6 doctors will be selected for the program.
The medical director of KRMC’s emergency department, Dr. Adam Dawson is also a former graduate of KRMC’s Emergency Residency Program.
“Our emergency medicine residents are amazing physicians, good people, and a positive influence in our community,” he said.
Facing the future
KRMC’s physician training programs have greatly enhanced efforts to bring good doctors into the community. However, given the national situation, Kingman will most likely face a shortfall for the foreseeable future. There are simply not enough doctors to go around.
In addition to its physician training programs, KRMC strategies for alleviating the situation also include employing more nurse practitioners and physician assistants to provide general medical care.
Additionally, the hospital is working to implement telemedicine technology for evaluating, diagnosing, and treating certain health conditions. Telemedicine uses remote video and other telecommunication technologies to connect local patients to healthcare providers who practice in larger cities.
KRMC is also partnering with community leaders, businesses, and organizations to make Kingman an attractive prospect for doctors and other professionals.
“As demand increases throughout the country, doctors have unlimited choice on where to live, raise their families, and practice medicine,” Turney said. “It’s very important that we work together as a community to enrich quality-of-life in Kingman.”
“This is not just essential for attracting and retaining medical professionals, but also for enhancing the health and wellbeing of our residents. This, in turn, will help decrease demand on our healthcare system.”