This week I began my rural rotation with the SEARCH scholarship program. This is a short-term experience offered (AND funded) by the Health Resources and Services Administration to give health care students the opportunity to decide if they want to work in rural health. Before I received my National Health Corps scholarship, I never knew so much about government health departments. Now I feel like they are a rich great-uncle I never knew I had. It’s almost enough to make me a Democrat. Whoa. Sit down, I said almost.
It’s Day 2 of the program and if I didn’t already want to work rural, I do now. I am living in an apartment in North Carolina with some other students and driving 45 minutes out to “K-town” (I don’t think privacy policies apply to entire towns but it feels better. Besides, it reminds me of British books where the characters lived in D-shire and traveled to B-ham). K-town is a small farming town that boasts a pretty river, a rich history, and an all-out fantastic community health center. The population is a poor one and the patients seen in this clinic often cannot pay, have limited transportation, and face multiple health risks.
Community Health Centers like the one in K-town accept patients with Medicare/Medicaid and also offer a sliding fee scale to match the patient’s income. But if the patient still can’t pay? They are still seen and treated. The facility itself has been recently renovated and offers family, pediatric, and OB-GYN services as well as dental and behavioral health services. This means that a lot of referrals are done in-house and consults are as easy as a knock on your neighbor’s door. I had the privilege of shadowing a very talented Certified Nurse Midwife as she examined patients from all sorts of backgrounds…and all very different from the Hawaii demographic. In some ways rural is rural. In other ways, they are worlds apart.
I’m enjoying the combination of a visit back to my southern roots and a taste of future practice. Before I left, my thoughts were fairly wedding centric. The day I flew out, we had a wonderful Friday of Father-Daughter trousseau shopping (yes, Daddy Bill knows what a trousseau is and yes, he let Megan and I go into certain shops alone. But he was very helpful at the decent stores). And after a full day of flying, it was great fun to be with Lindsey and Whitney for a night discussing all things bridal. But the work I am doing now is turning my eyes to the future. Roger and I are excited to start life together and then find out where we will invest two years of that life! There is one rural community out there that God has our names on…and we can’t wait.