This summer, 18 university students will learn first-hand about providing healthcare in rural South Dakota. This is thanks to nine communities’ collaborations with a grant program designed to raise awareness for the healthcare services needs in underserved areas of the state.
The nine communities were selected as “Best Practice Model” sites for the Rural Experiences for Health Professions Students Program (REHPS) in 2013. The REHPS program connects interprofessional students enrolled in physician, physician assistant, doctor of nursing practice, and pharmacy programs through the University of South Dakota (USD) and South Dakota State University (SDSU) with medical professionals practicing in nine rural South Dakota communities. The program has expanded from three sites in 2011, to six in 2012, and to nine in 2013.
Students are selected in a competitive process to participate in REHPS’ Summer Experience Program 2013.
• Custer: Amanda Niemann, Physician Assistant student from Foley, MN; Amber Zemlicka, Pharmacy student from Twin Brooks, SD
• Miller: Rebecka Bogue, Physician student from Beresford; Claire Carson, Pharmacy student from Custer
• Parkston: Maria Christopher, Pharmacy student from Letcher, SD; Martha Holstein, Physician student from Fairfax, SD
• Platte: Shelby Nielsen, Pharmacy student from Castlewood, SD; Erin Rasmussen, Physician student from Vermillion
• Redfield: Abbie Johnson, Pharmacy student from Mt. Vernon, SD; Kevin Oliver, Physician student from Aberdeen
• Sisseton: Ashley Benda, Pharmacy student from Jackson, MN; Elizabeth Hoffman, Physician student from Eureka
• Wagner: Merritt Groh, Physician Assistant student from Sioux City, IA; Murphy Mack, Pharmacy student from Redfield
• Wessington Springs: Emily Coughlin, Pharmacy student from Pierre; Ashley Zwiefel, Doctor of Nursing Practice student from Burt, IA
• Winner: Deb Busmann, Doctor of Nursing Practice student from Sioux Falls; Kirsten Johnson, Pharmacy student from Webster, SD
REHPS’ Summer Experience has experienced significant growth; in just its third year, both students and communities are recognizing the opportunities gained by the experience. Student interest grew this year by 283 percent compared to 2011. Exposure to a rural setting early on, brings new professionals back to these areas after graduation. In addition to the enriching career experience, students will also be involved in a community project designed to provide interaction with people outside of a clinical setting. The students will call their new communities home for four weeks.
“Healthcare professions students get a first-hand look at the amazing services rural facilities offer their patients. They also discover what these communities are all about. This experience can mark an important step in the students’ professional paths,” said Kassy Youmans, REHPS program manager. “Attracting students back to these areas after graduation addresses healthcare service shortages across South Dakota.”
South Dakota is experiencing a shortage of healthcare workers. The number of high school graduates in the state decreases as the number of retirees is increasing. Between now and 2018, 10 percent of the new jobs in South Dakota will be healthcare related. Fifty-nine of South Dakota’s 66 counties are designated as medically underserved.