Rural Experiences for Health Professions Students Finishes its Sixth Year


(Left to Right Seated): Elizabeth Murray, April Lick, Shannon Miller, Emily Young, Haylee Erickson, Rebecca Jarratt, Ashley Reierson, Rebecca Runge, Nathan Wunder, (Second row, standing, left to right) Mariah Taylor, Kristin Fiegen, Tanya Ochsner, Lauren Fanta, Ali Haines, Laura Rezac, Alyssa Kerkaert, Mandy Wilde, Lauren Kuschel, Kiel Grant (Back row, left to right) Joseph Bretschneider, Betsy Price, Nathan Smith, Wade Johnson, Rick Heiman, Nicholas Purcell, Spencer Kurtz, Rebecca Donaldson, and David Boedeker.

Fourteen South Dakota communities welcomed 28 health professions students for four weeks during the summer of 2016. The Rural Experiences for Health Professions Students (REHPS) summer experience is designed to bring health professions graduates back to rural South Dakota for rewarding careers. Communities selected to participate in the REHPS summer experience must have populations under 10,000 people and house a critical access hospital.

The 2016 REHPS communities were: Bowdle, Chamberlain, Custer, Faulkton, Hot Springs, Miller, Parkston, Philip, Platte, Redfield, Sisseton, Sturgis, Wagner, and Winner. In its sixth year, REHPS is designed to not only expose students to the world of rural healthcare, but it also brings two students from different disciplines together for an interprofessional experience. The students were selected through a competitive process. Students were enrolled in one of the following programs at SDSU and USD: clinical psychology, family nurse practitioner, medical, medical laboratory science, physician assistant, pharmacy, and social work.

One of the 2016 REHPS students was Rebecca Runge, a medical student from the Sanford School of Medicine at USD, who is experienced rural healthcare at Avera Hand County Memorial Hospital in Miller, just 12 miles from her home of Wessington.

After her first week, Runge commented: “I wake up each morning excited to start my day and fall asleep each evening imagining what coming back to practice here would be like.”

Students are inspired by the experience, due in large part to the host communities, and their professionals’ mentoring skills. Rebecca Donaldson, a master of social work student from USD, wrote about her experience in Faulkton.

“The REHPS program gave me the opportunity to not only work with various individuals from different disciplines, but I was able to see how the social work profession can play a crucial role in the health profession. I experienced the rural community first hand and have a grasp on the importance of rural health care. I hope to apply the knowledge and experiences I gained to my future profession as a social worker,” Donaldson wrote.

REHPS receives funding from the Office of Rural Health/South Dakota Department of Health and is managed by the Yankton Rural Area Health Education Center. Follow the student’s experiences at