During our didactic year of PA school, we had a meeting about the Rural Experiences for Health Professions Students (REHPS) and after that I knew it was something I was interested in doing. Being from a small community in South Dakota I know how important it is the serve the rural communities throughout the state and this program gives students great opportunity to learn more about rural communities and the adaptations they must go through to treat their patients with limited resources. Originally I was scheduled to go to Chamberlin, SD however with that taking place in the midst of COVID-19 I was unable to do that but thankfully I was reassigned to go to Bennet County Hospital (BCH) in Martin, SD for three weeks.
Upon my arrival to Martin on Sunday evening the CEO of the hospital showed me the house that the hospital had rented out for students, which is where I would be staying. The next morning when I got to the hospital, I was introduced to all the staff. Everyone at BCH was very welcoming, helpful and kind. During my three weeks in Martin I had the opportunity to work, interact and learn from many interdisciplinary areas in the hospital, clinic, nursing home and home health. I was in Martin with Kirstyn who is a pharmacy student so we worked together on different projects and taught each other a lot about our professional programs.
All the providers at BCH were very inviting and helpful, I was able to largely participate in the patients care. They allowed me to get a lot of hands on experience with the patients consent and the providers help which is very crucial in learning. I was able to perform procedures that I have not been able to thus far in my education. The providers were willing to let me assess the patient, develop differential diagnoses, and assess and treat the patient which really aided in my learning. All the staff was very willing to answer any questions I had and showed me different ways of doing and thinking about things. I got to spend time with radiology watching CT scans, X-Rays and ultrasounds. I spent a day with home health, helping to provide care for patients in their home. I also got to see a lot of the nurse’s duties in the hospital, emergency room, clinic and nursing home. I spent an afternoon in the lab learning about their different equipment and what they can do in their facility.
The majority of the staff at BCH lives in Martin so the patients are their friends, neighbors and family members. They are willing to go above and beyond to get the patients the care they need. Although a higher level of care than BCH can offer is often needed, before transferring the patient the staff does everything they can do to make the patient comfortable and feel taken care of. Many people that work at BCH carry multiple roles within the hospital and the community and they go above what is expected of them for their community. The ambulance is run by a lot of people that also work for the hospital. They work long hours and never complain about it. I am honored to get to experience what it is like to be in a rural community with a limited amount of resources like Martin. My experience participating in the REHPS program has definitely aided in my learning and I consider it a very important step in my PA school journey and as a future medical provider.