3RNet Blog

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Boone County, Nebraska. If you’ve never heard of it, believe it or not you are missing out. You are missing out on a community that has worked, and worked very hard, to make sure its citizens have access to quality health care.

This might not seem like that big of a deal, right? If you’re sick, you go to the doctor. But what if just when you need one most, there was no physician to see?

In fact, maintaining access to providers is an achievement thousands of communities strive for, and struggle to see through, every day. We could easily, and understandably so, get caught up in the obvious heartbreak and frustration this creates all across the country. For a moment, however, we would like to focus on the successes of Boone County, Nebraska. Ensuring your community has access to health care providers is not an easy task, and we would like to applaud their triumphs.

Our federal government works with each state to calculate how many health care providers there are in various locations. If there is a shortage, an area is called a Health Professional Shortage Area, or HPSA. HPSAs are used to help determine areas in need of health care providers. Loan repayment programs such as the National Health Service Corps and many state-level programs use HPSAs to help determine which areas allow health professionals to qualify for certain loan repayment or scholarship programs.

Boone County was able to ELIMINATE their status as a HPSA. You can read about one physician's story about how they came to work in Boone County below. 

Tom Rauner, the Nebraska Primary Care Office director, explains why no longer being a HPSA is so impressive, “As a former federal geographic health professional shortage area and a former state shortage area, Boone County is an example of what a community can achieve when there is a good fit made by the community and federal and state programs which aid in providing incentives.”

Rauner, who is also the 3RNet member in Nebraska, works with communities across the state to help with their recruitment and retention in many ways.  He and others in the Office of Rural Health determine federal and state shortage area designations to keep areas eligible for loan repayment incentives and keeping Governor Designated areas for Medicare Certified Rural Health Clinics up-to-date. They also assists rural hospitals with Critical Access Hospital status and the national Rural Medicare Hospital Flexibility programs; both the CAH and Flex program are vital to keeping rural hospitals financially viable.

Finally, Tom Rauner and his team at the Nebraska Office of Rural Health provide assistance with recruitment and retention efforts including working with residencies, posting job opportunities on 3RNet, and many other efforts that have proven to be successful for Nebraska. You can read more about recruitment and retention assistance in Nebraska from a previous blog post. 

Medical resident will fill rural doctor void in Albion

Thank you to Nebraska newspaper The Independent for allowing us to link to their story on Boone County.

In many ways, Dr. Bridgette Pudwill is like any other medical resident.

Through the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Family Medicine Residency Program, she sees patients in the clinic in Grand Island and performs procedures, such as C-sections.

But in a year, Pudwill, 28, will take a path that is different than many of her peers.

She will pack up her medical supplies and move with her husband and young son to practice in a rural area.
Across the U.S., there is a shortage of physicians in rural areas. Nebraska is no different. The Department of Health & Human Services website for Nebraska lists 60 counties as having a shortage of family practice doctors. But though Pudwill is choosing a path not many other young doctors are choosing, to her, it’s only natural. Read the full story here. 

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