This post comes to us from our Kansas 3RNet member:
A place of humble farmers and tight-knit families, rural Kansas normally receives little attention. But a hard-working doctor may be bucking the trend.
Jennifer Brull, M.D., has practiced in Plainville, population 2,000, for 11 years, and in that time, has garnered numerous national honors, including being the only physician in the United States to be named a Software Advice Electronic Health Records All-Star in two categories.
Software Advice recognized Brull in 2013 for improving the quality of care for her patients and for increasing her solo practice's efficiency and profitability in the process. Software Advice is a software buyer's resource that is part of Gartner, the world's leading information technology research and advisory company.
Most recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Million Hearts recognized Brull, along with eight other public and private practices across the country, as a 2013 Million Hearts Hypertension Champion for success in achieving blood pressure control rates greater than 70 percent.
Brull said she attributes her success to how much she enjoys her position.
"I really, really like what I do, so doing it becomes easier," she said. "Also, I'm a little competitive, so being good at something I have made into a career helps to fill that need in me."
The award-winning doctor has become quite the standout in her small town, but she certainly didn't move to Plainville to procure plaques.
As a participant in the Kansas Medical Student Loan Program, her education at the University of Kansas Medical Center was covered under the condition that she paid back the loan by practicing in a rural area for the first four years of her career.
She's obviously stayed far longer than the required stint.
"I like living in smaller places, and I like the type of practice that is associated with living here," Brull said. "I'm my own boss, and I like that."
In addition to savoring the autonomy she enjoys as a solo-practice physician, Brull said she relishes the opportunity to get to know her patients better — a factor she appreciates even more due to her friendships with city-dwelling physicians.
"I have friends who practice in more urban areas, and it's very foreign to them, how close I am to my patients," Brull said. "For example, if my patients want to friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, I have no problems with that.
"My physician friends in bigger cities are freaked out by that, and I just have to explain to them — in the area you're in, the chance that you're going to run into these people out in the community is very low, but I see my patients at church, at my kids' school events, at 4-H and at community events," she said. "When there's a population of 2,000, you can't separate patients and friends."
Brull chose to let her patients become her friends. It's a choice she said makes her Plainville practice even more fulfilling.
"It will become your extended family," she said. "We feel really good about the community. We feel like the kids are safe. There's a really good connection between personal and professional happiness."
You can read more about Dr. Brull's recognition at The Profitable Practice.
Making the most of rural life
If the goal is to make the most out of living in a rural area, Jennifer Brull, M.D., said it all comes down to reasonable expectations.
"If you aren't going to be happy without a Target down the street, practicing in a rural area is probably not a good fit for you," Brull said.
That's not to say Brull doesn't enjoy shopping and dining — it's just that she does those things a little differently.
"I love good food, and I love eating out, so we travel to do that — it's a treat," she said. "We can't go eat Thai food every night of the week, but we sure can when we travel to Kansas City or Wichita."
Brull thought she might miss the shopping, but with online retailers providing more and more via the web, she's able to make many purchases from home and let companies deliver them straight to her door.
In addition to adjusting expectations in the realms of shopping and dining, Brull said those considering rural practices need to recognize that they are going to get to know their patients much more closely than they would in a larger city.
"People who don't feel comfortable being friends with their patients are probably not going to find a good fit in a rural area," she said. "But for those who like to connect on multiple levels, it's a really good fit."
Especially in a rural area, Brull said job satisfaction has plenty to do with public and client interaction.
"If you get involved in your community quickly, your community will love you," she says. "And that connection is so rewarding."
Trying out rural life
Before taking the plunge into the wide open spaces of rural Kansas, medical students can intern with physicians like Jennifer Brull, M.D.
Brull, of Plainville, currently has two students interning at her office, both of whom are in their third year of rotations.
Students can even spend time in the summer on rural rotations — an opportunity she says gives students enough exposure to let them know what life is really like in a rural area.
Students are sometimes pleasantly surprised how much technology and how many services are available at rural hospitals.
"We can do things people might assume you can't," Brull said. "If you're innovative and practice, we can do a lot of things bigger cities do - often better because of the smaller focus of care."
Some students she's worked with grew up rural and understand the culture, but for others, the experience is almost totally foreign. Brull said exposing city kids to rural health care is one of her favorite things.
"I love having them here," she said. "Some of them are just amazed — they haven't really traveled outside of a larger city before. That's part of the fun of my job."
Written by Tiffany Roney, February 2015
Provider Spotlight Series is produced by Rural Health Education and Services, The University of Kansas Medical Center
View more Kansas Provider Spotlights at http://www.kumc.edu/community-engagement/rural-health/publications-and-resources/provider-spotlight.html
Learn more about opportunities in Kansas on 3RNet by visiting Kansas' state page.
Jennifer Brull, M.D.