In Honor of National Rural Health Day, I am happy to present some thoughts from Marilyn Connor, Executive Director of Central Wyoming Hospice and Transitions Program, and one of our Hospice Advocates, about the challenges they face in providing quality hospice care in rural America:
Growing up in urban Chicago, I was raised with the misconception that rural healthcare was substandard. In my mind, rural healthcare lacked the sophistication and quality us “urbanites” were privy to.
Having spent the past 13 years as a hospice administrator in Wyoming, I am now a very vocal advocate for the quality of rural healthcare. As a rural hospice provider, we do have unique challenges; but most of those challenges make our program stronger.
Our state can boast we have more cattle than people. This means it may take us a year to find a qualified certified social worker. It also means we are very self-reliant and can work autonomously. It makes us work harder to ensure we are educated and up to date on all issues impacting hospice and palliative care. Our staff is strongly encouraged to spend time on the NHPCO website and become a part of My NHPCO so that we can stay abreast of changes.
We have a serious physician shortage, which, coupled with a limited census, prevents us from having a captured Medical Director. On the flip side, we know every doctor in our service area on a first name basis and they know and trust our staff. We are considered a major player in the community’s continuum of care.
We have a limited pool of nurses to choose from. As a result of the limited number of nurses, it is no secret as to who Is a choice employer. And it is no secret that while we have very high expectations of our staff, we get so much in return from our patients.
Distance is an enormous challenge, especially in the midst of a typical winter snow. We often times spend more windshield time for a patient than we do bedside time. We are trying to narrow this gap with the use of technology.
We have limited staffing and medical resources but we have an abundance of community support, web and phone based support and an incredibly strong team. Our QAPI program will demonstrate our care is second to none and our compassion is impressive. We have all of the quality our urban colleagues have, wrapped in a hug from our rural community.
Please ask Congress to support the Rural Access to Hospice Act to help ensure quality end-of-life care is available to all Americans! Click Here to Take Action!