Rural Medicine: In Critical Condition Part II

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Updated: Fri, 23 May 2014 10:06:20 CST

Amidst the rural healthcare crisis, doctors are finding ways to ease the shortage. Rural physicians are relying more and more on nurse practitioners and physician assistants to take some of the weight off their shoulders. And they are utilizing new technology to connect with doctors hundreds of miles away...

Telemedicine is changing rural healthcare. Doctor Jeff Harrison told me the technology has been extremely successful in eliminating the isolation of small town physicians. The technology can connect rural emergency rooms to metropolitan hospitals in a matter of seconds.

A new piece of technology is revolutionizing healthcare. Many doctors are turning to telemedicine to bandage the problem.
"You have camera in the room patients come in and now you've got someone sitting 200 miles away sitting there helping you through trauma."
Some experts suggest allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to function to the full extent of their training could ease the doctor shortage. This past session, a bill was presented in the that would have granted nurse practitioners full autonomy. But Governor Heineman vetoed the bill.
"I relied on the advice of the chief medical officer. It's headed in the right direction, we just thought they needed more experienced training and that's what we suggested and had it had that in there I would've signed it into law."
Dr. Harrison echoes the Governor's decision.

"By the time a nurse practitioner is done and is ready to go practice they've had 1,000 hours of clinical training. Most of us who train who go out and practice realize even at 16,000 hours of clinical training after medical school and residency still have a lot of things we don't know."

Fewer and fewer young doctors are choosing to practice in rural areas. And, the problem comes down to money. The average medical student from here graduates with over 150,000 dollars of debt regardless of what you go into when you realize the most lucrative paid specialties are specialties and require large populations its much less attractive to go out to a rural area."
Sitorius: "I think some of the barriers are the same barriers that we've had for years, being isolated as a provider, being on call 24 hours a day or feeling that responsibility."

But some doctors don't mind the responsibility. Friday night on News 5 at 6, we'll sit down with Dr. Keith Shuey. He's a primary care doctor in the small town of Tecumseh. We'll talk about the issues facing rural doctors.