Rural Medicine: In Critical Condition Part III

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Updated: Mon, 26 May 2014 10:17:46 CST

The Cornhusker state is facing a health care crisis. Doctors are retiring and future doctors are deciding not to practice in rural Nebraska. In tonight's edition of our special report Rural Medicine: In Critical Condition, we look at an endangered species in medicine, the small town doctor.

It's not only critical, it's getting worse. In the next 10-14 years over a third of Nebraska's physicians will retire, that's according to the Nebraska center for rural health research.

Meet Dr. Keith Shuey, a primary care doctor. He's spent his whole life taking care of people in rural Nebraska.

"That's why I'm here. That's my business."

He set up shop in the small town of Tecumseh back in 1966. He's been there ever since. A town where everyone knows their neighbors.

"I think that's one of the things that bothers some medical students and people who are considering primary care because obviously it's a small town and everybody knows everybody and if you have something go wrong or a bad result everybody in town knows about it. I mean where as in Lincoln and Omaha it wouldn't even put a blip on the radar."

But he wouldn't have it any other way.

"Dr. Shuey has been doing this for the past 48 years. And he's a rare breed because doctors in rural Nebraska are few and far between."

"I'm on call my cell phone number is listed in the phone book I don't have any problem with that people call me on that, I take care of problems."

He's one of three physicians in the town of 1,800.

"I've delivered daughters of gals that I delivered."

The 74 year-old doctor still works full time and still makes house calls. His busy schedule means missing out on family events.

"Tonight my granddaughter has a dance concert over in Iowa and I can't go because I'm backed up."

Shuey and the two other doctors in town rotate emergency room service at Johnson County Hospital. He says it isn't rare to get called in to work in the middle of the night.

"I'm used to it's that part of the game that were in. I knew that when I signed up. It's no different than going into the military. You go into the military you better realize you're gonna be controlled by your superiors, that's the way it is."

But Shuey says today's young doctors don't want to work long hours in a town where businesses close at 5 P.M.

"I have medical students here with me all the time for their rural rotation through the college of medicine and some of them do not like the visibility, having the constant personal contact. They don't like being entwined with the patients 24/7 365 days a year."

Coming up tonight on News 5 at 10 we'll bring you the final part of our four part series. Rural Medicine: In Critical Condition. We'll hear more from Doctor Shuey and meet his physician assistant, who he says is part of the solution.