On Giving Hearts Day a local non-profit on the Western part of North Dakota raised more than $20,000 to support rural healthcare, and one small community is grateful for the foundation’s help.
For medical centers in small rural communities like Southwest Healthcare Services in Bowman, ND, trying to recruit and retain medical professionals can be tough.
“We are constantly looking for various medical staff. Whether it be doctors, mid-level nurse practitioners, etc,” said Chrissy Blankenbaker, who is a nurse at Southwest Healthcare Services.
The cause of the work shortage for rural medical centers can be the lack of quality of life activities a small community can offer, but many times it comes down to money.
“Money is a big part of it. Bigger places(cities) can offer more(money),” said Jen Jahner, director of rehabilitation at RehabVisions/Southwest Healthcare Services.
However, the Sunrise Foundation located in Bowman has been helping rural communities recruit and retain medical professionals for more than 30 years.
The foundation offers college scholarships, a student loan repayment program, and signing bonuses for rural medical centers in need of a little extra incentive.
Ron Palczewski, chairman of Sunrise Foundation, said scholarships can be up to $1,000 for rural high school students looking to enter the medical field, and college graduates can get up $10,000 over five years toward student loan debt.
The chairman also said signing bonuses can range from a few $1,000 for nurses up to $20,000 for physicians.
“Sometimes we need the signing bonus to compete with the larger cities,” said Palczewski.
Jahner, who is a native of Bowman and came out of graduate school with more than $100,000 in student debt, said she is utilizing the student loan repayment program the foundation offers.
“Opportunities for repayment. . . even a little bit helps. It is really important, especially coming back to a rural community”.
Blankenbaker said it is important for rural communities to have easy access to healthcare, so residents do not have to travel long distances to get it.
“Our closet specialty areas are Dickinson, ND, Bismarck, ND and Rapid City, SD or Spearfish, SD”.
Blankenbaker also said she is grateful for the foundation and its support, because it has helped Southwest Health Care Services address job shortages.
“There is always that potential for us not fill those(jobs), so having those extra offers is huge”.
Palczewski said the foundation will use the money from Giving Hearts Day for its scholarship program, and the Sunrise Foundation’s website says it has, “given 179 scholarships for more than $100,000 over the past 24 years”.
The Sunrise Foundation serves the rural counties of Slope, Bowman and Harding in South Dakota.