Health care in Greater Minnesota is a subject that troubles many leaders, citizens, and health care professionals in the state. Roughly 25 percent of Minnesota’s population lives in rural spots outside of bustling metro areas, and for those individuals, access to health care and the specialists they may require can be a struggle. It can take hours to drive to the nearest hospital or clinic to receive the care they need. To complicate the issue further, there’s a deficit of skilled health care professionals to staff these facilities in Greater Minnesota. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the ratio of all types of physicians per population is eight times higher in rural Minnesota than in urban areas. There’s not enough to go around.
There’s a clear need for the next generation of skilled health care professionals to look for work beyond the metro area after graduation. The good news is, some students are answering the call. Ivy Braaten grew up in Roseau, Minnesota—a small town up north with a population of about 3,000, located just 10 miles south of the Canadian border. Ivy chose to major in Health Services Management (HSM) and knew she wanted to apply her knowledge at a small critical access hospital in Roseau called LifeCare Medical Center.
We sat down with Ivy to learn more about her degree, her internship in Roseau, and her plans after she graduates in the fall of 2020.
How did you know you wanted to pursue a career in health care?
I’ve always been interested in health care and the medical field. Throughout high school I tried to figure out what I wanted to do specifically. Once I was at the U of M, I signed up for the Orientation to Health Careers class, offered through the Pre-Health Student Resource Center. It’s one credit and it introduces you to different programs at the U. That’s how I learned about the Health Services Management (HSM) major. It sounded really awesome, so I ended up applying.
We understand you recently completed your HSM internship requirement in your hometown of Roseau. Can you share more about that experience?
Sure—I interned at LifeCare Medical Center during the summer of 2019 in Roseau. It’s a small critical access hospital. With just 25 beds, it’s a pretty small facility. It’s the only hospital within a 60-mile radius, so they serve a pretty large region. It’s been really interesting to learn about rural health care, how unique it is, and the opportunities and challenges that they have to deal with. I see how it’s the same as facilities in the Twin Cities, but different in other ways.
How is it different?
Roseau is a small, tight-knit community, and the atmosphere at LifeCare feels that way, too. That worked out to my benefit in the long run. During my internship, I had exposure to so many different departments, even the clinical areas, that I wasn’t expecting to get exposure to. There aren’t as many employees, so everyone has to work together more and there are overlaps in responsibilities.
Tell us about some of the projects you worked on there.
I spent a lot of time working on the Community Health Needs Assessment. It’s an IRS requirement that all nonprofit hospitals have to do to keep their tax-exempt status. LifeCare is in the third round of doing this assessment. When I was looking at the information, I noticed some problematic health trends in the community, such as obesity, smoking, and mental health. I considered whether or not the assessment was a good way to improve the health of the community because the same things were being identified year after year. I took the information and helped the team develop an implementation plan to address the community’s needs for the next three years.
Why is health care in Greater Minnesota an issue we should care about?
Hospitals in Greater Minnesota are crucial to providing access to care while also being significant contributors to a community’s economic well-being by providing services and employing individuals in the community. Rural hospitals like LifeCare are unique in the sense that they face entirely different obstacles than those in urban areas--obstacles ranging from staff recruitment to services reimbursement. These obstacles are further complicated by economic factors, geographic isolation, and educational shortcomings that keep people in rural communities from living normal healthy lives. Many rural communities are also medically underserved. For example, the Health-Related Trends from the 2019 County Health Rankings for Roseau County show the frightening reality that is prevalent throughout Greater Minnesota:
• 1 Primary Care Physician per 1,740 residents | State of Minnesota average 1,120:1
• 1 Dentist per 1,921 residents | State of Minnesota average 1,410:1
• 1 Mental Health Provider per 3,830 residents | State of Minnesota average 430:1
However, the opportunities for rural health care are just as exciting. Health care is constantly changing and rural hospitals like LifeCare are finding unique ways to keep the communities they serve close to home in times of need. For example, hospitals are now starting to offer swing bed programs and telehealth services.
You’re beginning your final year of school. What do you plan to do after you graduate?
I would eventually like to end up back in a rural health care setting, whether or not it’s Roseau. I just like the small-town vibe, that sense of community that isn’t necessarily there in the metro area.
Overall, Minnesota has a lot of opportunity in health services management, and I’m looking forward to beginning my career in the field.
Ivy Braaten is a recipient of the CCAPS Undergraduate Tuition Scholarship. She is the VP of Correspondence for the HSM Student Group.
If you’re interested in pursuing health care but you don’t know what path you’ll choose, enroll in an orientation in health careers class. You get to hear different presenters plug different programs. Another great idea is to job shadow or attend informational interviews to get a better understanding of the options available to students. People are always super willing to sit down with you, even if they don’t know you. So that was really helpful, learning what people do in different roles at different organizations and narrowing the options down.