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Focus on Rural Health

Community Showcases Introduce Future Physician Prospects to North Dakota Communities

Unique events draw providers and communities together.

By Stacy Kusler on

Minot Community Showcase

Picture yourself at a traditional physician job fair. It’s cramped, it’s loud, the booths are too close together, and it seems like two or three booths are getting all of the attention. Sound familiar? If you’re a healthcare organization, you’ve likely been in this position before. However, North Dakota healthcare facilities still see these events as a necessary effort to attract physician candidates. Knowing the drawbacks of the traditional job fair setting, while also keeping in mind the importance of getting the information about North Dakota healthcare facilities into the hands of North Dakota–trained physicians, is what motivated a partnership to bring new recruitment events to all four corners of North Dakota this past year.

The Area Health Education Center (AHEC), the Center for Rural Health (CRH), and the University of North (UND) Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences Department of Family and Community Medicine’s Office of Primary Care collaborated to organize four Community Showcase events around the state during March and April of 2016. These events allowed North Dakota communities (healthcare facilities) to “showcase” what it’s like to live and work in their particular location within the state. Events were held in Minot, Grand Forks, Fargo, and Bismarck. Current UND medical students as well as current North Dakota medical residents were invited to meet and mingle with various healthcare facilities from around the state. The showcase events attracted an average of 10 North Dakota healthcare facilities per event, and the four events drew attendance in total of over 60 medical students and residents.

The structure of the Community Showcases differed slightly from traditional job fairs. Rather than have facilities set up booths and wait for attendees to stop and seek out information, each community in attendance was given a specific five-minute time slot to present information about their community and practice opportunity in front of the entire audience of attendees. This unique structure allowed all attendees to hear from all facilities even if they didn’t have a chance to visit their booth individually. Additionally, each medical student and resident in attendance was also given time to introduce themselves and share what area of practice they hope to pursue, and what post-residency plans they may have in mind. After the brief presentations were complete, the healthcare facilities and attendees were able to connect individually and learn about what a future employer-and-employee relationship could look like.

The North Dakota Community Showcases were modeled after an event the Idaho Bureau of Rural Health and Primary Care hosts each year, called Meet the Residents. Whereas the Idaho event focused solely on medical residents nearing completion of their residency, the North Dakota Community Showcases focused primarily on UND’s third- and fourth-year medical students in addition to medical residents. Many North Dakota healthcare facilities find it difficult to connect with residents in the state, and even more difficult to connect with medical students. That, combined with the growing trend for facilities to recruit earlier and earlier, communities needed a way to connect with our locally trained medical professionals before they reached the stage of residency and a possible out of state move. The showcases provided a unique opportunity to meet the medical students and residents, and make connections that it is hoped will bear fruit in the form of an employment agreement.

Northland Community Health Centers, a Federally Qualified Health Center with locations in seven communities throughout the state, attended all four showcase events. Jessica Westphal, outreach and enrollment coordinator for the organization based out of Turtle Lake said, “Of all the [recruitment] events I have attended, I must say this is by far my favorite. I loved the interaction, and I think it was a great opportunity to talk about our company and listen to what the students have to say. In most cases, we don’t get to reach as many students individually.”

Mountrail County Medical Center (MCMC) in Stanley also attended all four events. Dr. Mark Longmuir, MCMC’s one and only physician, took time away from his practice to attend two of the four showcase events. “I thought it was great to be able to talk to the residents and medical students about our facility, as well as healthcare not only in rural areas but in all of North Dakota,” Longmuir said.

I've done the big city thing, and I've come back to rural.
Rocky Zastoupil and Dr. Mark Longmuir
Rocky Zastoupil and Dr. Mark Longmuir speak at the Minot Community Showcase.

MCMC’s CEO, Rocky Zastoupil, was also able to attend the Minot and Bismarck events. During his five-minute presentation, Zastoupil expressed the need for another physician to join Dr. Longmuir to serve the patient population in rural Stanley. “I’ve done the big city thing, and I’ve come back to rural. It’s important to go where you’re needed. That’s what I did, and I hope that’s what you do too.”

Dates have not been set for the 2017 Community Showcase events. Further information will be published on the Center for Rural Health’s website: www.ruralhealth.und.edu.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of North Dakota Medicine.

Stacy Kusler Stacy Kusler is the connection between rural healthcare facilities in North Dakota and qualified health professional job seekers. As the workforce specialist, she assists rural facilities to attract medical providers and other health professionals to their communities by sharing job opportunities. Through her position, Stacy is working to reduce the healthcare workforce shortages throughout the state.