Celebrate the power of rural health care with gratitude
From the column: "They know they’re needed. They know communities depend on them. They know that a future where their doors are permanently closed would be of no benefit to anyone."
Across Minnesota and nationwide, National Rural Health Day was celebrated Thursday. For the past 11 years, the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health has led the effort, setting aside the third Thursday of November to call attention to the selfless and community-minded spirit of health care professionals, health care organizations, and other stakeholders. They’re working daily to improve health, well-being, and equity in the country’s rural communities, where nearly 60 million Americans reside.
From Windom to Cloquet, Winona to Roseau, and all points in between and beyond, Minnesota’s rural physicians, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses and other nurses, behavioral and mental health specialists, dentists, therapists, technicians, public health professionals, health professions students, administrators, staff, and volunteers, as well as the facilities and agencies where these professionals work all deserved a big “thank you” on National Rural Health Day. The state’s rural health clinics and hospitals, public health departments, emergency medical services agencies, and other nonprofits who serve the health needs of our rural residents deserve thanks and so much more.
No matter where they practice — in critical-access hospitals, free clinics, nursing homes, mobile health clinics, federally qualified health centers, or the backs of ambulances — Minnesota’s rural health care workforce finds ways to give and then give some more. They give us their time. They give us their attention. They give us their unending compassion. They give us leadership and vision for meeting rural community health needs. They’re committed to the communities they serve, which are typically their own communities: the communities where they live, play, and shop; the communities where their kids go to school; and, very often, the communities where they grew up.
All they give is to ensure that you, I, and our family and friends receive the best care possible when facing what may potentially be one of the worst days of our lives.
The health care organizations that employ these caring professionals and the nonprofits they partner with deserve our appreciation as well. In today’s challenging economic environment, operating a rural health care facility or service is no easy task. But most organizations and their leaders find ways to keep the doors open. They ask the tough questions that need to be asked. They recruit and retain the right staff. They partner with community organizations. And they drive change, going the extra mile to advance health equity.
They know they’re needed. They know communities depend on them. They know that a future where their doors are permanently closed would be of no benefit to anyone.
So let me take this opportunity to thank all of the health care professionals, health care organizations, and health and wellness-related nonprofits which serve the rural communities throughout Minnesota.
When we need you, you are there. No matter the time of day. No matter our health concern. We can depend on you.
That sense of security is nothing short of priceless.
Happy National Rural Health Day to each one of you.
Sally Buck of Duluth is CEO of the National Rural Health Resource Center (ruralcenter.org), a nonprofit working to improve health care in rural communities.