Rural communities across the state are in need of more medical staff.
Over the last 15 years, a University of Missouri study looked into a program where MU medical students were more likely to start their careers away from big cities.
It's encouraging that more future doctors and nurses are pursuing a career in communities often overlooked by aspiring medical professionals.
The study looked at 230 medical students, between their first and second year of medschool, enrolled in the summer community program in rural areas.
Just less than half of the students in the program chose to start their careers in smaller towns.
It takes four-to-six weeks of living and working in a rural community for 46 percent of medical students in theprogram to want to start their medical careers in a smaller town.
"We think early exposure programs like this, in addition to other training options through medicalschool, can really make a difference in the rural physician work force, not only for our state but nationally," said Dr. Kevin Kane, lead researcher.
SomethingKane says is needed.
"Youknow, nationally less than 10 percent of physicians practice in rural areas even though20 percent of ourU.S. population lives in a rural area.Here in Missouri, about37 percent of our population lives in rural areas, and only18 percent of primary care physicians practices in rural areas,"Kane said.
Ruth Threlked knows this all toowell. She is a family nurse practitioner who started her schooling at MU and is now working in Hallsville.
"WhenI got my nursepractitioners, I did my clinicals in the rural areas because that is my area of love.I got, actually, fromCentral Missouri amaster's degree in ruralnursing," Threlked said.
Kane's research showsthat introducing young medical students to the option of rural work is influential.
The findings of his study weren't surprising, but hopeful.
"They were really encouraging that programs such as this, that exposes students to rural practices, can influence their future decisions and future careers," Kane said. "I think it's very encouraging that that has been found to be true with thatstudy. According to research, 72 percent of students said they were more interested in practicing in a rural area someday."
"I think it's very encouraging that morefamily-practice physicians are wanting to come to rural areas. It is challenging to work in the ruralareas,"Threlked said.
This program is getting more doctors to rural communities but keeping their work in small cities is posing a new challenge.
"We get to know ourpatients. We may be seeing fewer patients and it's very rewarding to be able to provide care for themthroughout theirlifespan, which the specialists or doctors inColumbia don't always get to do that," said Threlked.