During my rotation at the Swift River Rural Training Track, I had the opportunity to work at a family medicine clinic with the family medicine doctors as they took care of their patients in Rumford Hospital, as well as with emergency physicians in the Rumford Hospital Emergency Department. This was my first introduction to rural medicine, and as I spent time in each setting, I learned about what it really means to work in a rural environment. As the physicians moved effortlessly from inpatient to outpatient to emergency care, I saw how a small group of dedicated physicians can make a real difference in small communities.

Collaborating to provide high-quality, full-spectrum care

While working in the hospital, I got to see first hand the difference between medicine in a rural environment compared to what I had already seen at the level-two trauma center. The family medicine physicians worked together to provide all of the care needed by the patients, often without having specialists to consult. This lack of specialists made it very clear that the physicians had to collaborate to provide high-quality care; something they did well and effortlessly. Along with providing high-quality inpatient care, the family physicians also ran the maternity ward, helping usher new life into this world. This opportunity to work in all aspects of medicine seems to happen only in smaller communities where it is difficult to gain access to specialists that are available at all times. By relying on each other and working together, the full-spectrum of high-quality care provided by these physicians looked as rewarding as it did impressive.

After rounding in the hospital, these well-rounded physicians headed next door to provide care to all ages in the clinic. By getting to know their patients well, it made it easy for them to manage their healthcare needs, while at the same time making it easier to care for patients who needed admission. The physicians already knew the patient (and most of the patient’s family) and were able to provide individualized care based on years of knowledge of the patient. Along with adult medicine, I was also able to partake in the care of children as well as pregnant women. This full-spectrum care showed again and again how important these physicians are to the rural community of Rumford.

One realization I made as I worked with the emergency physicians was what a small, tight-knit community in which I was working. As my time in the ED passed, I saw multiple people who I had helped care for in the office next door a week or two earlier. This small amount of knowledge of the patients made their urgent and emergent care easier as I already had an idea of their needs. Overall, doing this rural track rotation taught me the importance of full-spectrum physicians in rural communities and solidified my desire to become a family medicine physician. One day, I hope to have the knowledge, expertise, and commitment that all of the physicians I was lucky enough to work with showed to their rural community.