We're on a Mission
July 16, 2019
By Jessica Lindsey
The launch of this unique initiative will expand the focus of the Kansas Recruitment and Retention Center (KRRC) and create an avenue for fostering long-lasting connections that will impact healthcare in Kansas and around the world.
The new initiative, Medical Mission Partners of Kansas, builds on the KRRC's established infrastructure and relationship-driven approach.
Since 2004, the KRRC-a program facilitated by the University of Kansas Medical Center's Rural Health Education and Services (RHES) department-has placed more than 235 healthcare providers with over 90 different employers from across the state. Specializing in healthcare workforce development, retention, and strategic planning, the KRRC works to strengthen the healthcare workforce in Kansas by matching qualified medical providers with job opportunities in rural and underserved communities.
"With this new strategy, we're targeting the provider whose driving factor for going into healthcare is their desire to care for patients in underserved areas," explained Joyce Grayson, Director of RHES. "What we've learned is that providers who are interested in doing medical mission work, those are the people who are most likely to be interested in making an impact in a rural community."
Rural Kansas is not a third-world country by any means, emphasized Grayson, but they do parallel in their need for accessible and sustainable healthcare.
KRRC Senior Recruitment Coordinator Sasha Randolph experienced the similarities firsthand during a recent international trip. Randolph traveled to Mazatlan, Mexico, where she worked alongside a medical mission team as they performed more than 100 well-child checks over a three-day period. People traveled and waited for hours to be seen by a physician.
"That parallels with rural and underserved Kansas in this way: There are people in our own backyard who have to drive four hours to reach the medical care they need," she continued. "Community members are driving hours to make sure their child has a well-child check. If there is no means for them to do that, they're forced to skip it. And on the other end, there is the aging population in these communities to consider. Where will they go for the healthcare they need if they can't find a ride to the appointment that is hours away from home?"
Of the 105 counties in Kansas, all but five of them are considered rural. In her role with the KRRC, Randolph partners with healthcare facilities around the state. She visits each community and works with the facility to identify their needs.
"There are rural Kansas communities in desperate need of physicians. The people in these communities are in desperate need of healthcare within their reach," Randolph said. "And we know that those with a servant's heart tend to want to practice in rural and underserved areas. We want to align those providers with communities that need them and organizations that understand their passion and purpose."
The mission-focused approach is about finding the provider who takes what would typically appear to be the challenges of rural health care and views them instead as opportunities to serve in a capacity where they can make the biggest difference.
"We want to build a relationship with that provider. Walk the journey with them as they develop their personal goals for their practice and, along the way, show them the breadth of opportunities for them in Kansas," Grayson said.
The inspiration for Medical Mission Partners of Kansas came from work already being done in Southwest Kansas where a mission-focused culture has transformed Kearny County Hospital and the communities it serves.
Hospital administration implemented a mission-driven recruitment plan to draw physicians who are passionate about serving both at home and abroad, offering incentives including paid time off to serve on international medical mission trips.
Kearny County Hospital CEO Benjamin Anderson has seen hope and a renewed sense of pride return to the community as the new model has led to sustainable increases and more accessible care for patients-and he believes this approach can work for other communities as well.
"The launch of Medical Mission Partners of Kansas broadens our access to resources we don't currently have. We want to help these mission-driven providers do what they do well. And we want to help other organizations understand and develop a similar culture so they can capture the hearts of these doctors," said Anderson, who collaborates with other healthcare organizations, offering tools and insight into the strategy.
While identifying providers is one side, partnering with healthcare organizations will be a central piece in this new approach.
"We want to work with healthcare employers to introduce the concept of a mission-focused culture, we aren't giving them a blueprint to follow," explained Grayson. "As we've always done-we want to work with organizations to connect them with providers who are in it for the long haul, who are committed to the community."
A major factor in the success of the mission-focused model for the employer is to have an understanding of the needs of the community as well as a defined mission and vision.
"It's not enough for an organization to say that they support this type of culture. We want to educate them about what these candidates are truly seeking and help them develop what they can offer," said Randolph. "It impacts the entire community when a compassionate doctor chooses to practice in a rural or underserved area. Mothers are willing to stay in the community if they believe they can raise healthy children there, the community is revitalized, people no longer feel they need to leave the area-the community thrives."