THE RESILIENCY OF RURAL
By Cassity Avila, September 2021
The ability to recover quickly from difficulty is an essential life and leadership skill. COVID-19 is testing our resilience in ways we could barely imagine before the pandemic. At the Center for Optimizing Rural Health (CORH), our team has seen front-line health care workers in our community and in rural hospitals around the country rise to meet the different challenges that COVID-19 has created with a steady resiliency that is not uncommon in rural health.
Collaboration and Community. Early in the pandemic, rural hospitals and other community institutions worked together to address access to supplies, banding together to collectively purchase personal protective equipment like masks, face shields and protective garments. In North Dakota, a community-owned, non-profit Critical Access Hospital and a non-affiliated nearby FQHC who traditionally competed for resources and clientele came together during the pandemic to combat limited resources and clients. The journey took a great effort on everyone’s part but they were able to align around a common purpose of local, quality care and transform into financially stable organizations that collaborate on projects, offer seamless care transitions between their two practices and provide increased specialized service capacity.
Increasing Care. In tough times like these, maintaining access to health care is one of the most important things a community can do for its residents. Rural hospitals treated patients that would have been transferred to bigger hospitals in pre-pandemic times. Hospitals and staff discovered that they had the capacity and skills to care for more complex patients closer to home. Like many of the hospitals CORH has worked with, Titus Regional Medical Center in Mount Pleasant, Texas implemented telemedicine to support a higher level of patient care during the pandemic and ease the burden on their providers.
Creativity and Innovation. Rural hospitals have always had to be creative in their circumstances – whether it is the nature of geographic isolation or the unique social and economic attributes of serving a rural community. While COVID-19 took a tremendous toll on hospitals and health care systems everywhere, rural hospitals sought creative solutions. From re-imagining an annual vaccination event to become a drive-in event to putting hospital leadership directly in touch with the pubic through regular Facebook Lives, rural hospitals found ways to pivot and be there for their communities.
CORH has consistently provided easy-to-utilize technical assistance to rural hospitals participating in the Vulnerable Rural Hospital Assistance Program. Webinars, conference calls, and office hours with experts have always been part of the portfolio of resources offered. In 2020 and 2021, CORH has provided COVID-19-specific resources and connections with experts to tackle the challenges posed by the pandemic.
CORH is honored to have had the opportunity to collaborate with more than 100 rural hospitals to help their community partners overcome adversity, ensuring people get the care they need when they need it. That’s the power of resilience at work.