WhidbeyHealth to become training ground for future docs

Collaboration with Pacific Northwest University announced

WhidbeyHealth Medical Center will soon become a training ground for Pacific Northwest University Health Sciences students needing hands-on experience.

Details of the educational partnership were released at a recent board meeting.

“This is a collaborative arrangement,” said Linda Gipson, WhidbeyHealth chief quality officer. “They put their folks out in the community where they learn from physicians and our doctors will serve as adjunct faculty members.”

Pacific Northwest University Health Sciences, based in Yakima, offers an accredited four-year osteopathic medicine program.

The third and fourth-year medical students will focus on delivering primary care for their required clinical rotation; they’ll have access to learning about emergency medicine, surgical care and the hospitalist program.

The collaboration may also help plug the perennial hole in staffing levels at WhidbeyHealth’s hospital and seven clinics.

Data shows that hosting residency programs improves the chances students will come back to the community as providers, Gipson said.

While there’s a shortage of physicians nationwide, the deficit is particularly noticeable in rural communities.

Pacific Northwest University opened 10 years ago with the aim of addressing the significant shortage of health care professionals in the Northwest.

It uses a recruit-educate-return model – recruiting prospective students from medically underserved areas with the hope that they’ll return there to practice.

According to the school’s website, of 488 graduates from its College of Osteopathic Medicine who have completed residency and reported their practice status, more than 80 percent are in the Northwest, and 57 percent are practicing in rural or medically underserved areas.

Perhaps the wonders of Whidbey will entice some students to return, some administrators conjectured.

WhidbeyHealth, a public health care system, currently has 91 percent of it full-time positions filled, said Cindy Paget, chief human relations officer.

“This is one way to expose Whidbey Island to students who may not even know we existed,” said WhidbeyHealth CEO Geri Forbes.

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