Providing Healthcare Access for Rural Communities
For Beth Jensen, DNP, FNP-BC, CNE, a faculty member at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) College of Nursing in Charleston, S.C., working with rural populations has provided a unique opportunity to make a big difference in a small community. We recently spoke with Beth about her career path and why she loves being a rural nurse.
For 20 years, I served in the Navy Nurse Corps , initially as a registered nurse (RN) and then as a nurse practitioner. My staff nursing experiences included positions in med-surg, obstetrics, informatics, ambulatory care and management. About halfway through my career, I became a family nurse practitioner and began working in a family practice setting.
After I retired from the Navy, I went back to school for a doctoral degree in nursing practice (DNP) so I could teach. At MUSC, where I currently teach, one of the faculty practice clinics is through a partnership with a community outreach organization. Initially, I worked in a suburban setting, but there was a need for a similar clinic in a rural community in Huger, S.C., that is not too far from where I live.
I grew up close to many rural areas and have always felt comfortable in a rural environment. When the opportunity came up to help start a clinic in this rural environment, it felt like the perfect fit for me.
My responsibilities are very similar to responsibilities for nurse practitioners in regular primary care practices. However, I don't have any other medical personnel working with me, so I conduct all the check-up procedures, like vital signs, height and weight. I then discuss the patient's concerns, complete a focused physical, identify diagnoses and, in conjunction with the patient, devise a treatment plan.
Though I have a supervising physician within about 20 miles, I am quite autonomous. One thing I don't have is cell phone service, which is always kind of humorous when my family needs to communicate with me.
My patients are all uninsured adults. Children and older adults are able to benefit from Medicaid and Medicare, younger adults don't have many options. Because the patients live in a rural setting and some have difficulty arranging for transportation, there aren't many job opportunities through which to obtain medical insurance.
Like many southeastern rural communities, those in South Carolina have a high prevalence of hypertension, type 2 diabetes and obesity. The population that I serve is significantly affected by social determinants of health, which are the conditions under which one is born, lives, grows, works and ages. This puts them at a greater risk not only of having one of these diseases, but also in managing disease states effectively.