UW Medicine students practice residency on San Juan Island

  • Fri Jul 26th, 2019 11:14am
  • News

Submitted by Dr. Jason Heiner, M.D.

This summer marks the fifth year of a unique collaborative rural emergency medicine clinical experience between Peace Island Medical Center and the emergency medicine physician specialty residency of the University of Washington in Seattle. This summer Peace Island Medical Center welcomes Dr. Souza, Dr. Ludwig, Dr. Harmon, and Dr. Lambert to its clinical rural emergency medicine experience in the San Juan Islands.

For many years, a relative shortage of board-certified emergency physicians in rural emergency departments has been recognized. It has been estimated that as low as 25 percent of physician providers in rural emergency departments are specially trained in emergency medicine compared to well over 75 percent of such medical providers in urban emergency departments.

Workplace trends suggest that over time fewer physician graduates of emergency medicine residencies are choosing to practice in rural settings. Without a change to current trends, rural emergency department patients will continue to be denied the specialty care delivered to patients in urban hospital emergency departments.

Several studies have suggested that specialists including emergency medicine physicians are more likely to chose to live and work in a rural setting if they had completed a “rural rotation” in such a site during their residency training. In the United States, very few emergency medicine residency training programs have designated rural emergency medicine rotations available for such a clinical experience.

Several barriers exist to establishing these clinical experiences including fiscal barriers and the requirement of clinical oversight by board-certified attending emergency physicians. The rural emergency department at Peace Island Medical Center is fully staffed by board-certified attending emergency physicians and was recognized as an ideal site by the University of Washington for a unique rural clinical experience for resident physicians.

The rotation is overseen by Dr. Jason Heiner, M.D., who is an attending physician in emergency departments at both Peace Island Medical Center and the University of Washington and who is also originally from a rural community.

During the past five summers, emergency medicine residents from the University of Washington have been working clinically in the emergency department at Peace Island Medical Center. They work under the supervision of experienced emergency physicians and their rotation includes additional clinical exposure to rural emergency medical services and air ambulance evacuations.

After this summer, 24 University of Washington Emergency Medicine Residents will have taken part in this unique experience. Of the 20 residents who have completed the rotation thus far and graduated from their UW Specialty training, seven of these physicians currently provide care in rural medical settings. Three of these former graduates have returned to Peace Island Medical Center as board-certified attending emergency physicians. Peace Island Medical Center and the community of Friday Harbor are excited to welcome the four doctors to the San Juan Islands for the summer of 2019.