Fifteen UNE health professions students are currently participating in a rural health immersion over their spring break in Franklin County, Maine. The immersion experience is a part of a pipeline program with Maine’s Area Health Education Center (AHEC) program and UNE’s Center for Excellence in Health Innovation (CEHI) to address healthcare provider shortages in rural Maine. This is the second immersion experience that the Maine AHEC and CEHI have provided for UNE students, last May a similar number of different students participated in a weeklong immersion in Aroostook County. The students have been split into five interprofessional teams consisting of a medical and nursing students. The students are experiencing a variety of clinical and community activities in underserved areas in Franklin County. Below are reflections from one team after the first day in Franklin County on March 12th, 2017.
Cynthia Mosher (ABSN Student)
Today has already been more than I could have asked for. It was a great ride into Wilton, our van was buzzing with conversation. After arriving at the hotel a few of us took a walk to Wilson lake, taking in the beautiful mountains and scenery.
Following dinner, we had a great conversation with Dr. Michelle McCormick and Tania Dawson, R.N. It was so nice to hear from local providers about what they feel are the struggles are within the community. Michelle was an excellent speaker and her passion for helping the community really comes through when she speaks. I loved hearing about the progress the community as a whole is making and what steps they are making to engage and help more people as well.
Afterwards, the group walked onto the lake to see the full moon rising. Although most of us were freezing it was nice to be part of nature and enjoying its beauty. After we came inside and thawed out for a few minutes we did a few ice breaker activities. It was great to get an opportunity to let loose and enjoy sometime with other students prior to the busy week ahead.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing what the rest of the week has in store for us and continuing to learn as much as possible about rural health in western Maine!
Sean Bilodeau (First year medical student)
Today began the rural health immersion experience in rural Maine. The theme for today was getting to know each other, icebreakers, and settling in; getting to know the other members of the group has been incredibly fun and interesting. The interplay between nursing and medicine has started to be explored by all of us students with facilitation by our faculty who are joining us on the trip. The focus on getting to know the other nursing students has been great, and even getting to know my med student colleagues better has been an unexpected benefit from this first day.
Michelle McCormick, MD, a local pediatrician, and public health champion in Franklin County also came to dinner to speak about the health care challenges that Franklin County faces as well the challenges of the local residents. Michelle’s talk was eye opening because she was discussing a new program that they are attempting to implement that sounds very interesting, and hopefully we will learn more about it at our next meeting with Michelle at tomorrow’s Suicide Prevention & Self Injury talk with the National Alliance on Mental Illness at Franklin Memorial Hospital.
It has been really fun getting to know the other students as well as the faculty on a more personal level thus far and I assume that will continue in the coming days. Taking a little time off from studying and taking part in the experiential learning of our lives is nice change from the day to day life of a med student. Moving forward, I am excited to learn more about rural health care and more about Franklin Counties health needs.
Sarah Rafferty (ABSN Student)
The day began in a freezing cold parking lot meeting 8 fellow ABSN students, 6 College of Medicine students, our leader and 3 faculty members. We stood in a circle and learned more about the intention for our trip, as well as some expectations. What stood out the most to me was the sentiment that rural living is as much about connecting to nature as it is about connecting to community.
The 2 hour drive to our accommodations flew by with the myriad of conversations with new faces. Upon our arrival, we split up into our rooms and a few of us headed down to wander on the frozen lake. Then, a pizza dinner with an hour-long talk, question and answer session with Pediatrician Dr. Michelle McCormick on community health needs, the rural Mainer spirit, and specific strengths and challenges for members of Franklin County, Maine.
Night capped with a -10 degree stroll on the frozen lake, just in time to catch the full moon rise. Such a great taste of what lies ahead for this week.