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BANDON - Oregon Heath & Sciences University family nurse practitioner student Lindsey Adkisson is a bit of an overachiever. Coming from a wheat farming family in Dufur, her Oregonian roots go back six generations. And though she has lived several other places, Adkisson has always felt Oregon was home. 

So it's only natural that she found herself studying for her doctorate in nursing practice, specializing in family practice, in rural Oregon. She is on track to receive her DNP from OHSU in June 2020.

Adkisson is studying through OHSU's Campus for Rural Health, which trains healthcare students in rural settings to they can learn and experience the unique health needs of rural communities firsthand. 

About 270 students have come to the South Coast since the program started here is 2015. Of those, seven chose to work in the South Coast area after graduating, which is one of the goals of the program. 

Adkisson just completed her four-week rotation at Southern Coos Health Clinic in Bandon under the direction of Dr. Megan Holland and Family Nurse Practitioner Elizabeth Ogunnaike. She said the experience has been invaluable and solidified her desire to work in her chosen field.

What got Adkisson interested in public service after earning her bachelor's degree in business at Clemson University was a stint with the AmeriCorps Vista program, where she worked near Roseburg for a year at a "one stop" family resource center, helping students who faced barriers in traditional school.

She then decided to earn her master's degree in public administration from the University of Oregon, writing her thesis on how to get more people into well child visits who are on the Oregon Health Plan. 

Following graduation, she was chosen for a public health fellowship through the America India Foundation, modeled after the Peace Corps, that sent her to India for a year. That experience was life-changing. Adkisson worked in a remote village at a small health clinic, helping residents there with access to healthcare. 

"It was not uncommon to have 50-60 people waiting outside when I'd get to the clinic," Adkisson said. "The experience I had in India is when I started thinking about being a healthcare provider. Rural communities (in the U.S.) face such barriers too. They don't have access to primary care and health services and can have life-threatening consequences if they become emergency situations or have a disease caught in the late stages."

Following India, Adkisson went to work at Lane County Pubic Health in a substance abuse program, prior to once again going back to school through the OHSU campus in Eugene, where she now lives with her husband. 

Her four-week rotation in Bandon was a busy one. She saw patients who were willing to participate, and was able to interview and perform assessments before Holland or Ogunnaike would enter the exam room to reassess.

Adkisson said she learned the importance of the healthcare provider-patient relationship and was impressed with how well the providers at Southern Coos Health Clinic know their patients - not just their medical conditions, but also their family situations and personal issues. That information helps providers assist patients as they navigate beyond immediate health issues, such as affording prescriptions, transportation or childcare.

"I really do believe in the power of primary care and prevention, and seeing patients who have a trusting relationship with their provider, someone they can talk to (has been inspiring)," Adkisson said. "That's the unique benefit of rural health. I feel I've learned what it's like to be in this kind of environment. It's been a really, really positive experience."

Holland received her clinical instructor-ship from OHSU in 2017 so students could complete rotations at Southern Coos Hospital or Southern Coos Heath Clinic. In addition to recruiting a rural workforce, the OHSU program is fostering inter-professional development between other health practitioners, Holland said. 

"It's fun to teach," Holland said. "It reminds me of what got me into healthcare to begin with. I think we all enjoy it."

Holland said the hope is that some students will eventually return to Bandon. Regardless, the program is valuable to both the community and the student.

"The idea of mentoring students in a rural part of the state to an area they've never been and show them it can be a great place to be a healthcare provider is a positive thing," Holland said. "It contributes to the vibrancy of the community as a whole. Lindsey has been great with patients and is good at developing a rapport."

Adkisson said she gained immeasurably from seeing patients on her own, something she did the first day she came to her rotation in Bandon. 

"Hopefully I can also grow into a provider who is passionate for the community and an advocate for my patients," Adkisson said. 

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Bandon Western World Editor Amy Moss Strong can be reached at 541-347-2423, ext. 305, or by email at amy.moss-strong@theworldlink.com. Follow Bandon Western World on Facebook.

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