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CH and UNK Partner in Rural Immersion Program

McCook, Neb. – Community Hospital is proud to announce its continued partnership with the University of Nebraska - Kearney in the UNK Rural Immersion Program. This innovative program aims to provide UNK students with firsthand experience in rural healthcare settings, fostering a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities present in such communities.

The pilot phase of the program took place in early January 2023, with nursing and physician assistant students engaging in clinical rotations, including the emergency department, medical-surgical, general surgery, pharmacy, and laboratory services, among others. This initial phase was met with enthusiasm from both students and participating healthcare professionals.

One of the distinctive features of the UNK Rural Immersion Program is its community immersion component. Students not only explored healthcare settings but also engaged with local community organizations and leaders in McCook. This included meetings with the McCook Economic Development Corporation, McCook Chamber of Commerce, McCook Community Foundation Fund, the Southwest Nebraska Health Department, as well as the Red Willow County Health Department, which provided students with a comprehensive understanding of the broader community context in rural Nebraska.

"We are thrilled to be part of this initiative," said Lori Beeby, Vice President of Support Services at Community Hospital. "The UNK Rural Immersion Program not only benefits the students by offering valuable hands-on experience but also serves as a platform for promoting rural healthcare as a rewarding career option."

UNK Health Sciences Student and Retention Engagement Coordinator, Julie Calahan, discussed the importance of leveraging expertise from both UNK and Community Hospital, stating “The Rural Immersion Program offers UNK Health Science students a unique and invaluable opportunity to gain insights and experiences that go beyond the classroom. Students are able to connect with healthcare providers and gain valuable knowledge about the hospital and community initiatives.” She goes on to say, “The program is a transformative learning experience that enhances students’ academic and professional development while also promoting engaged community members. Our hope is students will come back to the McCook community for their future rotations and, ultimately, career opportunities as a result of the connections created through this experience.”

As the program moves forward, efforts are underway to refine and expand its offerings. Plans are in place for the next cohort of students, scheduled for June 17 to 28, with a two-week immersion experience. This expanded program aims to accommodate a broader range of healthcare disciplines, including physician assistants, nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, medical technicians, and more.

The overwhelmingly positive response to the pilot phase underscores the value of this initiative, and as the program evolves and expands, it promises to make a lasting impact on both students and the communities they serve. Community Hospital looks forward to the continued success of the UNK Rural Immersion Program and its role in shaping a vibrant future for rural healthcare in Nebraska.


Cutline: UNK student engages with Community Hospital healthcare professionals during the UNK Rural Immersion Program in McCook, Neb., gaining hands-on experience in rural healthcare settings.