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CHI Franciscan’s Residency Programs Address Regional Doctor, Nursing Shortages with Community Immersion
Family medicine residency, general surgery, and RN residency programs cultivate the next generation of health care providers in the Puget Sound region
Pierce and Kitsap Counties, Washington - CHI Franciscan is cultivating the next generation of health care providers by integrating them into the communities where they work and by collaborating with local organizations to address other factors that impact health such as hunger and homelessness. With residency programs in family medicine, general surgery, and registered nursing, CHI Franciscan is actively addressing the urgent need for more health care access in the South Sound.
“Our mission is to create healthy communities and ensure access to quality care is available to everyone in need,” said Ketul J. Patel, CEO of CHI Franciscan. “Our residency programs are another way we are creating solutions to address the need for health care providers and services throughout the region.”
On the Kitsap Peninsula, the Northwest Washington Family Medicine Residency Program (NWFMR) kicked off its inaugural year in 2018. Designed to attract new health care providers to the region, resident physicians work alongside top physicians to receive hands-on training in family medicine, obstetrics, geriatrics and more, while caring for patients in the program’s family medicine clinic in Bremerton. Additionally, to practice effective community-based medicine, resident physicians volunteer with local nonprofit organizations including Cascadia-Bountiful Life Addiction Treatment Center, Kitsap Food Line, and Alcoholics Anonymous. In these volunteer roles, resident physicians do everything from serving nutritious meals to organizing community events.
The program, spearheaded by NWFMR founding director Michael Watson, MD, FAAFP prepares students for the social and cultural issues they encounter during their training.
“Dr. Watson’s vision was that new physicians would build deep knowledge of community resources available for our patients,” said second year resident physician Jacob Van Fleet. “I can think of a number of times I’ve recommended a community organization to a patient, whether they’re in need of support for addiction, food insecurity, housing, or financial assistance, for example. For someone like me who didn’t grow up here, this has been a great opportunity to connect with the community.”
In the program’s first year, new physicians performed almost 2,000 office visits for patients who would not have otherwise seen a physician and the program is expected to nearly triple that number within the next year. By 2020, the program’s first, second and third-year cohorts will comprise the largest group of primary care physicians on the peninsula.
Nurses in Harrison Medical Center’s 10-year-old Versant Registered Nurse Residency Program take a similar approach to their work on the Peninsula, combining service work with medical training and hands-on patient care. Along with classes and clinical rotations, resident RNs work to identify a local health care challenge and develop a sustainable, integrated solution.
“Training nurses to approach challenges with innovative, multi-disciplinary solutions helps bring down health care silos,” said residency program coordinator Julie Gardner, MSN, RN, PCCN, of Harrison Medical Center.
The work benefits the community long after each resident RN cohort graduates, because most of them choose to remain at Harrison — the program boasts retention rates of 90-95 percent over the past three years. High retention rates were just one of the metrics the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) considered when awarding the program its first Practice Transition Accreditation Program (PTAP) certification this spring.
Elsewhere, the General Surgery Residency Program at Tacoma’s St. Joseph Medical Center, the first in Pierce County, welcomes its inaugural class this month. After a four-decade decline in the number of general surgeons nationwide, fewer general surgeons are available to care for the region’s aging population. The General Surgery Residency Program will seek to address this need by training resident surgeons to perform a wide range of surgeries related to chronic conditions, critical care, oncology and trauma.
“Our region has an acute need for skilled, compassionate general surgeons with broad multidisciplinary training,” said Tommy Brown, MD, FACS, a CHI Franciscan surgeon and the program’s founding director.
Local patients aren’t the only ones who benefit from residency programs — the response from health care providers has also been overwhelmingly positive. For resident physicians, building these local ties with faculty and community members is vital, Watson noted. “Our goal is to train physicians who want to stay locally, and the more community connections we can build, the more likely that is to happen.”
CHI Franciscan is also developing future health professionals in two additional areas of practice with residency programs in pharmacy and podiatry.
About CHI Franciscan
CHI Franciscan is a Catholic nonprofit health system based in Tacoma, Washington, with $2.45 billion in total revenue and a team of more than 12,000 physicians, providers, nurses, and staff that provide expert, compassionate medical care at 11 acute care hospitals and over 200 primary and specialty care clinics throughout the greater Puget Sound. This includes St. Anthony Hospital, Gig Harbor; St. Clare Hospital, Lakewood; St. Elizabeth Hospital, Enumclaw; St. Francis Hospital, Federal Way; St. Joseph Medical Center, Tacoma; Harrison Medical Center, Bremerton and Silverdale; Highline Medical Center, Burien; Regional Hospital, Burien; CHI Franciscan Rehabilitation Hospital, Tacoma, and Wellfound Behavioral Health Hospital, Tacoma. Started in 1891 by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, today CHI Franciscan is one of the largest health systems in Washington state. The system is comprised of more than 1,200 hospital beds and over 4,000 credentialed providers offering cardiovascular care, cancer care, orthopedics, sports medicine, neurosciences, women’s care, and other health care services. CHI Franciscan’s mission is to create healthier communities, including caring for the poor and underserved. In fiscal year 2018, the organization provided $190 million in community benefit — free, subsidized, and reduced cost health care and programs. Follow CHI Franciscan on Facebook facebook.com/chifranciscan, Twitter @CHIFranciscan and Instagram @chi.franciscan.