On Thursday, November 17, Frontier Nursing University (FNU) will join healthcare providers and organizations across the country to celebrate National Rural Health Day (NRHD). Organized by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health, NRHD is an opportunity to bring awareness to the unique challenges that rural communities face and the efforts of rural healthcare providers to create positive change in these regions.
Founded in the Appalachian area of Kentucky, Frontier's mission is to provide accessible nurse-midwifery and nurse practitioner education to prepare competent, entrepreneurial, ethical, and compassionate leaders in primary care to serve all individuals with an emphasis on women and families in diverse, rural, and underserved populations. Today, 73 percent of FNU students live and complete their clinics in rural areas throughout the United States.
Meggan Smith, MSN, APRN, FNP-C
Since earning her Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) from FNU in 2019, Meggan Smith, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, (Class 169) has worked to strengthen family healthcare in rural North Carolina from the ground up. Working at Smoky Mountain Urgent Care and Family Medicine Center in Bryson City, Smith was instrumental in growing a much-needed family practice in the existing urgent care setting.
Smith serves patients in her home community of Graham County, North Carolina, where she recently was awarded a Readers’ Choice award by The Graham Star. A rural mountain area, Graham County has a population of approximately 8,500. For residents of the county, the closest hospital/emergency room is approximately a 35 to 45-minute drive, and only one other office offers primary care.
Cody Pittman, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC
FNU alumni Cody Pittman, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC, has worked full-time in correctional healthcare with the Kentucky Department of Corrections in LaGrange, Ky., for the past eight years. He also recently opened his own practice named Healing Neurons Psychiatry, which provides mental health services to patients via telehealth. Cody became a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) in November 2020 after earning his MSN from FNU.
Pittman says the focus of working in corrections is to try and rehabilitate patients so they are prepared to live healthy lives when released back into the community. Many of his patients have a history of polypharmacy and substance abuse/addiction.
Pittman recognized that there are simply not enough mental health providers, so he founded Healing Neurons Psychiatry to help fill that gap. With the patient in mind, Pittman decided to offer 100% telehealth services so that patients can make their appointments from the comfort of their own homes. Furthermore, telehealth ensures the privacy of those living in rural areas who fear they may be stigmatized if others see them walking into a mental health clinic.
Shannon Conley, FNP
Shannon Conley serves as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) for Big Sandy Health Care in Eastern Kentucky, a role she has taken on for the past 10 years. Working with a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), Conley interacts with many underserved adult patients, most of whom are dealing with chronic conditions and have obstacles when it comes to accessing treatment.
Keeping this in mind, Conley provides patients with transportation assistance, medical assistance and remains cognizant of the cost of medication. Conley also serves as a preceptor in her community, training future FNPs to address the shortage of providers in her region.
Paul Kibby, RN
FNU student Paul Kibby, RN, is using his experience in the healthcare field to break down the stigma surrounding mental health in his community. Kibby is pursuing an MSN with a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) specialty, in which he entered through FNU’s Bridge program (Class 174), and is set to graduate this year.
Kibby currently works with a new behavioral health clinic startup in Mountain View, Arkansas. Stone County, where Mountain View is located, has a federal poverty rate of over 20 percent, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
In his current role, Kibby is making efforts to research and change the stigma associated with mental health among rural men. He said he plans to do this by sending the local newspaper a letter to the editor, collaborating with the local community center, and having discussions with staff members at local banks, pharmacies, physicians offices, businesses and the local hospital to discuss the need to connect mental health with overall health care.
Join us in celebrating the value of rural communities and help shine a light on the health disparities facing these regions by sharing information about NRHD with your friends, colleagues, and social media followers. Visit the NRHD site to find ideas and resources.
Also, the Health Resources and Services Administration is offering virtual events this week for those interested in learning more about how they are advancing behavioral health care in rural communities.
NOSORH founded NRHD in 2011 to showcase the efforts of individuals and organizations going the extra mile to address the unique healthcare needs of rural communities. National Rural Health Day is an annual day of recognition which occurs on the third Thursday of November.