SMITH LAUDS STUDENTS' COMMITMENT TO...RURAL HEALTH CARE

April 02, 2002 12:00 am
Senator shadows nursing student: U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith looks on as Eastern nursing student Jessica Bennett tests the blood sugar level of patient Connie Scherf of La Grande at Grande Ronde Hospital Monday. At left is Christine Norris, R.N. Smith reaffirmed his support for rural health care and nursing programs during his visit to La Grande. (The Observer/Phil Bullock).
Senator shadows nursing student: U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith looks on as Eastern nursing student Jessica Bennett tests the blood sugar level of patient Connie Scherf of La Grande at Grande Ronde Hospital Monday. At left is Christine Norris, R.N. Smith reaffirmed his support for rural health care and nursing programs during his visit to La Grande. (The Observer/Phil Bullock).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith reaffirmed his support for rural health care and nursing programs during a visit to La Grande Monday.

Smith saluted the health care profession and said he is doing everything he can to help hospitals attract and retain nurses.

Im on about every nursing bill I can find, the Republican from Pendleton said.

Smith spoke to a class Monday afternoon at the Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing at Eastern Oregon University. Many in the class will be working as rural health care professionals. Smith said he understands the special challenges they will face in isolated communities where medical services are limited.

Your skills will be tested like they never would in an urban area. You will be health care in your area, Smith said.

The senator pledged to support the Rural Frontier Delivery Program, a distance education program provided by the School of Nursing at Eastern.

The program allows place-bound students in Eastern Oregon to earn nursing degrees while continuing to live in their community. They take their classes via interactive technology.

Smith said the program is valuable because it makes it easier for rural communities to retain health care professionals.

Smith is supporting Easterns efforts to obtain $1.5 million in federal funding to help the Rural Frontier Delivery Program over the next five years. The program was jolted earlier by OHSU funding cuts. The reduction forced Eastern to begin covering the cost of transmitting classes to rural areas. This is costing the university about $40,000 a term.

Some of the students in the Rural Frontier Delivery Program were in the audience Monday. Smith told them their goals are admirable.

At the end of the day I hope all of us have worked to improve the human condition, Smith said, noting that nurses are in a better position to do this than most.

One of the projects Smith is pushing in the Senate is a hospital magnet program, which will help hospitals recruit and retain nurses.

The program has bipartisan support. Smith noted that Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is among its supporters. He said her support reflects the fact that there is an expanding need for nurses in both urban and rural areas.