Local rural hospital will serve as teaching site


Reporter - Kendall Downing

HARRISBURG, Ill. - Attracting doctors to small, rural communities can be difficult. A local hospital wants to make it easier.

Harrisburg Medical Center is opening up its doors as a teaching site for rural medical students. The hope is that some of those students will stay and practice in the area.

With more than 80 beds, Harrisburg Medical Center isn't tiny, but it isn't big either.

"It's important for us, and it's important for our success," said Rodney Smith, CEO.

Smith said that's why the facility is reaching out to serve as a teaching hospital.

"This gives us the ability to recruit people that maybe we didn't know about," said Smith.

They're partnering with the University of Illinois at Rockford and its rural medical program. Fourth year medical and pharmacy students can choose Harrisburg Medical Center. They'll spend 16 weeks there, working side-by-side with doctors.

"This program allows them to see the benefits of working in a rural area," said Smith.

There are benefits to rural medicine, but Dr. Jim Alexander said it requires a different skill set.

"A lot of doctors like to have a specialist down the hallway or down the road," he said.

Community physicians commonly see a variety of different conditions.

Smith said marketing the hospital and its location is key to landing good doctors, and good doctors keep the facility going, essential in smaller cities like Harrisburg where the hospital is the heartbeat of the community.

"It's important for hospitals to be successful and attract talent, so that some of these small towns can remain viable," said Smith.