Guest column: Health care on Mayo Health System campus

Published 8:45 pm Friday, January 19, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Guest column by Sue Loch

As a mostly lifelong resident of Freeborn County, I appreciate the quality of life we have here in our beautiful town and surrounding area. I appreciate the ability to travel to my destination very quickly with relatively little traffic. I appreciate the familiar faces and welcome the new ones. I feel very blessed to live in a community that is built around our beautiful lakes and is full of nature.

Sue Loch

Although we enjoy many advantages here in outstate Minnesota, we share challenges that other rural areas face also. One of those challenges is a shrinking labor force. In an article I recently read titled “Physician Shortage Crisis: The Numbers Don’t Add Up,” it stated that a 2023 survey of final year residents reported that the majority of new physicians receive more than 100 job solicitations from potential employers during their training. Beyond that, the math is straightforward: New doctors are not graduating fast enough to meet the growing demand for health care services.

Email newsletter signup

What does this mean for us? It means it is even more challenging for us in rural areas to recruit physicians. It means we must use a team approach to help us meet the health care needs of the community. By utilizing the talents of physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and other professionals together, we will be better prepared to meet the medical needs of our patients. We must be open and creative in finding solutions to the massive shortage in physicians.

Although we work to recruit the best and brightest, we realize we need to grow our own and help support the pipeline of our future workforce. One way we have done that is by working with Riverland Community College. Last January, Mayo Clinic Health System nurses taught a five-month program on Friday nights for those interested in a nursing career. That program was a huge success, and we were able to recruit new nurses from that program.

We also support the pipeline through the Albert Lea school district’s eighth-grade Pathways unit by having staff from MCHS visit the class to talk about their careers and answer questions from students so they may understand the many opportunities available in health care.

Another way we support the local pipeline is by offering scholarships to students going into the healthcare field. Mayo Clinic Health System awards 10-$1,000 scholarships and the Naeve Auxiliary awards five-$1,000 scholarships. Students from Albert Lea and surrounding communities are eligible to apply. It is one of the highlights of my year to attend the many graduations and give scholarship certificates to the lucky students.

In addition to recruiting and growing our own workforce, we work closely with our community partners to ensure the vibrancy and health of Albert Lea and surrounding towns. In 2023, over $115,000 was donated to community agencies/organizations to support the needs identified at the last Community Health Needs Assessment. The CHNA indicated the top three needs were mental health care, access to care and chronic disease prevention. By supporting agencies like the United Way, the Albert Lea Family YMCA, the Albert Lea school district, Blue Zones, Senior Resources, SEMCAC, Food for Backpacks and numerous other community partners, we work to strengthen our community and make our community healthier.

Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea offers a variety of outpatient care including family practice, pediatrics, ob/gyn, audiology, cancer care, podiatry, orthopedics, cardiology, infusion therapy, outpatient surgery, emergency medicine, advanced diagnostics with MRI and 3-D mammography, hyperbaric medicine, advanced wound care, physical and occupational therapy, psychiatry, sleep medicine, neurology, pulmonology, hospice and dialysis.

In 2023, a new outpatient unit opened for Behavioral Health and Fountain Centers. Mental health care was the top identified need in Freeborn County, and we are fortunate to have both inpatient and outpatient care in Albert Lea.

In 2024, we are looking forward to several projects at our Albert Lea facility. We will be creating a commemorative garden to honor the history and legacy of Naeve Hospital. Hospice, physical therapy, and dialysis will be moving to the main campus. And most important, we will continue to deliver the highest quality care to Albert Lea and the surrounding area.

Sue Loch is the director of the Naeve Health Care Foundation and coordinator of volunteer services and community relations at Mayo Clinic Health System. She is a member of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce’s Business Education Committee.