Case Studies

Wrangell Medical Center

Wrangell Medical Center
Wrangell, AK
22 Beds

The Problem
Wrangell Medical Center is located in Wrangell, Alaska, a town of 2,300 residents. The city and borough of Wrangell own the medical center, which employs 65 full-time employees with an annual budget of $8.8 million. Wrangell Medical Center’s services include an eight-bed acute unit, a 14-bed long-term care unit, emergency department, lab, physical therapy, home health and specialty clinics. Only accessible by airplane or boat, Wrangell has geographical limitations, and the medical center is the sole health care provider for the community and one of the largest employers.

The Solution
Recognizing the economic and social challenges of the community and the need for qualified nursing assistants, Wrangell Medical Center created the Rural Health Careers Initiative in partnership with the local educational system to promote the program to students. The program’s purpose is to provide clinical education and training to students interested in becoming a certified nursing assistant. Students receive mentoring and financial assistance to take the year-long course. Wrangell Medical Center pays 100 percent of the cost for its employees.

To further educate and engage the community, Wrangell Medical Center provides an annual community health fair that more than one-third of the community attends. One of Wrangell Medical Center’s longest running health programs, the fair has seen considerable growth over the years, with more than 60 vendors in health, social services and education. The local community supports the health fair by partnering with Wrangell Medical Center for promotion, assistance with registration and recruitment.

The Result
To date, the Rural Health Careers Initiative has trained more than 200 students, with more than $250,000 saved in education costs. Wrangell Medical Center also employs the majority of students who complete and pass the state certification exam.

With the significant growth of the health fair, numerous success stories have originated from the health screenings. The fair has reached its capacity on the number of vendors and continues to reach a high percentage of the population.

Lessons Learned
Increasing the community’s interest in the Rural Health Careers Initiative remains an ongoing challenge for Wrangell Medical Center, along with enhanced prescreening for acceptance. Before using an in-depth screening process, potential students not eligible to take the state certification exam were being accepted. Additional training methods, including hands-on training, also became necessary to increase the educational performance of the students.

Wrangell Medical Center is faced with a growing space issue for the fair due to the demand of vendor participation. Currently, the fair has reached its vendor capacity, and vendors are limited in the types of educational displays. As the fair has grown, Wrangell Medical Center staff members have increased responsibilities in coordinating and managing the fair, often outside their normal job duties.

Building on strong volunteerism in the community, Wrangell Medical Center provides internal staff to run both the community health fair and the Rural Health Careers Initiative. Wrangell Medical Center engages local businesses, including two grocery stores, to assist in registration and marketing for the community health fair. In the past, Wrangell Medical Center has used schools and other state agencies to inform potential applicants of the career program.

Contact Information
Kris Reed
Development Assistant
(907) 874-7196

This case study was originally featured in the HPOE guide: "The Role of Small and Rural Hospitals and Care Systems in Effective Population Health Partnerships," published June, 2013.


Additional Resources

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Webinars November 17th, 2017

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