The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on Indiana’s healthcare workers, creating shortages at health systems throughout the state. For example, labor market analytics firm Emsi/Burning Glass says there are 4,300 annual openings in Indiana for nurses. A coalition in Muncie is taking steps to address worker shortages throughout Indiana’s healthcare system.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Ball Brothers Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Jud Fisher said Muncie wants to build a reputation as a healthcare education center of excellence.
“We know there’s a primary care doctor shortage throughout the country. So, we’re hopefully building up that pipeline for our region and for the state,” explained Fisher.
The foundation, along with local healthcare and education institutions, formed a partnership in 2017 to reimagine medical training in the community. The initiative, known as Optimus Primary, includes the IU School of Medicine-Muncie, IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, Ball State University, Ivy Tech and Meridian Health Services.
Fisher says proximity of the institutions favors this partnership.
“It kind of just kept expanding into this educational sphere here that we have, that just makes it really easy to talk to each other and try and meet the needs that we have for the communities that we serve here through our health care organizations,” said Fisher.
The partners recently celebrated several endeavors that are helping the community toward its goal.
• The creation of a new Bachelors-to-MD program
• The development of a sonography training program in response to a critical need identified by local hospitals
• A new model for experienced nurses to help train Ivy Tech nursing students completing their associates degrees while on-site at IU Health Ball Memorial
• The establishment of multi-location “healthy lifestyle centers” which provide free services in nutrition, physical activity, hearing/speech, among other needs.
“Medicine has changed dramatically in the past 100 years, but the way we educate physicians—and to some degree, other healthcare workers—hasn’t always kept pace with these changes,” said Fisher. “The story is different here in Muncie: we’re on the leading edge of innovations in healthcare training that will greatly impact our region and the state.”
The partners say Optimus is not only focused on future healthcare workers, but also impacting the health of the community.
“There’s no question that medicine today is about more than ‘sick care.’ Roughly 80% of healthcare costs are related to chronic disease. And nearly 80% of chronic disease is attributed to modifiable lifestyle risk factors. Improving health outcomes through lifestyle interventions is critical,” said Derron Bishop, director of the IU School of Medicine-Muncie.
Fisher says the focus on promoting ‘healthy lifestyles’ and ‘disease prevention’ has emerged as a particularly distinctive aspect of local medical training. The IU School of Medicine-Muncie has adopted the issue as a “scholarly concentration,” successfully recruiting medical students to the Muncie campus who are interested in providing this type of care to their patients.
“This is a win-win for Muncie, East Central Indiana, and Indiana. We’re already building a critical pipeline of medical professionals, and we’re just getting started,” said Fisher.
Fisher says the Ball Brothers Foundation has awarded over $2.2 million to the “Optimus Primary” effort since its inception. He says the foundation has been making grants to improve healthcare since its founding in 1926.
“For 95 years, Ball Brothers Foundation has operated with a mission of improving quality of life within our community; this means not just funding urgent needs of today, but also supporting long-term efforts for a greater tomorrow,” said Fisher.