Minot-Williston Rural Training Track Program
- Need: Like many rural areas, parts of North Dakota lack primary care physicians to fulfill the needs of the community.
- Intervention: The Minot-Williston Rural Track Program was developed to create new medical residency opportunities in rural North Dakota.
- Results: Now over 1000 applicants are applying for the two residency slots.
Attracting and retaining primary care physicians is an issue faced by many rural communities. Some of these communities are in states finding that the best way to increase their healthcare workforce is to develop the next generation of providers themselves, a philosophy referred to as "grow-your-own."
One state using that approach is North Dakota. In 2014, a new state family medicine residency with a rural practice focus was created, the Minot-Williston Rural Training Track (RTT).
Sponsored by the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the RTT program is actually an expansion of the UND Center for Family Medicine Program in Minot, the first residency program in the state. Since the Minot core program's start in 1975, it has graduated 201 family medicine physicians. As of 2017, the Rural Training Track has 8 graduates.
For many communities, family medicine is the foundation of the healthcare system, enabling all medical specialists to practice at the top of their expertise. This drives training programs for family medicine in rural areas to reflect America's larger healthcare transition to value-based care. Residents in the RTT will have firsthand experiences with efficient utilization of limited resources, preparing them to work in any environment.
Physician training in the new rural track program emphasizes traditional family medicine. Yet the program allows customization. Residents will split their three-year residency between the two rural areas of Minot and Williston where the residency's clinical partners are Minot's Trinity Health and in Williston, CHI St. Alexius Health.
This program was chosen by the American Hospital Association to serve as an example highlighting innovative models of care delivery.
During the three-year curriculum, the first year of RTT residency is spent on the Minot campus with the core program residents. During this year, didactics, patient care at the family medicine clinic, and 13 months of block rotations are completed.
For the final two years of training, residents move to the Williston campus and practice in an even more rural environment. Training in Williston includes inpatient and outpatient care and skilled nursing care. During the Minot training time, residents also do home visits.
During their first year, residents also have a mandatory month of inpatient pediatric training at the Colorado Children's Hospital in Denver.
UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences offers a time frame breakdown of the curriculum.
Rural-trained physicians are best suited to fulfill the needs of rural communities, and survey data suggests rural-trained residents are very likely to remain practicing in rural areas. These trends will be monitored as the program continues.
Other results from the program include:
- Capacity for two residents per year, with the first RTT class graduation June 2017
- Currently, there are around 800 applications per year the two slots
- Scholarly, educational impact on community medical practice standards
Many rural regions have limited housing selections, and North Dakota's oil boom further impacted housing availability during the program's initial start.
Recruiting for professional support staff is also a common challenge for programs in rural areas. After a vacancy during the RTT's initial six months, the program now has a permanent coordinator.
In addition to support staff, finding supervisory physicians can be another challenge. In rural areas, practicing physicians are often busy and spread thin.
Initial identification of the program director and program coordinator is key.
For any organizations creating a new training track, expect a substantial interval between the start decision and final approval of the program's structure. When the program structuring in place and the accreditation process completed, recruiting of the first residents can take up to 2 to 3 years.
Retention is impacted by tailoring transitions to fit the needs of residents and their families.
Contact InformationPeter Sandroni, MD, Program Director
UND Center for Family Medicine Minot
Graduate medical education
January 25, 2016
Date updated or reviewed
October 27, 2020
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2020. Minot-Williston Rural Training Track Program [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/project-examples/881 [Accessed 24 March 2023]
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.