Mountrail County Medical Center’s Abbey Ruland was named the PA of the Year by the North Dakota Academy of Physician Assistants last week. The award was scheduled to be presented at the organization’s Spring Conference but was cancelled due to the pandemic. It was rescheduled for the Fall meeting, but that too has been cancelled.
Cheryl Ulven of Ray, who served on the board as the head of the scholarship and legislative committees, was in Stanley on Wednesday, Aug. 19 to present the award. Abbey serves on the board as a Public Relations person and had volunteered at their last meeting to help judge the three candidates nominated for the award, unaware she herself was one of the nominees.
Nominations are made by a PA’s peers, physicians, clinic staff or hospital staff. The nominations are then reviewed and voted on by the six officers, eleven committee chairs and three national delegates of the NDAPA Board.
To be nominated, they must be a Physician Assistant who works or resides in North Dakota. The nominator may feel the PA deserves recognition because they provide excellent patient care, are well respected by the medical community as well as patients, and/or are considered to be an asset to the community and the PA profession. They might be someone who has been involved in medical education, dedicated to improving public health by involvement in community education in addition to patient education. They may be involved in humanitarian projects, giving of themselves in service to others above and beyond their normal daily responsibilities.
A nearly unanimous selection by the board, Ruland checks all those boxes based on the letter of nomination by Mountrail County Medical Center CEO Steph Everett.
Abbey started with MCMC in 2013. In 2018 she took a hiatus serving the residents of New Town at the Trinity Clinic. Ulven says that Abbey was her replacement in New Town. MCMC set out to get Ruland back on staff. The letter says that without her, “the void created in our team without her devoted and kindhearted nature was palatable”. With a provider not fulfilling their contract, they reached out and were lucky enough to get her back in the fall of 2019.
She hit the ground running on her return, stepping back in with her patients, sitting as an active member of the medical staff council, taking Emergency Department call, and filling in for Dr. Longmuir in reviewing and accepting patients for the Swing Bed and Nursing Home program. The letter says, “Abbey is always willing to go the extra mile to make sure our patients are getting excellent community based care”.
She has spearheaded the Quality Improvement process in the Rural Health Clinic. She oversees documentation of care for one doctor, two nurse practitioners and two physicians assistants.
The nationwide opioid epidemic is apparent in our local area, including with patients in and around New Town and the TAT reservation. Although the reservation has built up their capability to treat drug and alcohol use disorders with inpatient treatment centers, there was still a large portion of the population that was not able to get treatment or did not know how to seek treatment appropriately. Seeing this gap in care, Ruland undertook the additional responsibility by completing training to offer Medication Assisted Therapy through the clinic. This is the only PCP driven MAT program within 100 miles.
“Abbey is always willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to serve her patients,” stated Rich Laksonen, FNP, ENP in the letter. “She’s a pleasure to work with, always willing to lend an ear or a helping hand. Her work ethic, and knowledge of the latest in evidence based care ensure that her patients receive compassionate care close to home, be it through the rural health clinic or emergency department.”
CAH Director and former ER Nurse LaRae Rudolph had this to say. “Abbey has a wide knowledge base and a positive energy and drive in healthcare always going above and beyond using both an individual and/or team effort approach to deliver optimal patient care to whomever is in need.”
Everett said this at the end of the nomination letter. “The bottom line is that Abbey is an esteemed member of our MCMC family and the compassionate community based care we provide here in Stanley is a result of Abbey’s hard work.”
The mission of NDAPA is to promote quality, cost-effective, accessible health care to enhance the health and well-being of the people of North Dakota and to promote the professional and personal development of Physician Assistants.
This article is republished with the gracious consent of the Mountrail County Promoter.