Recruitment with a mission twist
Outliers knows rural hospitals often struggle to hang on to physicians and other medical staff. So we were intrigued by the story of a Kansas hospital—until recently on the verge of closing because it had the last doctor in a succession of those who came to the remote town and left— which came up with an innovative solution.
At Ashland (Kan.) Health Center, all employees, from maintenance people to physicians, get eight paid weeks off each year that they can use to do missionary work in other countries. The idea: People willing to care for the sick and suffering in developing nations might be content to do the same in a town of 855 people, more than two hours away from the nearest Starbucks.
The public hospital began advertising that benefit—which employees can use for other volunteer work or any purpose they choose, not only mission work—in Christian publications and at Catholic-run medical schools. Today, the critical-access hospital has a chief medical officer, a medical technologist, a nursing director, a nurse practitioner and other staff drawn by its mission-minded recruiting. It’s now looking for nurses, a dentist and a physical therapist.
“I was not surprised by the differences between rural Kansas and rural Zimbabwe. What surprised me were the similarities,” says the hospital’s 32-year-old administrator, Benjamin Anderson, who has been the catalyst for the program. “I am not saying rural Kansas is the same as a developing country, I am simply saying rural Kansas and rural Zimbabwe struggle with some of the same challenges—they just look different.”
Among Ashland’s new hires are Lacey Mollel and her husband, Enkaiye. As the child of missionaries in Tanzania, she grew up “playing in the bush in the middle of nowhere” with the boy who would become her husband. She came back to the U.S. for college, and Enkaiye, a former Masai warrior, followed later.
The couple left Indianapolis to work at the Ashland hospital—she as a certified nurse assistant, he as a groundskeeper—after her uncle, a pastor in Ashland, told them about the opportunity.
Lacey Mollel said they would not have left Indianapolis “unless you feel some calling or purpose in what you are doing.”