National Health Service Corps - what's it like? is it worth the commitment?

lemurlover

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I'm considering applying for NHSC. Anybody in it already? What is it like? I heard that most of the sites are drastically under-funded and it's frustrating to be committed to working in such an environment. Is it possible to have a satisfying holistic and complementary medicine practice while serving in the NHSC?
Also, i'm queer and CAN'T end up in kansas...How much freedom do you get about where you end up?
Thanks!
 

fun8stuff

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lemurlover said:
I'm considering applying for NHSC. Anybody in it already? What is it like? I heard that most of the sites are drastically under-funded and it's frustrating to be committed to working in such an environment. Is it possible to have a satisfying holistic and complementary medicine practice while serving in the NHSC?
Also, i'm queer and CAN'T end up in kansas...How much freedom do you get about where you end up?
Thanks!

It has to be primary care too... right? Primary Care meaning: FP, GP, IM, Peds, ??? Someone told me a while back the emergency medicine was considered primary care in some states... is this true?
 

Kimmer

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Hi,
I just finished my NHSC scholarship application today. I am just a first year student so I am not a huge expert. I just read the application booklet and went for it. I posted some questions on this topic last semester but only received a hail of negative messages from people who heard from somebody who knew someone who said it totally sucks. :rolleyes: It will definitely not be cushy but I want to work in the middle of nowhere so I think resources will be scarce no matter what I do.
I have been reassured that the area I prefer (Montana Idaho Wyoming) is so unpopular that I should not have a problem getting the spot I want - always assuming a spot like that is open when I get done with residency. It is scary to think that I could end up working in a federal prison rather than rural Montana, but I will worry about that after I get the scholarship. They are actually pretty competative (1 in 7 get a spot) so who knows.
The specialties:
Family Practice
General Internal Medicine
ObGyn
General Pediatrics
General Psychiatry
I don't know that any others are accepted but you can call. They are very good about answering questions that I have had so far. 1(800) 638-0824.
A lot of information is available at their web site http://nhsc.bhpr.hrsa.gov/.
The NHSC also has programs where you can shadow a doctor for a few weeks in the state you want to serve in. Information relating to these preceptorships is available at http://nhsc.bhpr.hrsa.gov/join_us/preceptor.asp.
I am going to try to do that this summer but I have not applied yet.
I would also love to hear from someone in the program.
Good luck
 

fun8stuff

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Kimmer said:
Hi,
I just finished my NHSC scholarship application today. I am just a first year student so I am not a huge expert. I just read the application booklet and went for it. I posted some questions on this topic last semester but only received a hail of negative messages from people who heard from somebody who knew someone who said it totally sucks. :rolleyes: It will definitely not be cushy but I want to work in the middle of nowhere so I think resources will be scarce no matter what I do.
I have been reassured that the area I prefer (Montana Idaho Wyoming) is so unpopular that I should not have a problem getting the spot I want - always assuming a spot like that is open when I get done with residency. It is scary to think that I could end up working in a federal prison rather than rural Montana, but I will worry about that after I get the scholarship. They are actually pretty competative (1 in 7 get a spot) so who knows.
The specialties:
Family Practice
General Internal Medicine
ObGyn
General Pediatrics
General Psychiatry
I don't know that any others are accepted but you can call. They are very good about answering questions that I have had so far. 1(800) 638-0824.
A lot of information is available at their web site http://nhsc.bhpr.hrsa.gov/.
The NHSC also has programs where you can shadow a doctor for a few weeks in the state you want to serve in. Information relating to these preceptorships is available at http://nhsc.bhpr.hrsa.gov/join_us/preceptor.asp.
I am going to try to do that this summer but I have not applied yet.
I would also love to hear from someone in the program.
Good luck
thanks for the great reply!
 

burlypie

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I was seriously considering applying for an NHSC scholarship, but then decided that I didn't want to limit my options for the future. What really scared me off was the penalty for dropping out of the program -- I can't remember exactly what it is (read the application, or it should be online maybe on bphc.gov) -- but you have to pay back everything they've given you (obvuously) plus some crazy interest. Read all the fine print to be sure for yourself. That said, it's a great program. I used to work at a federally -qualified community health center and those places really need good physicians. And the patients are very grateful!
 

MeowMix

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there is no penalty if you flunk out of school; you just repay. Going into a non-primary care specialty is the big 3X + interest penalty.

It sounds like you have not yet started med school - so I am writing my response based on that assumption.

I almost applied for NHSC and am glad I didn't. I am glad to have the options of any field I choose, and sometimes I even doubt that I want to be a doctor at all.

Look on the NHSC web site and you will see what your options are for specific communities. Med school in general is not going to be optimal for anyone wanting a holistic practice, since you are going to have to learn and practice the conventional thought through your 7 years of training - it is your legal obligation. I don't know when you are going to develop your CAM skills, but it's hard to believe you will have much time in a regular med school program.

As far as being gay, do you want to be quietly gay, or out and obvious and validated in your sexual orientation? Small towns anywhere are a very different environment from big cities, and your personal life will be a topic of discussion whether you like it or not. There are big-city NHSC sites - again, have a look and see if there's anything that might be workable for you.

You might want to get through your first year and then think about applying for NHSC. It's a big commitment when you're just starting and really have no idea where you're going in medicine (or whether you really want to be an MD, and regardless of what you think now, that question will come up over and over in first year).
 

fun8stuff

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MeowMix said:
there is no penalty if you flunk out of school; you just repay. Going into a non-primary care specialty is the big 3X + interest penalty.

It sounds like you have not yet started med school - so I am writing my response based on that assumption.

I almost applied for NHSC and am glad I didn't. I am glad to have the options of any field I choose, and sometimes I even doubt that I want to be a doctor at all.

Look on the NHSC web site and you will see what your options are for specific communities. Med school in general is not going to be optimal for anyone wanting a holistic practice, since you are going to have to learn and practice the conventional thought through your 7 years of training - it is your legal obligation. I don't know when you are going to develop your CAM skills, but it's hard to believe you will have much time in a regular med school program.

As far as being gay, do you want to be quietly gay, or out and obvious and validated in your sexual orientation? Small towns anywhere are a very different environment from big cities, and your personal life will be a topic of discussion whether you like it or not. There are big-city NHSC sites - again, have a look and see if there's anything that might be workable for you.

You might want to get through your first year and then think about applying for NHSC. It's a big commitment when you're just starting and really have no idea where you're going in medicine (or whether you really want to be an MD, and regardless of what you think now, that question will come up over and over in first year).
Can you apply for NHSC your third or fourth year?
 
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lemurlover

lemurlover

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fun8stuff said:
Can you apply for NHSC your third or fourth year?
Thanks for the feedback everyone. I had read about that 3X penalty for backing out on NHSC--OUCH!
As i understand it, you can sign up with NHSC even after all your medical school and residency stuff as a 'ready responder' or something like that. That might be a better option. I may really love a specialty that NHSC doesn't need, and it would be a drag to make such a huge decision based on my commitment to them and the fear of stifling debt.
As far as being gay, it's about being myself and having my girlfriend visit me at work and not hide her picture in a drawer somewhere. It's also about living somewhere with a lower risk of hate crimes. Already been there once and it sucks. I know you can't totally control that and i just want to live my life like any relaxed straight person would want to.
For complementary medicine, I already have a LOT of background in that and am feeling very glad that i got that through my career prior to med school. Otherwise, when i got outta medical training, i'd probly be an Rx machine unless something crazy happened.
Thanks all! And if there's anyone who is actually working at an NHSC site right now, or someone who has finished the commitment, please lemme know what you think.
 

Benzo4every1

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Actually the intern im working with is a recipient of this scholarship. You are limited to primary care: Ob-gyn, family, med, or peds

I've never heard about it until now...or maybe I did and never thought to go through it.
 

Kimmer

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fun8stuff said:
Can you apply for NHSC your third or fourth year?
You could apply before starting your third year b/c there is a two year minimum commitment required for scholarships. The other option is to wait until later and apply to have your loans repaid by the NHSC in exchange for service. That may be the best route for people with doubts.
As I have said, all I know is what was in the application booklet. I am still hoping someone in the program will stumble on this and share her/his experience.
 

MeowMix

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the Financial Aid forum is the place on SDN to look for NHSC expertise
 

dswonger

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Also, i'm queer and CAN'T end up in kansas...How much freedom do you get about where you end up?
Thanks![/QUOTE]

No need to crack on Kansas. Ooops that was an inside joke. Ut..ooh, that was another one. Sorry!

Kansans are great people. Strong, independent and don't get blown away when the wind blows.

P.S. If you're thinking of Nat. Health Schol. You may want to focus on inner city work. Rural people might get you mixed up and call you a steer and then you're really branded :eek:
 

lowbudget

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You really need to precept in a NHSC site. Do the SEARCH program. It's paid for by NHSC for the most part and you get a GOOD taste as what life will be like at a particular site.

Some of these places are real hard on straight couples much less LGBT couples in the sense that your life is under a microscope of the community and there may not be a community for outlet. As a physician in such a community, your life is easier because you have health care workers to hang out with, but for your partner who may not be in health care the isolation is tough.

Anyhow, it's worth checking it out first via SEARCH program offered through NHSC.
 

4ruralhealth

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lemurlover said:
I'm considering applying for NHSC. Anybody in it already? What is it like? I heard that most of the sites are drastically under-funded and it's frustrating to be committed to working in such an environment. Is it possible to have a satisfying holistic and complementary medicine practice while serving in the NHSC?
Also, i'm queer and CAN'T end up in kansas...How much freedom do you get about where you end up?
Thanks!
I have some mixed emotions regarding the NHSC Scholarship and Loan Repayment Program. Here are my thoughts: As you known you limited to primary care which may or may not be a problem – if you change your mind during the Scholarship there is a huge penalty (3 X tuition + interest). Second, depending on how much your tuition is the Scholarship might be a much better choice because it will pay all of your in-state or out-state tuition plus a monthly stipend of about 900 $. The Loan Repayment on the other hand will pay around 25-30K a year after you graduate from a Primary Care Residency. Depending again on your individual tuition payment, 25K a year might be much less that what you paid for one year of school. Obviously in this case the Scholarship would be a better choice financially. Third if you decide on the Scholarship you have to go to a site that is ranked by the NHSC to be around 14-15 or higher (read the fine print), i.e. the most undesirable of locations. The higher the ranking the more disadvantaged the site is. You might want to go to NHSC website and see if you would really want to practice in any of those locations. The advantage of the Loan Repayment program on the other hand, gives you the freedom to go to any site that is qualified by NHSC regardless of their rankings. Fourth, with the Loan Repayment Program you have to keep in mind that even though the NHSC is giving you 25-30K to go to a qualified site, the actual salaries of physicians in those sites are almost always considerably lower than sites that are not disadvantaged. For example the salaries of Family Practice doctors at some NHSC sites are as low as 90-100K plus the income from the Loan Repayment which is an additional 25-30K (115K-130K total). On the other hand the average salaries of Family Practice Physicians nationally are around 150K-180K. Bottom line I believe is to live where you want to live and you will still come up ahead in most cases. I personally believe there is no real advantage to the Loan Repayment Program. The government needs to get serious about improved incentives if that want people to serve in underserved sites. Quite simply the rising cost of medical school tuitions nationally is not being offset by the NHSC Loan Repayment Programs and I doubt it is going to improve real soon. I don’t want to give the impression that serving the disadvantaged is about money, but in my case I will graduate with 225K in debt and I have to be realistic about repayment. It’s a tough choice but specialty here I come! Oh yeah fifth, I have to be honest based on my many years of rural healthcare work, you sexual orientation if you chose to disclose it, will sadly be a big issue in a the majority of small town settings. Usually the stereotypes about small-town gossip are completely true and being a physician you will be in the center of controversy/judgment. You might, unfortunately, have to work in a very negative environment and thus an inner city site would be a better choice. Hope this helps!