Personal Experience with IHS?

Discussion in 'NHSC | PHS | IHS' started by cheezwiz11, Dec 2, 2009.

  1. cheezwiz11


    Jun 15, 2008
    Hey folks,
    I'm a first year medical student interested in working with communities that don't have great access to medical care. I was wondering if there was anyone out there who has worked with the Indian Health Service and how their experience has been. I'm single so I definitely have the freedom and flexibility to go to some remote areas but if any physicians out there have had experience with IHS, I would love to hear of your experience. Any personal experience with competitive salaries, loan repayment, interaction with Native communities, etc. would be awesome. Thanks all!
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  3. Grif

    Grif Crazy About Psychology 2+ Year Member

    Mar 2, 2009
    I too will be apping to the IHS scholarship for graduate school. I'm also concerned about how competitive it is, but my understanding is that it's much more competitive at the undergrad level.

    Salaries are much easier to determine, since you must app for IHS jobs directly. They publish pay ranges for each job opening listed, and they vary widely depending on need, region, specialty and job level.

    For behavioral health it appears to range from $32k (entry-level substance abuse counselor) to $104k (clinpsy supervisor).

    For physicians, it looks to be $100k and beyond ($200k+).
  4. IHSPediatrician


    Apr 24, 2009
    I am a pediatrician with IHS for about 2 years in the Navajo Area. I have been very happy with my experience and think it is a great opportunity for flexible people. I never have to deal with overhead or worry how a patient is going to pay for obtain necessary care. I have had overwhelming positive experiences with my patients. The Navajo area has great recreational opportunities with mountain biking, hiking, and skiing.

    As far as salary, it has become very competitive, at least in the Navajo area, as a tool for physician retention. IHS is a site for some state loan repayment, NHSC, and IHS scholarships. If there is a specific geographic area you are interested in contact the area office of that area(info on IHS website) because the job vacancies are not always updated regularly. If you are in training, electives can to arranged in many areas to preview the system.

    Let me know if you have any specific questions. Good luck.
  5. halito1


    Dec 25, 2009
    I worked for the IHS for 4 years and finished to go back to a cardiology fellowship. My experience was a love/hate experience. I really enjoyed taking care of my patients and they were real appreciative, but I was frustrated by the system.

    I must say that i think not all regions in IHS are run the same, because different leadership for different areas. (I worked in the Oklahoma region.) They all have your ups and downs. The leadership of the facilities has alot to do with your experience. I have been in both facilities with excellent leadership and my experience was very good on the other hand I was transferred to a hospital facilities with a poor leadership and my experience was lessen quite a bit. The only constant thing about IHS is the patients and 99 percent of them were great and i really enjoyed taking care of them.

    If you fight the beuraucracy, this could make your life miserable. I enjoyed the IHS enough that when I get out of my fellowship, I will have some sort of relationship with the IHS. The American Indian need access to care and I plan on being a part of that for the rest of my career. Practicing in the IHS is truly an adventure.

    Overall, I would do it again in a heartbeat.
  6. btlwhulka

    btlwhulka Junior Member 10+ Year Member

    Feb 13, 2003
    If you are a passive person who doesn't mind taking orders from someone with no medical knowledge, you will do fine in IHS. If you have a mind of your own, it becomes extremely frustrating. It is an inherently hostile work environment for doctors because physicians come and go through the revolving door, but the staff stays long term. The system generally sucks the life out of physicians, so they don't stay long. Most are out the door the moment their scholarship payback is complete, which is why IHS has to continually recruit aggressively.

    In my opinion, if you want to help the less fortunate, you should volunteer your time or work contract with them so that you can do things on your own terms. Four years is an extremely long time to pay back a scholarship, particularly if you aren't happy with working there. It literally transforms into a prison stint. Just calling it how I see it, and (final disclaimer) everyone's experience is different. Lord knows, IHS needs good people to stay long term--maybe you will change the system...
  7. Grif

    Grif Crazy About Psychology 2+ Year Member

    Mar 2, 2009
    Special thanks to everyone who is sharing their experiences. It really does help!:thumbup:

    My only kvetch is that few are in cities. I grew up in rural OK and not too interested in working there.

    Part 1 could be a deal-breaker for a lot of people. Opportunities abound outside of IHS where PhDs and MDs work under office managers with no college exp for little pay. :( I'll be contacting area leaders directly before making my decision to apply, but overall the options look really good :thumbup:

    Part 2: I was just reading the other day about how 65% of the IHS dentists are eligible for retirement this year and how if they all took it, that would cripple the IHS dental system. :scared:
  8. Ryan Smith

    Ryan Smith

    Jan 14, 2010
    i was wondering about dental hygiene and wanted to know if Indian Health Service (IHS) will cover tuition if the program is only 2 years. i was thinking about going to San juan colleges dental hygiene program in Farmington, NM. and then working for IHS, is this a good idea??!!
  9. Grif

    Grif Crazy About Psychology 2+ Year Member

    Mar 2, 2009
    Based on their comparison chart, they only list the BS Dental Hygiene program. But I would recommend your regional office to see if they do cover the 2-yr programs. These are also not guaranteed and are pretty competitive, with priority categories (I'm not sure what the priorities for this cycle are).

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