Growing up in southeast Idaho, Nick Box spent most of his free time outdoors – fishing, camping and rafting; it became such an intrinsic part of his life that he knew he would fashion a future in a rural
While studying a degree in French from Idaho State University, he took a job coordinating wilderness trips, which required training on medical protocol.
His fascination led him to investigate potential medical careers, and he eventually decided to become a physician assistant.
While he getting his master’s at Idaho State, Nick trained in several rural communities, some of which were over an hour and half from the nearest hospital. In the absence of an in-state medical school, Nick notes one goal of his program was to “fill the needs of a population that is, outside of major metropolitan areas, largely removed from many medical services.” He had heard several instructors mention the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and did some research. He found that if he applied and was accepted to the NHSC, he could reduce his student loan debt in exchange for working in an underserved community.
At Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics in Orofino, he sees a fair amount of high-impact trauma common to areas with an outdoor focus, including injuries related to hunting, fishing and logging. He treats common chronic illness like diabetes and hypertension.
What Nick values most about the clinic in which he works is the team approach they apply to practicing medicine and the effort placed on having an efficient electronic medical record system. For most Orofino residents, their primary care provider is located in the hospital or at one of the satellite clinics, which makes having a centralized system critical to practicing rural medicine. “It helps us deliver continuity of care,” he says. “We never want to waste time reinventing the wheel when seeing a patient."
He also notes that the team and patients benefit from a strong telemedicine program where they use robotics, cameras and imaging, all of which allow patients to meet specialists who wouldn’t otherwise be accessible to them.
Nick sees a broad range of patients, from infants to senior citizens, and he likes the ability to provide continuing care to patients as they grow. “I'm looking forward to being able to really see how my younger patients do in the future,” he says. “It’s the most rewarding part of my job.”
Nick wants to continue his career in a rural community after his service with the Corps is completed, adding, “I have grown close to many of the patients I see. We have built great relationships. Orofino really is also a beautiful place to live; I can fish, ride my bike, or throw my raft on the water.”