The staff in CHP’s West Yellowstone clinic recently completed a busy summer season with hordes of tourists from around the globe visiting Yellowstone Park through its most popular entrance using the small town as a jumping-off point. In addition, the park is a “top 5 attraction” for visitors from China and Japan coming to the United States arriving daily in “West” on tour busses. These populations take this small town of roughly 1,200 for much of the year to more than 20,000 per night in the height of the summer.
And, it turns out, there are plenty of reasons for visitors to require healthcare during their trip. From cuts and falls to altitude sickness and abdominal pain, the CHP-West Yellowstone crew handles it all with grace and compassion. Adding to the complexity, sometimes patient visits must be accompanied by an interpreter at the end of a phone when the patient’s native language is not English.
“We see folks from all over the world for all kinds of reasons,” said Erin Bevan, RN, FNP, the clinic’s family nurse practitioner. “Since we are the only primary healthcare in town, everything and anything can walk through the door. We try to be ready and have great partners like the local fire department and Big Sky Medical Center close by to help us.”
As a patient-centered medical home for local residents, CHP-West Yellowstone takes care of individuals and families for their healthcare needs year-around. Complimenting Erin and her support staff, two behavioral health providers are in the clinic two days per week, commuting the 180 miles roundtrip from Bozeman to ensure that the residents of West have access to services usually not found in small communities.
One new service is the addition of a permanent nurse to CHP’s clinical staffing in West. Becky Goltz, the clinic’s lead medical assistant, recently completed her licensed practical nursing credential, which allows the clinic to have expanded services all the time. Becky also is the clinic’s limited permit holder x-ray technician. And with electronic health records connecting this small town too much larger healthcare infrastructure, patients at CHP-West Yellowstone can access many of the same services as patients of the other CHP clinical sites.
“Our array of services has been a large benefit to West,” said Lander Cooney, CHP’s CEO. “We have an amazing staff who are committed to ensuring that locals in the West have the best healthcare possible. They know everyone by name, can help refer to other providers as needed and are a trusted resource for everyone in town.”
Devising unique partnership arrangements is at the core of what community health centers like CHP do and the clinic in the West is an illustrative example of this. The town council helps support the clinic financially and provides its building inexpensively, while Big Sky Medical Center provides its physicians on Tuesdays to allow the clinic to be open five days per week. Bozeman Health makes lab courier services available while also taking care of medical waste disposal, biomedical and radiological equipment servicing, and other assistance.
“It really does take a village to work in small, remote communities, and CHP is proud to be the primary care provider for everyone in West Yellowstone – locals, with and without resources, as well as tourists,” Cooney said.