I have long been aware of the critical role that athletic trainers provide because one of my daughters is an athletic trainer. Athletic trainers have expertise in assessing, treating and rehabilitating people with injuries, and at St. Luke’s, one of the big areas of focus is the prevention of injuries. That helps us achieve our population health goals of better outcomes and lower total cost of care.
They also serve as ambassadors of St. Luke’s, particularly in our rural communities. Here to tell you more is Chris Langrill, St. Luke’s Health System contributing writer.
- David C. Pate, M.D., J.D.
Sean Porter is the principal of Idaho City High School. For the better part of the past few decades, he’s filled any number of roles in the community: teacher, coach, athletic director.
He’s taken on all those roles by choice. One role he has taken on reluctantly? Medical assistant.
“Being at a rural school, you’re really on kind of an island in that we haven’t had in previous years even a medical office within a 45-minute drive,” Porter said.
“There have been days where a kid compound-fractures his finger in football practice and, as a coach, I’m loading him up in my car and driving him to the emergency room.”
Porter is thankful those days are in the past, and he says he has Kip Dribnak and his team to thank for that. Dribnak is St. Luke’s manager of outreach and athletic training services, and his team of athletic trainers have become fixtures at Idaho City sporting events – and any number of sporting events across Idaho. The crew is part of St. Luke’s Sports Medicine program, which serves Kimberly, Canyon Ridge and Filer high schools in the Magic Valley, Nampa High School in Canyon County, Mountain Home High School in Elmore County, Kuna, Melba, Marsing and Middleton high schools and dozens more schools, events, professional and recreational teams and ski areas across the state and throughout the year.
“They have just been such a huge resource on so many different levels, whether it’s training for our coaching staff, whether it’s concussion testing, whether it’s just making sure that our athletes are able to compete as hard as any other athlete in the state,” Porter said.
“Injury prevention, and how we deal with injuries, has just changed so much because of what St. Luke’s has provided for us.”
Dribnak oversees a team of 23 athletic trainers, and he said the relationships that St. Luke’s has developed with the communities they serve is almost as valuable as the medical attention they’re providing.
“We have professional sports, high school sports, collegiate sports, youth sports and community outreach events,” Dribnak said. “We’re the ones who provide that care for those athletes.”
Some of the care is provided on a contract basis, and some takes the form of community service. For Dribnak, the program is a blend of the traditional fee-for-service model and St. Luke’s increasing involvement in population health; in the case of the trainers, through in-kind care.
Kevin Taylor is the rural outreach/rodeo coordinator on Dribnak’s team of athletic trainers. As such, he often provides care to young athletes who oftentimes don’t otherwise get the medical care they need.
“Kevin deals with rural sports and rural schools, and many of those areas are medically underserved,” Dribnak said. “We save parents time and money by being there.
“But it’s all about population health,” he said. “We’re trying to cut down on the number of people who come into our health system and get billed. We’re trying to keep medical expenses down.
“So, when we’re out there in the community doing these services, they are benefiting the kid, the parent and our health system, because that system is not being clogged down with things we can handle. It’s mutually beneficial.”
Taylor said his primary role is to provide medical assistance. But he said there’s another role that is almost as important: He serves as an ambassador for St. Luke’s.
“I grew up in a small town, and I understand that you have to build that trust,” Taylor said. “The big thing about being out in those areas is that we can develop a relationship with the people in those communities and those schools, and that’s much better than slapping up a billboard.”
Monique Jensen can attest to that. Jensen is the principal at Parma High School. Like Jensen, she has also been a coach and athletic director.
A few years ago, St. Luke’s athletic trainers began making in-kind visits to Parma athletic events.
“After watching what they were able to provide for our school,” she said, “I felt it was a great need.”
It wasn’t long before Jensen had reason to want the trainers around regularly.
“Last spring, when I was still the athletic director, we had a baseball player get hurt very seriously,” Jensen said. “And it happened to be a night when (St. Luke’s) wasn’t able to provide us with coverage.
“I ended up being the one in charge of that event, that injury,” she said. “I knew right then that I didn’t want our coaches to be responsible for serious injuries like that.”
She went into action.
“I proposed to our school board and our superintendent that we come up with some money so that we had a part-time contract with St. Luke’s, and so that’s what we’ve been able to do,” Jensen said. “That started this year, and it’s been huge. We had five major breaks and injuries during the football season, and we’ve had I don’t know how many concussions.
“If we didn’t have St. Luke’s on some of those injuries, we wouldn’t have been able to take care of them.”
Brad Allison has been the primary athletic trainer at Parma, and Jensen said he has been an invaluable liaison.
“It gives families a connection,” Jensen said. “If I have injuries here, Brad can give them a referral.
“I can make a phone call to Brad and say, ‘Brad, help me out.’”
Dribnak said that’s just another example of how his team of athletic trainers is providing a valuable service while also connecting St. Luke’s to communities across Idaho.
“Folks understand that we care about the community, and we care about the kids in their community,” he said. “We’re 100 percent out in the community. That’s all we do, and we’re building relationships all the time.”
Chris Langrill is a writer and copy editor for the St. Luke’s Communications and Marketing department.