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Physician Assistant Janell Gerberding finds niche at Philip Health Services, Inc.

What started as a temporary role has expanded into something much more, said Janell Gerberding, a physician assistant at Philip Health Services, Inc.

Originally hired to cover occasional on-call shifts in the hospital's emergency room, Gerberding is now on staff at the clinic one day each week.

"We're really happy that she is here. She's developed quite a patient following, and the doctors, nurses and other staff just love her," said PHSI Administrator Kent Olson. "I've heard nothing but glowing comments about her."

Gerberding attended the South Dakota State University and the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center in pursuit of her physician assistant degree. She and her family reside in Sturgis, and she works full time at the Regional Medical Clinic in Spearfish.

After she began emergency room coverage in Philip in late 2008, however, a need evolved for her services in the PHSI clinic on a regular basis. Today she arrives in Philip each Tuesday evening and covers the emergency room overnight. On Wednesdays she sees scheduled patients in the clinic, providing women's health care in addition to other types of general family medicine.

Her dual positions at Spearfish and Philip allow her to see different sides of medical care. "There is a special quality to rural medicine," she said. "You really get to spend more time with patients and get to know them. I've found that the patients here in Philip are so appreciative of the services and supportive of the hospital. That's rare in medicine today."

In addition to getting to know her patients, Gerberding also really enjoys the work environment at PHSI. "This is one of the best places I've ever worked. The medical staff has such a team approach, and it is so easy to find solutions that work for the patient," she said of her fellow medical providers Dr. David Holman, Dr. Coen Klopper and Physician Assistant Terry Henrie. Beyond the work environment, the town of Philip also appeals to Gerberding, "People here have such a community spirit - they look after each other and work together. I have felt so welcomed by the community."

To fulfill the continuing medical education requirement that all physician assistants must complete, Gerberding will be attending a family practice seminar later this month. As a physician assistant, she must also complete a recertification exam every six years; she was re-certified in 2009. While it can be challenging to manage her career in two locations at once, Gerberding relies on her family for support and relaxation. She and her husband, John, a contractor, and their children, Seth and Holly, enjoy outdoor activities such as camping, boating, hiking and skiing. Gerberding plans to maintain her role at PHSI for the foreseeable future. "I feel so fortunate to be here," she said.