National Rural Health Day Celebrates the Power of Rural

FAIRBURY – Jefferson Community Health & Life celebrates the Power of Rural on the 10th annual Rural Health Day on Thursday, Nov. 19.

The National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health sets aside the third Thursday of every November – November 19, 2020 – to celebrate National Rural Health Day. First and foremost, National Rural Health Day is an opportunity to “Celebrate the Power of Rural” by honoring the selfless, community-minded, “can do” spirit of that prevails in rural America. But it also provides an opportunity to bring to light the unique healthcare challenges that rural citizens face – and showcase the efforts of rural healthcare providers, State Offices of Rural Health and other rural stakeholders to address those challenges.

Jefferson Community Health & Life is one of more than 1,200 Critical Access Hospitals in the United States, and 65 Critical Access Hospitals in the state of Nebraska. The Critical Access Hospital designation is designed to reduce the financial vulnerability of rural hospitals and improve access to healthcare by keeping essential services in rural communities. Critical Access Hospitals receive cost-based Medicare reimbursement. Jefferson Community Health Center became a Critical Access Hospital in 2000.

“Being a Critical Access Hospital does not limit us in the services we can provide for our area residents. It helps us to offer services which might be less affordable because of fewer patients needing the services,” said Burke Kline, DHA, JCH&L CEO.

Health care organizations are important for rural communities – not only for accessibility and availability of health care, but also for economic development. Jefferson Community Health & Life is one of many health care providers in Jefferson County, and is the largest health care employer, with more than 250 staff members. JCH&L is consistently one of the top three employers in Jefferson County. Each year JCH&L pays its staff more than $11 million in salary and provides more than $2 million in benefits.

“The jobs at JCH&L require a wide variety of skills, training and education,” Kline said. “We employ high school students who are just getting started with part-time jobs and on-the-job training, all the way through the spectrum of educational levels to those with advanced medical degrees.”

JCH&L’s primary service area is Jefferson County, with 7,097, residents as of 2018. Some patients also come from surrounding counties in Nebraska and Kansas. The residents of southeast Nebraska are among nearly 57 million people who choose to live and work in rural areas nationally. Rural residents make up 19 percent of the U.S. population, but are spread across 72 percent of the land area.

Small towns, farming communities and frontier areas are places where neighbors know each other, respect each other and work together to benefit the greater good. They provide opportunities to start business and test entrepreneurial spirit.

Rural communities also have unique healthcare needs. Rural communities must address accessibility, provider shortages, the needs of an aging population, increasing chronic conditions, and largest percentages of uninsured and underinsured citizens, says the National Rural Health Association.

Jefferson Community Health & Life operates a 17-bed, acute-care Critical Access Hospital in Fairbury, Neb., offering inpatient and outpatient services, including surgery, therapy, screenings, and 24-hour emergency services. Jefferson Community Health & Life offers additional health and life services, including Fairbury and Plymouth clinics (primary and family care), Burkley Fitness Center, Gardenside (long-term care), and Home Health services. In addition, Jefferson Community Health & Life supports numerous education programs and support groups. JCH&L has offered services to residents of Jefferson County and the surrounding area since 1963, and continues to grow and change as the area’s needs change.

“We strive to fulfil our vision of being a trusted partner for a lifetime of health,” Kline said. “While JCHL can’t offer every healthcare service needed by our area residents, we are proud to offer a great many services which give area residents the opportunity to receive quality healthcare in a convenient location with professional and compassionate staff. Our area residents have much to celebrate on National Rural Health Day.”

JCH&L Taking More Precautions Against Spread of COVID-19

Cases of COVID-19 in Jefferson County and surrounding counties have increased dramatically in the past two weeks. Jefferson County has had 157 new positive diagnoses in that time, meaning more than half of the county’s current total of 242 cases (as of Sunday, Nov. 15) have been confirmed in just the past few weeks. Jefferson County has had one death caused by COVID, and has a number of residents hospitalized and seriously ill with COVID.

Public health officials believe that with the current trend, ALL hospital beds in the state will be full in about 3 weeks.

“This brings us great concern that we might not be able to transfer a patient who is seriously ill with any health concern – COVID or otherwise,” said Burke Kline, DHA, JCH&L CEO. “We MUST do the right things to protect our patients, our hospital beds, and our community.”

Public Health Solutions District Health Department currently has all five counties in our public health district in the red, or severe, zone on their risk dial.

Because of these concerns, JCH&L and its various services will be making some changes effective Tuesday, Nov. 17. Everyone entering JCH&L facilities will continue to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, and is required to mask.

JCH&L Fairbury Clinic

*JCH&L Fairbury Clinic is postponing physicals.

*Fairbury Clinic will see patients who need to be seen for followup for chronic conditions in the mornings, and will see patients who have health concerns other than COVID/respiratory (and have no more than one COVID symptom) in the afternoons.

*Clinic patients are asked to bring no more than one other person with them to their appointment, if needed for assistance.

*Patients who will be seen in the clinic will be asked to wait in their vehicle until their appointment, rather than in the waiting room.

*Virtual visits or telephone visits will be encouraged at the Fairbury Clinic for all who are able to use them.

*Patients with COVID symptoms will not be seen inside the clinic. The patients will be advised of the location of their visit when they make the appointment.

Plymouth Clinic

*Plymouth Clinic is closed until further notice.

JCH&L Outpatient Services

*Outpatient clinics are still being held, but staff will be working to reduce numbers, try not to have as many patients waiting at once, ask patients to wait in their cars as they are able, and will spread patients out around waiting areas that are available.

*All receiving services are asked to bring no more than one other person with them to their appointment, if needed for assistance.

*At this time, procedures that do not require an overnight stay will still be offered. Procedures which require an overnight stay will be considered on a case-by-case basis.


*JCH&L is decreasing visitors to hospital patients to one per day. (This could be different visitors on different days at this time.) End of life visitation will be at the discretion of the medical provider.

JCH&L Sports Medicine and Rehab Services

*JCH&L Sports Medicine and Rehab Services will continue seeing patients as needed.

JCH&L Burkley Fitness Center

*JCH&L Burkley Fitness Center will be closed as of Tuesday, Nov. 17, to members and guests.

Support Groups

*Support groups for both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease remain on hold.



*Currently only closed window visitation is allowed at Gardenside.

Other services

*At this time, other services – such as lab and radiology — are still being scheduled.

Sterling Connection
*Sterling Connection Christmas party (which was to be a movie at the Bonham Theatre) is cancelled.


*Patients for all services and all visitors continue to be screened. Hospital or clinic patients with positive screening results will be cared for appropriately and given guidance and direction.

*Patients who have symptoms of COVID-19 must call for screening over the telephone before arriving at any medical facility.


*JCH&L medical providers are sending a memo to Jefferson County churches recommending they meet virtually only for at least the next several weeks.

*JCH&L is supporting a local mask mandate.

*JCH&L continues to offer free TestNebraska screening times. Test Nebraska screenings are scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 17, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.; Friday, Nov. 20, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Tuesday, Nov. 24, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.; Tuesday, Dec. 1, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.; Friday, Dec. 4, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Tuesday, Dec. 8, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.; and Friday, Dec. 11, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

*JCH&L also has other testing options available when providers order a COVID test.

*Important note about isolation and quarantine. If you have been in close contact with a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, you are REQUIRED BY LAW to quarantine for 14 days. You could develop symptoms as late as the 14th day after exposure. If you develop symptoms, you are REQUIRED to isolate for at least 10 days after symptoms begin and until symptoms resolve. For some, isolation may last up to 21 days. If you do not comply, you could be charged with a misdemeanor and fined. These regulations are to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

JCH&L Plymouth Clinic Closed Until Further Notice

Because of the increase in COVID-19 cases in Jefferson County and the surrounding area, JCH&L Plymouth Clinic is now closed until further notice.

Services remain available at JCH&L Fairbury Clinic. Those with any symptoms of COVID-19 are asked to call ahead and identify symptoms when making an appointment. Those with COVID-19 symptoms are seen at a health center location rather than in the clinic, to ensure the safety of clinic patients.

The clinic asks that only one other person accompany any patient to the clinic for appointments.

Patients for all services continue to be screened. Hospital or clinic patients with positive screening results will be cared for appropriately and given guidance and direction.

Patients who have symptoms of COVID-19 are encouraged to call for screening over the telephone before arriving at any medical facility.

Diabetes Specialty Clinic to be Offered by Telehealth

Area patients who need the next level of care for diabetes will be able to receive it through a telehealth clinic at Jefferson Community Health & Life. A diabetes telehealth clinic will be offered monthly by Dr. Aaron Ward, a diabetes specialist with Complete Endocrinology at Bryan Health.

Dr. Ward has special interest in diabetes prevention, cardio metabolic risk reduction through lifestyle changes and complex lipid management. He loves working with emerging diabetes technologies such as insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring.

“I get so excited when my patients have breakthroughs with new technologies or are able to prevent or cut back on medication use through lifestyle changes or new therapies,” Dr. Ward said. “It it’s not effective, simple and affordable, it’s probably not going to work. Every person needs their own individualized plan. I love having discussions about why we recommend different therapies, and knowing we are giving the most current, personalized care.”

This clinic requires a referral from a primary care practitioner, and is designed for patients who need the next level of expertise for their diabetes care. Patients who have been referred will be contacted by Complete Endocrinology to complete patient information documents, and will be contacted by JCH&L Outpatient Services about the appointment time.

Monthly clinics will begin on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

Jefferson Community Health & Life is excited to offer a new telehealth specialty clinic.

“Diabetes is an area where we have seen a need for the additional support of a specialist,” said Dr. Burke Kline, JCH&L CEO. “We are excited to develop a relationship with Complete Endocrinology through Bryan Health’s telehealth program. This is one more way we can be a trusted partner in our area residents’ health.”

Talk to your doctor about whether seeing a diabetes specialists might be of help to you.

Gardenside Visitation Limited

As of Nov. 5, Gardenside visitation is now limited to closed window visits or virtual visits only, because of a positive COVID-19 test at Gardenside.

“We are required by CMS regulations not to allow any face-to-face visitation at this time,” said Deb Sutton RN, BS, NHA.  “Safety of our residents and staff remains our first priority. We are increasing our testing protocols and taking every measure necessary.”

Residents and staff will be tested more frequently until all results are negative for at least 14 days for all residents and staff, Sutton said. Residents will be asked to remain in their rooms, including for meals during this time. Group activities will be cancelled.

JCH&L works closely with Public Health Solutions district health department, and complies with state and federal guidelines.

Families who wish to see their loved ones may come to visit through closed windows only. Virtual visits are also available through Skype or Facebook Messenger. If families would like a staff member to take their loved one a telephone for conversation for a closed window visit or schedule a Skype or Facebook visit, families can all Gardenside staff at 402-729-5220 to make arrangements.

Anyone with questions about the Gardenside requirements should contact Sutton at 402-729-6843.

This change in visitation comes as Public Health Solutions district health department reports cases in our district rising rapidly, and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reports cases statewide rising rapidly. Public Health Solutions reported on Friday, Nov. 6, that Gage County’s risk dial is in the red, and Jefferson County’s is higher in the orange risk zone. Jefferson County’s positivity rate was reported at 25.4 percent, up from 8.2 percent last week. Public Health Solutions hit an all-time high of positive cases being reported on Wednesday, Nov. 4.

“We urge area residents to wear masks, get flu shots, and avoid the 3 C’s: crowded places, close contacts and confined spaces. Avoid gathering in groups where you can’t maintain 6 feet of distance and when you are with people outside of your household. Avoid enclosed spaces with poor ventilation,” Sutton said.

Local, district and state numbers of positive cases can be found online at, and go to View Covid-19 Dashboard. District data and a dashboard can also be found on the Public Health Solutions site at, and go to Click to View the Full Dashboard.

JCH&L continues to offer TestNebraska COVID-19 testing free. It is offered every Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. in front of Cedarwood Assisted Living. Additional dates have also been added as county numbers have continued to rise. Testing is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 10, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and Friday, Nov. 13, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Testing is free and is offered through state’s TestNebraska program. The sample is collected outdoors. It is recommended that those interested sign up on line at

JCH&L Fairbury Clinic continues to see clinic patients who have respiratory symptoms outside of clinic space, in order to keep the clinic safe for all patients. Clinic patients who report respiratory symptoms will be seen at a location at the health center. They will be directed when their appointment is made. The clinic also continues to offer Virtual Visits.

Flu shots are still available by appointment at both the Fairbury and Plymouth clinics. As the annual flu season approaches, it is recommended that everyone 6 months of age and older get an influenza vaccination, in order to try to limit the possibilities of having a surge of influenza along with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state’s larger hospitals, the most likely to care for more seriously ill patients, are seeing a surge in patients and hospitalizations for COVID-19, according to their reports. That could mean that Critical Access Hospitals like JCH&L may begin to have more trouble transferring patients who need levels of care which can’t be provided locally, said Erin Starr, RN, BSN, JCH&L Chief Nursing Officer.

Masks or face coverings are a particularly important tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19, because COVID-19 is spread mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets which are produced when people cough, sneeze or talk, according to the Centers for Disease Control. When used in conjunction with social distancing, masks are an extra layer of protection that trap these respiratory droplets and prevent them from traveling into the air and exposing others.

Masks should completely cover their mouth and nose; have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric; and fit snugly against the side of the face so there are not gaps. Avoid masks that that have exhalation valves or vents.

Current statewide Directed Health Measures state:

  • Gatherings
    • INDOOR gatherings will be limited to 50% of rated occupancy (not to exceed 10,000).  This is scaled back from the previous cap of 75%.
    • OUTDOOR gatherings will remain at 100% of rated occupancy (not to exceed 10,000).
    • Groups shall be no larger than eight (8) individuals.
    • Plans must still be submitted to local health departments and approved for all gatherings of 500+ (1,000+ in Douglas County).


  • Bars & Restaurants
    • Patrons will be required to be seated unless they are placing an order, using the restroom, or playing games.
    • 100% of rated occupancy continues.
    • Maximum of eight (8) individuals in a party (groups larger than eight (8) will need to split into multiple tables).
  • Wedding & Funeral Reception Venues
    • Maximum of eight (8) individuals in a party (groups larger than eight (8) will need to split into multiple tables).
    • 100% of rated occupancy continues.

It’s Not Too Late for an Influenza Vaccination

It’s not too late to receive an influenza vaccination, and vaccinations remain available by appointment at JCH&L Fairbury and Plymouth clinics.

Call today to make your appointment for:

  • JCH&L Plymouth Clinic, Tuesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or Thursdays from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Call 402-729-6888.
  • JCH&L Fairbury Clinic, appointments may be made for regular clinic hours of Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. To make an appointment, call 402-729-3361 (option 1.)

When coming for influenza vaccination appointments this year, please:

  • Wear clothing which allows easy access to your arm
  • Bring your health insurance card and photo ID. Most health insurances cover the influenza vaccine. There will be a fee payable that day if it will be private pay.
  • Bring a completed Health History form (available on our website at if you have not had an appointment since we started our new Electronic Health Record on Aug. 17

The CDC recommends annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months of age or older every year. Once the vaccine is administered, it takes about 2 weeks for peak immunity to develop. The flu season typically starts in about November, but can last until March or April.

The influenza virus can cause mild to severe symptoms, and can lead to death, especially among those who have additional risk factors: age (65 and older or 2 and younger), immune compromised, chronic health conditions or pregnancy.

If you have questions about influenza vaccinations or the JCH&L influenza clinics, please call 402-729-3361, and select option 2 for patient services.

Kimberlin Earns Diabetes Management Certification

Rebekah Kimberlin, PharmD, BC-ADM, a pharmacist at Jefferson Community Health & Life, has earned board certification in advanced diabetes management.

Kimberlin has been a diabetes educator at JCH&L since 2016, and also serves as a lifestyles coach with the SmartMoves diabetes prevention program. The new board certification allows her to manage complex patient needs and assist patients with their therapeutic problem-solving. Those with BC-ADM credentials can adjust medications, treat and monitor acute and chronic complications and other comorbidities, counsel patients on lifestyle modification, address psychosocial issues, and participate in research and mentoring.

JCH&L’s diabetes team includes Kimberlin and Lisa Edeal, RDN, LMNT, lifestyle coach. Diabetes care and educational specialists offer education and support at all stages of dealing with diabetes. It is especially recommended that you schedule an appointment when you are initially diagnosed, annually or when you are not meeting your goals, when faced with new challenges that affect your plan, and when you have changes in your health care or life stages (new insurance, new living arrangements, etc.) A physician’s order is required for diabetes care educational sessions. Medicare and most insurances pay for educational sessions.

“When diabetes is understood and properly managed, it is possible to keep it under control and keep complications at a minimum and quality of life high,” Kimberlin said. “As your partner in your diabetes care, our team wants to help you live your healthiest life.”

For more information, call Jefferson Community Health & Life at 402-729-3351 and ask for Rebekah Kimberlin.

Dr. Kline Honored as ACHE Early Careerist

Dr. Burke Kline, JCH&L CEO, was honored on Friday as he was named the American College of Healthcare Executives Early Careerist during the ACHE annual convention, being held virtually this year.

The Early Careerist Regent’s Award is selected using the following criteria: member of ACHE, demonstrating leadership capacity, executive capability, promoting their organization’s growth and stature in the community, participating in local, state and hospital association activities and community activities, and participation in ACHE activities.

Dr. Kline has more than 16 years of health care experience, beginning his healthcare career as a CNA and CMA during his high school years. He was raised in Hastings, Neb., and graduated from Hastings Senior High School.

After high school, Dr. Kline moved to Lincoln to attend Southeast Community College where he obtained his Associate of Applied Sciences Degree in Criminal Justice. After earning his Associate’s degree, Dr. Kline attended the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center located in Grand Island, Neb. After graduating as a certified Nebraska Law Enforcement Officer, Dr. Kline began a career in law enforcement, starting as a deputy sheriff with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, in Osceola, Neb. Dr. Kline worked for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for a year until he was recruited by the Gage County Sheriff’s Office in 2008. During his time with the Gage County Sheriff’s Office, Dr. Kline wore many hats including: K-9 Handler, SWAT Team Leader, Senior Road Deputy and Commander of the Major Crimes Unit.

After many years in Law enforcement, Dr. Kline decided to return to healthcare and returned to college, first obtaining his Bachelor of Science degree in Human Resource Management from Bellevue University. After earning his Bachelor’s degree, Dr. Kline began working for the Pawnee County Memorial Hospital in Pawnee City, Neb. Dr. Kline started out as Administrative Resident then was promoted to the executive assistant to the CEO, then to Associate Administrator.

During his time at Pawnee County Memorial Hospital, Dr. Kline earned his Master of Healthcare Administration degree. After 4 years at Pawnee County Memorial Hospital, Dr. Kline accepted a CEO position at Greeley County Health Services in Tribune, Kan.

During his four-year tenure at Greeley County Health Services, Dr. Kline earned his Doctorate in Health Care Administration and was asked to sit on many boards including the Kansas Clinical Improvement Collaborative, Kansas Hospital Association’s Governance Committee, Kansas Health Education and Research Foundation, and the Pioneer Health Network to name a few.

In 2020, Dr. Kline and his family decided to return to Nebraska and relocated to Fairbury, Neb., as the CEO of Jefferson Community Health and Life. JCH&L includes a 17-bed Critical Access Hospital, a 40-Bed long-term care, two family medicine clinics, and a community fitness center, and is co-owner with Bryan Health of a 50-unit assisted living facility. JCH&L is just embarking on an estimated $8.4 million project which will build a new family medicine clinic attached to the health center.

Dr. Kline and his wife, Andrea, have two daughters: Ellie, 11; and Katelyn, 9.

Patient Experience Feedback Program Resumes at Jefferson Community Health and Life

Surveys have resumed for Jefferson Community Health & Life patients, after  few months of not happening because of implementation of the new Electronic Health Record. Survey letters with written surveys are once again going out for those who were hospitalized, and calls and emails are once again going out for those who have received clinic, emergency or outpatient services at Jefferson Community Health & Life.

Patients may receive surveys for visits from August, September or early October, in addition to current visits.

“The surveys allow JCH&L to continue to improve our patient experience through addressing any concerns patients have. This partnership with NRC Health is an example of our continued dedication toward ensuring our patients have an excellent care experience,” said Lana Likens, director of public relations.

For hospital patients, JCH&L participates in HCAHPS, the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems. HCAHPS is the first national, standardized, publicly reported survey of patients’ perspectives of hospital care. It is a written survey which is mailed back to NRC Health for tabulation.

For outpatients, emergency services and clinic patients, JCH&L partners with NRC Health. Real-time Feedback is a patient experience program that allows JCH&L to work to improve the patient experience. A day or two after their visit, the patient will receive a telephone call between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. using Interactive Voice Response (IVR). The phone call will take about two minutes to complete. If the patient does not answer, the system will leave a voice mail message inviting the patient to call back. If they return the call, they will access the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) survey.

If the patient doesn’t answer or return the call, about a day later an email will be sent (if the patient has an email address included in their record.) The email has a link to a web-based assessment, which will take about 2 minutes to complete. If the patient does not have an email address in their record, they will receive a second phone call.

The system will make a third attempt to contact the patient another day later with a phone call, and if they don’t answer a voice mail will be left. The patient can return the call at their convenience and complete the Interactive Voice Response survey.

“We apologize that some surveys have been delayed. We appreciate our patients’ support in evaluating the service we provide and helping us to continue to improve,” Likens said.