Week 1 at Sisseton
Now having been in Sisseton for a week, I can not believe it took me three and a half years to drive forty five minutes north to experience all that this town has to offer! My first night in Sisseton on May 31st was a busy one as I got to know my roommate, Kelli, discussed ideas for our community project, and got myself situated in my new home for the next four weeks. Kelli and I are lucky enough to be staying in a fully furnished two bathroom, three bedroom well-kept trailer provided by the hospital.

The next day, June 1st, was a busy one. We reported to the Coteau des Prairies early Monday morning to have a meet and greet with many of the hospital staff. Everyone was very friendly and seemed so enthused about having Kelli and I join their team for the next four weeks. Although CDP is quite smaller than the Sanford or Avera I am used to, I was lost for the majority of Monday as I tried getting myself where I needed to go. The rest of the day was spent getting to know what Sisseton has to offer its visitors and citizens.

Day two started out quick as I followed around a Home Health Nurse  as she met with clients in Sisseton and the surrounding small towns. I learned a lot during this experience, including the social and behavior pieces that aid into the issues that some of the Health Home clients encounter. This was also the first experience to Agency Village which is on tribal land near Sisseton. I was absolutely blown away by the amazing architecture of the school and administrative buildings there.  The beautiful art and culture of Native Americans is fascinating to see.

Wednesday was again, a very busy day. I spent some of the day meeting with patients, discussing care plans for them with interdisciplinary health care professionals, and gaining education on the complexity of each of their needs. It was a treat to see the amazing teamwork that the employees here display. I also spent some time learning from and helping Jackie, the LCSW, with discharge planning and preparing a PASSRR for a hospital patient. The end of my day was spent down in the ER shadowing the nurses and doctors and getting a better understanding of how the ER is used here in Sisseton.

Thursday was spent in the Nursing Unit, sitting in on children dentist work and conversing with Dr. Zimmer, the dentist that is employed through IHS. He helped to clarify many questions I had about dental care and genetics that deal with soft enamel. I was also able to talk with the dietitian and pharmacists about their jobs here at CDP. My afternoon was again spent in the ER learning more medical terminology and experiencing more everyday life here at CPD in Sisseton.

My last day for the week in Sisseton was, can you guess, another busy one! I was able to shadow a woman having contractions and getting admitted into one of the birthing suites. Again, all new for me and very exciting. I was also able to view a surgery today. This is something I was a bit concerned for, but was not as scary as I thought it would be, and very educational. I was also able to see the full process of the Anesthesiologist, nurses in the recovery room, and how all the pieces work and come together to make each patients experience a successful one.

Overall, this has been a wonderful, educational, and exciting week for me. I can’t wait to see what the next three weeks will have in store for me, and what the weekend life is like here in Sisseton. I also forgot to mention, that my roommate Kelli and I have done well in immersing ourselves in the community this week. We have utilized the workout facility at CDP as well as the workout facility at Agency Village. It has been an asset to not only spend time in the hospital, but also in other settings in the Sisseton community. We plan to continue to do this throughout our stay here so we continue to have growing knowledge in how the citizens interact with each other and live their lives in the Sisseton community.

Week 2
This week has been even more educational and fast paced than the last! It’s my favorite way to spend my days, busy busy! I spent one morning learning about how the Physical therapists, Occupational therapists, and their assistants function at the Coteau hospital and how much of an asset they are to have on staff for the patients! These therapies are contracted through Big Stone Therapies. I was able to follow them around, learn a bit about their jobs and how they can help many of the clients I work with and will be working with in the future. I also spent time hanging out with the XR, CT, and MRI staff to see how the hospitals get the data the doctors need to diagnose and treat. I was very intrigued by this, as Kelli and I scanned through these images and learned what each client’s report said. Another cool thing I was able to experience was a simulation truck that travels around to rural communities to provide practice for the nursing staff. I was able to sit in with two nurses who had to give labor to one of the very expensive mechanically operated patients. Needless to say, I learned quite a lot. I have been hopeful this month to see a live birth, and I think this was a good preparation to that! The other part of the simulation was neo natal care for infants, which again, was very informative.

I also was able to follow around my MSW supervisor a great amount this week meeting with patients, learning more about discharge planning, complications that can occur, how to be supportive to not only the patient but their family and staff as well, the importance of referrals, and the lack of wrap around services provided to people in rural communities. One of my favorite days this week was Thursday, the day I spent going to meetings at Indian Health Services and learning more about their initiatives and how the Coteau hospital works with them. It was also very interesting to learn more about the Native American beliefs and rituals that they continue to carry out in this area of the state. Kelli and I were also able to narrow down some ideas for our community project and meet with some community members on how to accomplish this.

The weekend came at a great time and Kelli and I were able to enjoy some of Sisseton as well! We spent Friday evening processing our week and watching a movie. We spent Saturday morning in the ER and doing some homework. We spent the afternoon checking out some locally owned stores,  talking with citizens of Sisseton about their concerns and wishes in the community, and spending some time at Pickerel Lake, which is about 30 miles from Sisseton. The evening was spent getting dinner at Pickerel Lake Lounge and being at the ER until about 1:30 am. The ER was busy with people coming in from the Trail Ride that is held every year at Sica Hallow. However, we did have a mental health commitment take place that was interesting for me to be a part of and see how the medical staff get this process completed. Kelli and I then spent most of Sunday day at the local estate auction where we were proud winners of a box of books, some miscellaneous items, and a blender. Again, really learning how members in rural communities spend their weekends.

All in all it was a wonderful, education filled week! However, my favorite moments were those I spent talking with patients about their needs, providing support, educating them on resources and healthier ways of life, connecting them to said resources, and empowering them to make changes in their lives. It is refreshing having those experiences that validate my passion to become a Mental Health Therapist!

Week 3
Well it happened this week! I was lucky enough to see not one but two babies come into this world. Not having any children of my own, this was a foreign concept for me. Ha, and honestly I was not too traumatized from the experience so that was both refreshing and surprising! I was also able to see a T & A surgery, learn about cardiac rehab and how a healthy heart beat should look, and experience more of the situations that get presented to the Coteau ER.

I was also able to dive into nutrition facts and learn about healthy diets this week. This has been something that I am particularly interested in, not only for current and future clients, but also with my personal life. Something I have been very impressed with during my time here in Sisseton, and something that has aided me in this new found discovery of healthy diet, is the lunches that are prepared at the hospital. This does not mean I always love everything they serve; however, I am impressed with the efforts of portion control and the large amount of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Eating this way every day for lunch has really worn off on me in a positive way, and now I feel odd not including a vegetables or a fruit with my dinner and breakfast meal. I also learned and read about healthy substitutions and how important it is to watch sodium. This is also how my roommate and I decided what we would do for our community project. As I discussed in previous blogs, we met with Linda Q at the SDSU Extension office to see how we could work together. We decided to prepare and provide a quick, easy, and healthy meal options for customers at the local Teal’s Market to sample. Along with this, we provided customers with the recipe, encouragement for eating more fruits and veggies, and information to help get connected to Linda and the cooking classes she provides the community. Overall I feel that the customers really enjoyed the Fiesta Skillet Dinner that was made and were pleased to have the recipe and information.

I was also able to witness a Licensed Therapist at the Human Service Agency in Sisseton carry out a session with two young males who had experienced trauma in their life. It was an amazing opportunity to get some of her resources, insight, and to be able to observe her skills as she interacted with the clients and the families. This week I was also able to see how the ER handles patients who are experiencing mental health issues as they detox from drugs/alcohol and how the mental health screen gets done on these individuals.

This week and weekend was also an eventful one in terms of seeing more of the community. My husband came up to visit one night last week so we spent time exploring the Magic Casino we had never been too, as well as Sica Hallow that we hear so much about. I was also very excited to bring him out to Agency Village to show him the unique buildings there. The weekend was spent with Kelli and her son. Friday night was used to hang low and prepare for our busy day on Saturday. My morning was spent helping the local Relay for Life Team set up for the event they were holding that evening at one of the churches. They were very grateful for the help! We then headed out to Canyon Ranch to ride horses for a couple hours. This was a wonderful experience with gorgeous views and a knowledgeable guide. I would highly recommend it! The rest of the day was spent at Pickerel Lake playing in the water and sand. The evening ended as we participated in the Relay for Life event. I was so proud to hear that their group had raised $39,500 for the American Cancer Society! So much work goes into these events so it was cool to see the financial benefit of it, and to see the impact it has had on the people in a small community. Also, very cool, that I was lucky enough to win one of the prices they were raffling off! I am a proud new owner of a Calpack carry-on bag that was filled with travel supplies! Sunday was truly a day of rest after the busy Saturday. It was also spent moisturizing my sun burnt back and shoulders and treating my 20 bug bites.

It was very nice to get into the clinical world of things this week and see more of the mental health and systematic issues that take place in this community. It was also very refreshing to be able to see what this community has to offer its citizens for recreational purposes!

Week 4
Wow, it’s hard to believe that this was my last week in Sisseton! The time has really just flown by. This week continued to be an educational one, as I started off polishing up my understanding of the commitment process and all of the pieces that go along with it! Jackie (my MSW supervisor), as always answered all of the questions I had. I was also lucky enough to shadow another amazing clinician and MSW from the Human Service Agency office out of Sisseton, Deb Baune! I learned so much from her during my short time spent following her around. She has such a wealth of knowledge in regards to mental health, diagnoses, treatment tools to use clinically, more examples of how to respond to clients, and the life of being a Social Worker. There was also quite a bit of shadowing going on in the ER this last week. It was so cool to see patients come in and being able to view the results of the tests which point to a diagnosis. At this point, I was just in awe with all the moving parts of the healthcare system and how vital they all are to the public. It truly made me have a greater appreciation to anyone who works in healthcare, from nurse aids, radiology technicians, to the doctors.

The rest of the week was spent spending more time in the community. We conducted most of our Community Wellness assessment during the final days of our experience. We interviewed the Business Manager at the High School, the Financial Officer at City Hall, the receptionist that works for the Human Service Agency in the Sisseton Office, and the lady behind the ALIIVE program in Sisseton. My roommate and I worked hard to get  a lot of information and brainstormed ideas for improvement. We also spent time revisiting places we had been to capture pictures so we could add them to our power point presentation.

Our final day at Coteau was another busy one as we prepared for and presented our presentation, wrapped up our learning experience, and said our goodbyes. One of my favorite parts of that day was being able to sit down with the CEO to discuss the financial part of running a Critical Access Hospital. He was so knowledgeable in economics and was able to thoroughly answer all the questions we had. It was very intriguing to me how the hospitals can stay afloat with lack of payment and how all the insurance companies reimbursement plans work. This was not only great for me to understand as a social worker, but also as a healthcare patient and as a taxpayer. The goodbyes were my least favorite part of my last week. I couldn’t have asked for a better MSW to follow, Jackie was truly a wonderful role model. With her past experience being in clinical settings and her current experience at the hospital she was able to give me the pros and cons of each. I greatly appreciated her honesty in all accounts! Leslie was also a wonderful go to person, always making sure that Kelli and I had what we needed. The entire staff at CDP were amazing teachers and always willing to explain what I didn’t understand. This experience was a once in a lifetime experience, and I couldn’t be happier that Cheri chose me to par take in it. I now have a greater understanding of healthcare systems and how legislation really determines how everything is run. I have a greater understanding and appreciation of the Native American culture, which was one of my goals for this month. Most importantly, I have grown so much as a professional and as an individual!