Rick Heiman
First Week at Sturgis

My first day in Sturgis I spent the morning driving around the town and countryside, getting a feel for where everything is laid out. After taking in the beautiful countryside, my partner and I met up to drive to the hospital together. We then met the CEO of this busy hospital and he personally guided us through the halls and rooms, giving us a personal tour. He also introduced us to everyone we ran into, who greeted us with smiling faces.

Throughout the first week we were able to meet with many different areas of the hospital, each providing their own outlook on the hospital and how they are part of the healthcare team. It was eye opening to see how many different cogs fit together to become this working machine of a hospital. Everyone explained what it meant to be a critical access hospital, how this differs from a larger hospital, and how it directly affects their job. For most people, this means picking up extra duties that would not normally be expected of them. But everyone seems to do this with a smile on their face, and is more than willing to go above and beyond for one another.

This idea of understanding and helping other areas goes hand in hand with what the REHPS program is trying to show and do. I have learned so much about things other than pharmacy, which is information I might not have learned without the REHPS program. I have seen the financial side of how a hospital works, learned how someone qualifies as a swing-bed patient, and saw things I never needed to see during an anoscopy. These are all things I would not have been exposed to in a normal pharmacy setting, and I cannot wait to see what the next three weeks have in store for me.

Week Two
The second week in Sturgis was just as educational as the first. I was able to shadow all areas of therapy, including speech, respiratory, physical, and occupational. It was interesting to see how they worked with the patients in different aspects, and how each area came together to help the body in a different way. They were great at communicating with the people they worked with, who came in for outpatient procedures, from the hospital and from the long term care facility. The therapists were extremely patient with each client, letting them work on their own and helping them when needed.

I was also able to see an interesting colonoscopy. I’m man enough to admit that it was a little yucky at first, but after getting used to seeing the scope squirm throughout the bowels, it was fascinating. It was like the doctor was playing with a remote controlled toy that moved throughout the large intestine, cutting and collecting specimens as it went along. They were able to remove four polyps from the colon, two of which were decent in size and two that were smaller. The way they removed them was new to me as well. First they lassoed them with a steel cord, and then sent an electric current through the line, effectively slicing the polyp off. Next, they use a miniature net to collect the sample and pull it back through the scope. These are just two of the many things I was able to do this week through the REHPS program.

Week Three
This week started with a few days that were spent in the long term care facility attached to the hospital. Though I feel I will not be going into long term care in the future, it was a good experience for me to have. I was able to see firsthand what the nurses, aides, and techs have to do on a daily basis. Long term care is not for everyone and I commend every employee who works in long term care with a smile on their face, because I know it is a hard job to do. One highlight of the experience was attending the long term care nutritional risk meeting. During this meeting they highlighted which patients had lost or gained five percent of their body weight, tried to make sense of the weight change, and design a plan to correct the weight change, unless it was needed for health reasons. It was nice to see so many different areas of expertise coming together in one room to solve a problem and come up with a solution.

I also had the experience of working in a privately owned retail pharmacy. I felt at home in this setting, since I have worked in a similar setting for over a year now. It was nice to see an independent pharmacy thriving in the town of Sturgis, when so many pharmacies are now being bought out and replaced with chain pharmacies. They were very friendly and even invited me to join them for dinner later in the week. This experience reminded me why I first chose pharmacy, because I saw an independent pharmacist interacting at a very personal level with members of the society. He truly cares for the community, all while providing a needed service.

Week Four
My last week in Sturgis was one of the best for me. I got to venture out a little more and got to shadow a few pharmacists in Rapid at their specialty pharmacy which was a really fun time. They told me they had nearly a million dollars in medication on the few shelves they had, which blew my mind. A drug rep came in and explained some of the new Hepatitis C medications while I was shadowing there which was a really great experience as well. They mainly do prior authorizations and filling during the day, but usually once or twice a day they have someone come in that they sit down and counsel on medication. These sit downs are tag-teamed with a nurse who calls and checks up on the patient to make sure everything is going swimmingly. I got to see one of these first hand and it was really interesting. The patient had just been diagnosed with cancer, and you could really feel the emotion during the consultation at such a hard time in this person’s life.

I also gave a presentation to many of the hospital staff on the importance of the HPV vaccination with my partner David. The room was a little fuller than I thought it would be, but I guess in hindsight that is a good thing. The presentation not only informed these employees of the importance, but made me sit down and learn about the importance for both men and women to be vaccinated. It truly is a good thing to do and there really is no downside to the vaccine. I have since been spreading the word about HPV with my family and friends and because of that actually just had a family member receive the HPV vaccination, which is the goal.