Sara Menning
Week 1 at Sturgis

I spent the morning making the long drive from Brookings to Sturgis Regional Hospital.  My partner, Nolan, and I were greeted by the hospital’s president, Mark, for a tour of the facility.  I will admit it was intimidating to be introduced to so many departments that I know very little about, but everyone was very kind and made us feel welcome.  Mark also took the time to give us a tour of Sturgis to better acquaint ourselves with our home for the next month.  After the tours, we went to supper with Cheri at a local restaurant.  We told her about our day, and she answered some specific questions we had about the experience.  After dinner Nolan and I met our hostess, Connie.  She is a local real estate agent who made us feel right at home in her house.  I am very thankful that she is allowing us to stay with her.

Tuesday morning we met with the nursing department head, Rickie.   She explained the basic setup of the hospital and how it was different than most other facilities in being a critical access hospital.  She then took us to the morning “huddle” in which a group of providers including the charge nurse, physician, physician’s assistant, pharmacist, physical therapist, discharge planner, speech therapist, and director of patient care services meet to discuss daily updates on each patient.  I really enjoyed seeing such a great display of teamwork within the hospital.  We then met with Lynn, director of patient care services.  We also met with Ginger, head of human resources.  She is actually the only HR employee at the Sturgis hospital.  She explained some of the challenges that come with recruiting and staffing a rural facility like Sturgis.  Mark invited us to a new caregiver lunch with some of the recently-hired employees.   After lunch we sat in on a management team meeting with heads of each department to discuss issues that affect all areas of the hospital.  We finished out the day by observing the nurses station.

Wednesday morning was my time to meet with the pharmacist, Michelle.  She was great to work with, and I look forward to spending time with her each week and learning more about what she does.  We spent the afternoon with the physical therapy department.  Alenda, Shawna, and Amber were nice enough to let us sit in on outpatient appointments and observe them as they worked with hospital inpatients.  Mark invited us over for supper with his family.  His wife works as nurse within the Regional system so they had good insight into rural health care.

Thursday morning we got to observe two surgical procedures which was a real treat because the Sturgis hospital is small and close enough to Rapid City that it does not do a lot of surgeries.  After lunch we sat in a performance improvement meeting where different departments presented about different initiatives they have taken to provide better care.  We also got to sit in on a resident council meeting in the long-term care unit and observe in the laboratory. 

We were able to observe in the medical imaging department on Friday morning.  Cory gave us a tour of their facilities, and I was surprised to see how many different things they did.  We then got to go with the physician and physician’s assistant, Randa, on rounds.  After lunch we got to meet with Ky who is the head of health information management. 

What I learned:
Sturgis Regional Hospital is unique in many ways.  It is one of the only critical access hospitals north of Rapid City as well as one of the few facilities that have long-term care at the same site as the hospital.  In addition to their unique setup, Sturgis Regional also has to accommodate more than 500,000 people visiting for the Sturgis Rally each year.   Being in a smaller hospital presents many unique challenges that I wouldn’t have expected.  Managers of nursing, pharmacy, and physical therapy also work in their respective departments.  This teamwork style is carried throughout the rest of the hospital, and I look forward to making more connections with the staff.

Week 2
We started off Tuesday morning with cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation.  Amber(nurse) and Cassie (exercise specialist) see patients with COPD or heart conditions three days a week.  They explained that many patients prefer the security of exercising in the hospital.  In the afternoon, we went over to the long-term care unit to visit with the director of nursing, Gayle.  She makes the schedules for all of the CNA’s, nurses, and medication aides.  I then shadowed two medication aides, Wanda and Lindsey.  They were both great to work with, and it was very interesting to see how the other side of pharmacy works.

Wednesday morning I was back with Michelle. She was busy trying to make an iron infusion for an outpatient before the morning huddle.  It was interesting to see how her duties range so much from filling prescriptions to administration.  She also showed me how she calculates doses for drugs that require careful monitoring.  In the afternoon we got the special treat of helping with long-term care activities.  A group of kids from a local program came to play and interact with the residents.  It was a blast and the residents really had a great time.

Thursday morning we headed down to Rapid City for some REHPS training with the other students.  It was fun to catch up and hear about how different everyone’s experiences and communities are.  We spent the afternoon at Aspen Grove Assisted Living.  They have a very nice facility, and we were able to get a tour and speak with the director and lead nurse. They explained how they are one of only three Expanded Scope facilities in South Dakota.  This means that they can accept residents that require more care than normal assisted living facilities.  We learned a lot about the differences between assisted living and nursing homes that I didn’t know before.


We were able to help out at a blood drive held in the hospital Friday morning.  I was even able to donate blood for the first time! The staff working at the blood drive was very fun and explained the blood donation process very well.  We met with the dietician, Fran, in the afternoon.  She explained her job, and it was interesting to learn how pharmacy and dietetics can work together.  We talked a lot about managing Type 2 Diabetes, and she shared that it often takes patients longer to accept the diagnosis than other disease states. 

Week 3
This week allowed us to expand our horizons and go outside the hospital.  I shadowed Sarah Fitzsimmons at the Massa Berry Clinic and also visited Black Hills Special Services and the Chamber of Commerce.  This helped me appreciate more of what Sturgis has to offer.  I was also able to spend time in a local retail pharmacy with Jeff Bertsch.  He was great to work with.  It was awesome to see the personal relationship he formed with his patients.  He even offered to personally deliver a patient’s prescription to them! I hope that I am this compassionate in my career as a pharmacist.