Spencer Kurtz
First Week at Parkston
I was very excited to begin my adventure in the small community of Parkston.  Pulling up to the hospital, I was feeling excited and a little nervous.  I was very impressed with the size of the facility. Walking into the clinic I found the facility to be modern and organized.  I was able to take a tour of the facility and meet many of the staff that keeps the hospital running.  I then received a tour of the town.  I found Parkston to be a very welcoming community with many parks and restaurants to explore.

I returned to the hospital and started working with a nurse practitioner.  I was able to discuss medication regiments some of the patients were on, and I got a good glimpse into what a nurse practitioner does.  It definitely was eye opening seeing how vital nurse practitioners and physician assistants are to an already stretched thin health care system.

The next day I was able to make a trip to a local Hutterite colony to help perform routine health checks and labs.  While there, we got a tour of the colony to understand how the colony runs and some of the limitations found on the colony.

Another activity I was able to take part in during my first week was a wellness screening at Dakota Plains.  Nick and I helped by measuring blood pressure while others measured height and weight and drew labs.  The opportunity to get to remote businesses and communities and help keep their staff healthy made me feel like I was making a difference in rural health.

After returning from the wellness check, I was able to shadow at a memory clinic that screened patients for the onset of dementia.  Having never witnessed anything like this test before, I found it very educational.  One of the most interesting points I learned was that you can tell a lot about a patient’s diagnosis just by having them draw a clock from memory.

My final day of the week I was able to follow another nurse practitioner.  Arriving in the morning, I was able to complete rounds and get a feel for the patients the hospital was treating.  During our down time, the nurse practitioner taught me how to do a simple suture using a folded towel.  I later was able to complete these sutures on a cut banana.  Excitement later came with an ER patient who was suffering from Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).  The nurse practitioner and I reviewed the complex steps that needed to take place to treat DKA correctly. 

Friday also brought in a patient going into labor.  I was placed on call and early Saturday morning I was called in to witness my first birth.  The process and support the medical staff gave was amazing and I was so glad that I was able to witness it! 

The weekend brought a relay for life walk/run, which I was able to help the hospital staff run.  My job was to stop main street “traffic” for the runners so that they could get the best time possible.  I had a great time helping with the event because cancer is a subject I’m very passionate about.  

Week Two
My second week’s schedule was very busy with a large variety of activities. On Monday I was able to join the radiology team and watch a swallow study and hip injection. I also had the opportunity to study a variety of x-ray and CT images, which was a great review of my limited anatomy knowledge.

Our next stop was the babysitter clinic that taught babysitters basic first aid. Nick and I were able to attend the end of the clinic and we even taught the kids how to make a basic brace using a magazine or newspaper for injured appendages. The rest of my afternoon was spent in the clinic where I was able to work with a physician on pain management and yearly check-ups.

Tuesday started early with a medical staff meeting where each department would bring up news and updates to the rest of the staff. After the meeting, Nick and I were able to shadow a cardiologist who did a great job of quizzing both of us on our knowledge of heart failure, hypertension, and M.I. He was a great teacher and I felt like I learned a lot about the cardiac system from a perspective other than what I would get as a pharmacist.

After the cardiologist, we moved to a ear, nose, and throat doctor where we followed up on patients who would possibly need future operations. Our Tuesday, ended with a diabetic support group that offered newly diagnosed diabetics a resource to learn about their disease, how to manage it, and what to expect. Nick and I had a great time and we got a lot of questions about diabetes that we were able to help answer.

Wednesday was another busy day. The morning started with rounds and operations with an orthopedic surgeon. Nick and I were able to scrub in on two carpal tunnel surgeries. The afternoon brought rounds with a doctor at the local nursing home. Finally, our last stop was a presentation on when to start thinking about hospice care for patients and a presentation on disaster preparedness. The disaster preparedness presentation was very eye opening, especially hearing about what went on during the Joplin tornado and how close Parkston was to having a similar situation during the Delmont tornado of 2015.

Friday I was able to work at Parkston Drug. I really enjoyed the small town feel the community pharmacy had to offer. Everybody knew everyone, and I felt like this allowed the pharmacist to be more accommodating to his patients; something I haven’t experienced much of working in a large, chain store.

Week 3
It’s hard to believe I have finished my last week at Parkston! This experience has flown by so fast. Monday brought my first time witnessing a colonoscopy. Having dispensed hundreds of colon preps at the pharmacy where I work, I was always curious what happened on the other side. I was able to help look for polyps and watch them remove the polyps for biopsy. Throughout the experience, Nick and I were quizzed on our anatomy of the lower GI tract.

I spent Monday afternoon back at Parkston drug where I continued to learn about the operations of a small town pharmacy. I was able to work with the computer program Parkston Drug uses and helped fill multiple prescriptions. Although it was very different from the pharmacy where I work, by the end of the day, I felt comfortable filling prescriptions.

On Tuesday we got a break from the Parkston clinic and were able to travel to Armour and Lake Andes for their outreach clinics. Armour has recently built on to their hospital. I was surprised at how modern and spacious the facility was. The Lake Andes clinic was our next stop. The Lake Andes clinic is within one of South Dakota’s reservations. The patients we saw were facing many different health problems than previously seen due to poverty and decreased access to health care. One problem that I felt particularly connected to was the recent closing of the Lake Andes pharmacy. Without the pharmacy, many of the patients were having trouble getting their prescriptions because many do not have access to cars.

When evening came, we were finally able to relax. Doctor Honke owns a cabin on the lake and we were able to help him set up his water skiing course then try it out. Nick and I were not very gifted in the art of water skiing; however, Dr. Honke was very patient and made it a very fun experience. After Nick and I gave up on water skiing, Dr. Honke went out and showed us how it was done.

On Wednesday I was able to witness my second colonoscopy. The rest of the morning and afternoon I was able to follow one of Avera’s oncologists. I was inspired by all his patient’s bravery in fighting their disease. I realized I really needed to review my anti-cancer drugs. The amount of drugs and the connection between each drug and a certain type of cancer it is used to treat is overwhelming. However, the oncologist was a great help in furthering my understanding of cancer treatment.

On Thursday we were able to follow one of Avera’s general surgeons. Although we weren’t able to witness any surgeries, the doctor did a great job of quizzing Nick and I on our medical knowledge. In the afternoon we were able to give our presentation on our stay in Parkston. It went very well and it was so great to laugh and spend our last few hours with all the familiar faces we have gotten to know the last few weeks. Parkston was such a great experience for me and really helped reinforce my interest in practicing in a rural setting if the opportunity arises. I feel like I’m a step in front of my peers because of all the experiences I have received.