Reservations in rural Montana often have a tough time staffing their
"Itís very, very hard to recruit to these remote areas," said
Charles Headdress, the Native
American Board Chairman.
In places such as Fort Peck and Browning, nurse vacancy rates are the
highest in the nation. This forces sick or injured patients to drive
hours to places like Benefis hospital in Great Falls.
"Say they have a traumatic head injury and need rehabilitation
services," Headdress said. "They have to travel up to 300 miles to get
And when Indian Health Services do hire, many nurses aren't prepared to handle the high-pressure environment.
from sore throats to severe traumas will walk through their doors.
"You have to be ready to handle whatever rolls up to the door," said
Jan Leishman-Donahue, the Native American Nurse Internship Director.
Benefis Health System is helping reverse the poor health options in
Indian County by offering an intensive 11-month internship
for native nurses. Recently, they celebrated their first two graduates:
Heather Schildt (Blackfeet), and Jacinta Yellowmule-King, (Crow).
"This program really gives us the opportunity to learn more and be
confident," Schildts said.
and Jacinta spent a year training for all kinds of situations: emergency, labor and delivery,
cardiac care, and more.
"These two young ladies represent a new type of warrior for our
reservations, and they're going to go forward and help our people get
well," Headdress said.
The two women are taking their newly acquired knowledge back home
to patients who desperately need them.
"With the experience here I'm able to make sure I give the best care I
possibly can with my experience here at Benefis," Schildt said.