Native Village
Youth and Education news

Volume 2, January 2012

Native American Nurses Graduate Benefis
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Condensed by Native Village

Montana: Reservations in rural Montana often have a tough time staffing their health clinics.

"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 those services."

And when Indian Health Services do hire, many nurses aren't prepared to handle the high-pressure environment.  Everything 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.

Heather 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.

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