Brett Vercruysse

Brett Vercruysse on his time in Custer

Week One:

Week one is Custer has been very busy. On the first day Emmett and I were given a tour of the clinic and hospital of Custer Regional by our preceptor Greg Swanson. All staff of Custer Regional were very nice and were willing to tell us about their duties in the facility. We headed to the Custer Area Chamber of Commerce where we met Fred, who told us all about things to do in Custer, as well as the surrounding areas. On Monday night, Emmett and I had the opportunity to meet Mark Schmidt, the new president of Custer Regional, during supper at the Buglin’ Bull. Mark explained to us his role in the Custer Regional Health system and his responsibilities.  I’ve been able to put my knowledge and learn many new things while shadowing the lab technologist in Custer Regional’s lab. Their lab is very small and is very busy at the same time. Many in and out patients needed blood work done. The staff was also called to the Emergency Room several times each day I have been there to shadow. All of the lab techs have done very well on explaining how their lab operates and which machines are capable of running certain tests. They have also allowed me to help them in the lab by setting up the certain test and running them myself, which has allowed me to show them what I have learned in Medical Lab Science school so far. Emmett and I also had the opportunity to shadow the Rapid City Regional Hospital lab and pharmacy. We met with Brendon, the lab director, and he was able to put his team together to show us how their lab operated on a daily basis in their several lab departments. We also had the opportunity to experience what a phlebotomist role is during a cold blue. We also met Dana, the pharmacy director, and he showed us the ins and outs of Rapid City Regional’s pharmacies. While being able to shadow at both Custer and Rapid City Regional Health systems, their operations were very similar and both were very busy, the only difference I really noticed was that Rapid City Regional had more employees. Emmett and I, along with his dog Kena, hiked up to Poet’s Table, a secret hiking spot located in Custer State Park. There is a table and chairs up there, along with a book shelf of numerous people’s writings. On Saturday, I was able to help Dr. Chapelle one of the primary care doctors at Custer Regional install a fence around his garden to keep the deer out. Week one has been fun and exciting and I am ready to keep learning and exploring more. 

Week Two:

Week two consisted of traveling to numerous locations and shadowing many different occupations in healthcare. Early in the week we met Dr. McDonald, the chiropractor in Custer. I have never been to a chiropractor, so it was a great learning experience. Dr. McDonald has worked in rural practices and I could see how personal he was with his patients, asking them about family, vacations, and anything they were up to. He also gave me an adjustment, and I felt much better after he did that.

We also met with Joni Hill, the radiology department director. We learned that Custer Regional has the capability to do CT scans, x-ray, ultrasound, and mammograms. Joni let Emmett and I use the ultrasound machine to locate the carotid artery in our necks, which was very interesting. We were able to view patient heart valves using ultrasound. We could see our blood being pushed through it and that we didn’t have any plaque buildup. We also shadowed a cardiac sonographer perform and ECHO test on a patient.

In the afternoon, we met with the dietitian, Lacy Burnell, who explained her main role at Custer Regional was to provide diabetics with education on how to maintain their condition. She also showed us all the different medications she suggests to her patients to manage their diabetes. 

Wednesday, we traveled to Hill City and Hot Springs to tour their clinics and learn about what healthcare services they provide in their locations.

Thursday, we traveled to Rapid City and shadowed Home Hospice and the Hospice House. It was a great experience learning how Home Hospice and the Hospice House operate. Finishing out the week Emmett and I started the morning out at Destination Dentistry. We watched the hygienist complete a teeth cleaning and watched Dr. Kretschmar replace a crown. Destination Dentistry does same-day crowns, so we were able to watch a crown be made using their machine. We also learned how about how insurance covers dental work costs. I then went and shadowed Jim Simmons at Custer Regional Rehab. I observed Jim asses a patient who had recent shoulder surgery and teach the patient exercises he could do at home to improve his healing process.

My parents visited me this past weekend and we rented ATVs, went to Wild Bill Days in Deadwood, and rented a pontoon and spent the afternoon on Pactola Lake. 

Week Three:

The first three days of week three, Emmett and I worked on our community outreach project. We have been researching Hepatitis C prevalence in Custer County, and how to increase the screening rates at Custer Regional Hospital. Later in the week I shadowed at Carson Drug. John and his team knew just about all their customers by first name, which I thought was interesting, but is pretty normal in a small town. I observed how they receive an order, and then fill the prescription. I also learned how the enter the patient’s insurance in their system to see if it will cover the costs or not. John took me out for coffee and I was able to meet some retired health professionals that live in Custer. I also had the opportunity to shadow the optometrist in town, Nathan Wiederholt. I have never been to an optometrist before, so it was a great learning experience. He showed me how he has able to take pictures of someone’s eyes so you can view the inside of them. Friday, I was in the lab and I continued to assist in running lab tests under the supervision of the other lab techs. Earlier in the week I hiked Cathedral Spires in Custer State Park. I have been trying to complete the Custer State Park Trail Challenge, but I do not think I’ll be able to hike all eight of them by the time the fourth week comes around. 

Week Four:

The last week in Custer went by quickly, as well as the whole month of June. We started out the week by touring the Custer Ambulance. We learned about their capabilities and all the different tools they are able to use. I could not believe that sometimes they have to hike up mountain trails to respond to calls because the Black Hills National Forest will not always allow them to use ATVs to drive to the person up on the mountain. Unfortunately, they did not have calls while we were spending time with them. We also traveled to Rapid City to learn about palliative care. Palliative care is a rather new form of care provided by health professionals. The main goal of this type of care is to improve the quality of life of a patient with a chronic illness, as well as meeting the family’s needs. The last few days I shadowed and assisted in the lab. During my time in the lab I was able to apply the knowledge I have gained over the past year, as well as learn many new things. I was also able to see a trichomonas parasite, which many lab techs get excited about. On Friday, Emmett I completed our REHPS experience by giving a presentation on our time here in Custer and our community project.