Ali Vogelsang

Ali Vogelsang on her time in Parkston

Week One:

My first week as a REHPS student in Parkston was busy! Tuesday brought a challenge because we traveled to Sioux Falls with the Marketing Director and the air conditioning in the van stopped working.  The outside temperature that day was 100 degrees!  Despite being in a heat box, Julie, Megan and I made light of the situation and actually had a lot of fun commiserating in the heat.

Despite this, we also had practical opportunities that we likely would not have had in a large hospital setting. We had the opportunity to spend time in the physical therapy department and learn about the services that they provide.  I volunteered to be massaged and I was “cupped.” I now have a mark to prove it!  Overall, the staff were very helpful and eager to teach us about their jobs and profession.  After time in physical therapy, we were whisked away to witness a procedure in the hospital.  We had a close view of the procedure and we were appreciative of the staff allowing us to witness it.

Lastly, we were able to complete hospital rounds with the doctors. There was a patient and their spouse with whom we were able to recognize and say hello to in the hospital hallway.  The spouse told us how the two of them met many years ago and it was a privilege to witness their experience with the staff and the caring they had for one another.  As a future psychologist, I was most interested to observe how the medical staff interacted with patients.  I was especially observant to how medical professionals asked questions of patients and how the patients engaged in their healing process.  I hope to continue to learn about other specialties and also advocate for mental healthcare during my time in Parkston.

Week Two:

My second week in Parkston brought even more learning opportunities. Specifically, observing mental healthcare in a rural setting was the most exciting for me.  I was able to spend time with the facility’s counselor who serves as one of the only mental health providers in town.  I was surprised by the number of patients who allowed me to observe their therapy as most mentioned the importance of allowing students to learn.  Furthermore, having the ability to be present in a therapy room during a session is an invaluable experience.  The therapist also had time to teach me which I was very appreciative of.  In addition to observing individual therapy sessions, I also had an opportunity to observe a treatment planning meeting for clients in a residential behavioral health treatment program.  These direct experiences further solidify my desire to work in a clinical setting as a clinical psychologist and has provided me with great learning opportunities.

Additionally, I learned about Hutterite culture as there are many colonies surrounding the town of Parkston. I visited a couple of sites with a nurse that has phenomenal rapport with residents.  The lifestyle that Hutterite communities adhere to was fascinating to learn about.  The individuals that we were able to meet were also extremely welcoming and fun to talk with.

Moreover, Cardiac Rehab is a department that I enjoyed more than I expected. Overall, the patients there were very endearing and fun to talk with.  Some of them even allowed me to attempt to measure their blood pressure (even though I heard nothing with the stethoscope and joked with them about it)!  The patients were all very friendly to one another and seemed to enjoy cardio exercise in the presence of one another.  The staff in this department were also very easy to talk with and were eager to teach.  That said, I don’t see a future career in cardiology as my short time in this department was challenging enough for me!

Lastly, there were small experiences that helped me feel welcome this week. For example, there were several hospital staff members who sat with me when I was eating lunch by myself in the cafeteria.  Their willingness to simply sit down and talk with me was very kind.

Week Three:

My third week started with a visit to an Amish family. The family showed us how they make rugs on their loom and they also gave us a tour of their house.  They had livestock on their property and had one old generator as their only form of power.  There was also a young child in the family and he stayed very close to his parents, but was very smiley.

Another highlight from my week was sitting in appointments with the therapist in the outpatient clinic. All of her clients allowed me to observe and the therapist was willing to explain her approach with each case.  I believe that these experiences have been the most valuable in demonstrating what it would be like to practice as a psychologist in a rural community.  Additionally, I really enjoyed visiting the residential treatment center for youth in town and I learned more about the facility by chatting with the psychologist there.

Lastly, we visited the Hutterite colony again this week and I had a very fun time. The patients that we saw had a great sense of humor and were excited to see the nurse and provider that went.  Going to the colony a second time provided me with an even better glimpse into the Hutterite culture which will be a valuable experience for me moving forward.

Week Four:

My fourth and final week in Parkston was a little shorter than the other weeks but was still packed with opportunities. My favorite part was spending time at the residential treatment center in town with their licensed psychologist.  The psychologist taught me about the psychological testing that is administered with the adolescents and talked through several of the clinical cases with me.  I was also able to sit in on group therapy with the adolescents and witness behavioral interventions in person.

I also spent time with the therapist in the clinic and was able to sit in on therapy sessions with patients displaying fairly severe psychopathology. My time with the therapist has been invaluable because I have had opportunities to observe therapy in person.  Additionally, I believe that I developed an accurate idea of what it would be like to work as a mental health provider in a rural setting.

Lastly, I spent time I the medical lab and one of the medical laboratory technicians offered to draw my blood and test my blood type. I witnessed this whole process and I was very excited to hold my own vial of blood!