2018 REHPS Geralyn Palmer

Growing up in Sioux Falls and unfamiliar with rural healthcare, I didn’t know what to expect during my time in Parkston this summer, but I was looking forward to the experience. Initially, I was shocked at the size and amenities of the Parkston hospital. During our hospital tour, I was completely turned around as we went from nursing home to hospital to clinic to pool/wellness center and ended up in physical therapy. Although I am still getting lost 2 weeks later, the staff at Avera St. Benedict are kind, welcoming and more than willing to point me in the right direction.

Parkston has offered many “firsts” throughout the past 2 weeks, including my first city-wide rummage sale, my first kickball tournament, scrubbing in on my first surgery, observing my first C-section, and attending my first amateur baseball game. These experiences are only highlights of my time in Parkston, where I have learned a great deal about medicine and life in a rural community. I’ve learned of the versatility of family medicine doctors in rural communities as I watched skilled primary care physicians perform colonoscopies, abscess drainage, and other minor operations while also showing empathy and compassion in clinic appointments. The value of outreach by specialists to rural communities has also shown great benefit to the people of Parkston and surrounding communities. Avera St. Benedict also offers a variety of other services that I am thankful to have observed including planet heart, memory clinic, Our Home consultation, and babysitting classes.

Babysitting clinic was also a great way for me to learn about the community of Parkston, as a little boy told me “you’re only cool if you wrestle” and I watched half of the kids run around in Parkston baseball attire. Sports, I gathered, are a big thing in the Parkston community. The nurses station also taught me the go-to places to eat in Parkston, including a donut shop that opens at 4:30am and stays open until supplies run out. I am also looking forward to “Taco Tuesdays” with the ladies from marketing, wellness and outreach services. Overall, the community of Parkston has been welcoming, and I love the small-town environment. I have enjoyed my time in the Parkston hospital and community, and I am looking forward for the next 2 weeks!

My REHPS experience has flown by. It feels as though now that I’ve finally mastered navigating through the Parkston hospital, it’s time to leave! The hospital staff and Parkston community have been warm, welcoming, and encouraging – I will truly miss this experience.

These past 2 weeks have been filled with community events, hospital meetings, and clinical experiences that have educated me further on the workings of a rural hospital and the roles of different departments in delivering quality patient care. As we sat in on numerous meetings from ACO calls to department head conferences I noticed a common theme – healthcare is always changing. However, I also noticed the teamwork, patience and organization of Avera St. Benedict staff to implement these changes effectively. I also got to observe the workings of lab, health information management, physical therapy, speech therapy, and Bormann Manor care planning. These experiences helped me develop an understanding of and appreciation for the departments that I will utilize as a future physician. In the hospital & clinic I also got to perform my first corticosteroid injection, assist with a frenulum surgery, and scrub in on a hernia repair.

We also had multiple opportunities to get involved in the community during our last 2 weeks. Our third week we helped with speech camp in the mornings and attended a couple baseball games. Speech camp was both exhausting and encouraging as we chased around 3-5-year-olds and watched them focus on different “letters of the day” and corresponding sign language – this became an educational experience for me as well! It was great to see how involved Avera St. Benedict is within the Parkston community. On Wednesday we had the opportunity to go to Shannon Colony and observe the workings of an automated dairy farm. I was truly in awe during this experience, and I even got to pet a cow (growing up in Sioux Falls I was deprived of this experience)! The Hutterite community and our personal tour guides were kind and patient with our numerous questions and invited us over for fresh rhubarb pie and homemade wine.

We finished out our final week in Parkston giving a presentation to the department heads about our experience in the REHPS program. This was a great opportunity for me to reflect on the past four weeks, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to learn more about rural healthcare at Avera St. Benedict. REHPS has expanded my knowledge on medicine, interprofessional teamwork, evolving healthcare systems, and life in a rural community. I hope to return to Parkston in the future!