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Record Turnout for International Rural Nursing Conference in Rapid City

Aug 26, 2016 11:00AM ● By Med Magazine

Rural healthcare advocates from 35 states and 9 countries gathered in July in Rapid City to attend and contribute to the International Rural Nursing Conference.  Attendance exceeded 250, dramatically surpassing expectations. A special emphasis of the conference was describing, examining and proposing solutions for the unmet nursing and healthcare needs in rural areas and on Native American reservations.


Primary sponsors for the event included nursing programs at the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University, the Rural Nursing Organization, and the Matson Halverson Christiansen Hamilton Foundation (MHCH).  MHCH, a South Dakota-based foundation interested in enhancing rural healthcare and economies, also funded the conference, which was almost two years in the making.


“Hosting the international rural nursing conference in South Dakota was a rare opportunity for South Dakota nurses to come together in their own backyard with nurses from around the world to discuss the challenges, opportunities, and strengths of rural nurses to contribute fully to the health of rural communities.,” said Dr. Carla Dieter, recently retired as chair of nursing at the University of South Dakota, and now professor emeritus of nursing at that institution.  Dieter helped plan the conference.


According to Corey Kilgore, MHCH executive director, a highlight for the group was hearing from Dr. Donald Warne, one of five keynote speakers at the conference. Warne, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe from the Pine Ridge Reservation and chair of the department of public health at North Dakota State University, addressed the topic of “historical trauma”, and how this condition includes a combination of circumstances –including 500 years of oppression and suffering- that impact existing health conditions on Native American reservations.


“Dr. Warne’s solution to historical trauma revolves around a so-called balance wheel,” says Kilgore. “This balance wheel involves treating Native American patients in a holistic way, and being cognizant of historic trauma as a part of a treatment plan. This is vital information for nurses serving Native American populations.”


Because nurses are on the frontline of rural healthcare, and because the healthcare needs of rural areas, including reservations and small communities where an elderly population presents a host of special needs, Kilgore says nurses serving these populations need training that prepares them for specific needs.