Nursing students engage in service learning at the Pine Ridge Reservation

Second grant funds technology to track health screenings.

This summer, IU Southeast nursing students once again traveled across the country to deliver community health and education to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, one of the most underserved areas in the United States.

Assistant Professor of nursing, Julia Mattingly, who orchestrated the first trip to the reservation in 2015, was recently awarded a grant from the IU Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council. The grant is an extension of a previous grant for Mattingly’s work at the reservation. The reservation is home to the Lakota Sioux tribe, which has high rates of diabetes, obesity and heart disease as well as inadequate health services. The first grant lifted the financial burden of travel expenses and allowed nursing students to travel to Pine Ridge to engage in service learning and provide screenings and other medical services to residents of the reservation.

“This benefits the students immeasurably because they are immersed in a culture that is so much different from what they’re used to,” said Mattingly. “Being in an American Indian community, they are the minority. As future nurses, they will be able to pull from this experience communicating with someone who is so much different than they are, and being respectful and practicing cultural humility to provide the best care possible.”

The second grant funded telehealth technology that enabled nursing students to transform the health screening process. Through technology provided by TeleMed 2020, a telehealth company focused on improving the quality of health care and reducing costs with technology, the students were able to track the participant’s results and provide follow-up beyond the annual visits to the reservation.

Senior nursing student Brett Kerlin participates in screenings at the Pine Ridge Reservation.

“The tech we had helped us get through more people in less amount of time,” said Brett Kerlin, a senior nursing student who attended the trip over the summer. “But just as useful was the ability to take all their health information and print it out for them to look at. This was a great tool because we could go through each item and talk about what it meant and how it could potentially affect them. They could take it to their health provider or even bring it back next year to see how they are doing.”

During the trip, the nursing students traveled to different events held on the reservation such as powwows, social gatherings held by many different Native American communities, and rodeos. The students set up a tent at these events to do health screenings such as blood pressure readings, cholesterol and lipid levels, weight, BMI and blood sugar levels. They were also able to educate the participants on healthy eating and exercise.

“We got the opportunity to attend a powwow which turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences I’ve seen,” said Kerlin. “At a powwow, people from several different Lakota tribes would perform different dances, all in the beat of a traditional drum and chanting. They dressed in very elaborate, handmade regalia and performed dances that were specific to different things. I was struck by the pride on their faces, and the fact that they seemed unaffected by the centuries of systemic discrimination they have faced as a people. It was an amazing and moving experience. I felt privileged to be able to witness something so unique and impressive.”

Nursing students attend a powwow at the Pine Ridge Reservation.

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