How One Hospital Partners Up to Build Community and Promote Health
By Kathy Brown, Quality Coordinator, Director of Radiology; Tammra Todd, Clinic LPN; Jenn Lorengo, PT, DPT, OCS; Laurie Duncan, DLMC Planetree Coordinator, Deer Lodge Medical Center
Deer Lodge Medical Center is a 16-bed critical access hospital located along I90 in southwest Montana. Settled in the 1800s by ranchers, miners, and later loggers and railroaders, this vast land rich in natural resources has limited resources of humans and the supportive institutions that develop in a more populated area. Sometimes it is our limitations that yield our greatest strengths and our lack that produces our greatest abundance. So it is here in the west that our neighbors become a very valuable asset. Whether in times of need or celebration, we come together to support and share. We partner up!
A History of Community Service
Our history is rooted in the awareness of need and the spirit of service far back to the late 1800s when the recently relocated Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth opened the second hospital in Montana and responded to the call of duty in connection to the Battle of the Big Hole in August of 1877.
The community assisted the Sisters in door to door fund-raising to erect a three story 65 bed hospital to meet the growing needs of railroad families brought to the valley with the establishment of the Milwaukee in 1920. That same building served our community until 1963 when Powell County Memorial Hospital was constructed, and today we are Deer Lodge Medical Center, housed in our new facility since September of 2011. Our new facility provides patients state-of-the art medical equipment and a beautiful, healing environment for care.
Promoting a Healthy Community
Community is not simply a shared space. Community is created by all the interconnections we share in time and space. Community is a creative process. This process is sometimes a response to need; at others, a response to imagination. We hold true Dr. Trevor Hancock’s inspiring proclamations that “health is the result of much more than medical care; people are healthy when they live in nurturing environments and are involved in the life of their community.” In this article, we share how Deer Lodge Medical Center partners up, how we create and participate in the process of our community and its health.
Our favored way of developing partnerships is by simply visiting. Visit with one another! Good program ideas develop between people with shared interests through casual conversation, possibly over lunch, as a daily process.
Creating The Jungle By Kids, For Kids
Not unlike many hospitals across the U.S. that create an appealing and friendly environment for young clinic visitors these days, we decided to develop a pediatric exam room. The concept of “by kids, for kids” was implemented in the design process. Clinic nurses visited with young patients inviting them to become involved. Following lots of information gathering, our primary age Dream Team met with clinic nurses, Lavee and Tammra, and Dr. McIssac over pbjs and fresh fruit platters to make final choices in design for The Jungle. Including kids as design partners encourages not only creativity, but belonging and self-esteem. This is good. Kids with higher levels of self-esteem have proven more apt to treat others with respect, kindness, and generosity. That is healthy! We are still working to find a team of mural artists to grow a tree that children of all ages will be able to interact with artistically. Local high school artists, local art club members, and the Montana Arts Council are present potential partners.
Schools and their activities create a main hub for most communities. We are a small town. We support our youth and are proud of our athletes.
In 2012, we received a grant from the Helmsley Foundation to purchase a new mammography machine, a new service line for the community. Bringing the service to Deer Lodge meant our female population would not have to travel out of town to get their mammograms. This was exciting for us and meant a lot to our aging population. To help with breast cancer awareness efforts, we thought it would be great to invite our community to participate in developing a “Go Pink” night event, a night to support our local high school athletes and promote breast cancer awareness. We purchased pink jerseys, athletic socks, and towels for all fall sports to wear in an October game. The games were a success and the community rallied around the hospital in its efforts. Other community members joined in the event and held a fundraiser selling pink t-shirts for Montana breast cancer patients. All proceeds went directly to patients. We hope to make this an annual event to promote breast health and detection of breast cancer.
Impact Concussion Program
Our Impact Concussion Program partnership provides students, parents, teachers, coaches, and schools the most up to date resources and treatment for concussion. Increased numbers of concussions seen at our facility and an identified lack of knowledge by staff to provide treatment initiated this partnership. Dylan Steiger’s concussion group, a group in the larger medical community, helped us start the program by providing basic education for DLMC staff.
Since fall of 2012, Deer Lodge Medical Center and the Powell County Medical Foundation teamed up to provide Impact Concussion Screening Program for athletes in the junior high and high school. Concussions are a growing state and national concern. In the last decade ER visits for concussions have increased by 200%. The goal of the concussion program is to test, educate and protect our student athletes from concussions.
Prior to the athletic seasons, Deer Lodge Medical Center’s physical therapist and physicians visit the local schools to conduct cost free impact baseline tests on student athletes. The test, done every two years, is designed to measure an athlete’s short and long term memory, visual motor speed and reaction time. In the event that an athlete suffers a concussion, a post-injury test is conducted. Results of the post-injury test are compared to results of the baseline test to determine the degree of impairment suffered due to the concussion. Test results give medical professionals another tool to use to help determine when it is safe for an athlete to return to play. Montana legislation was passed in 2013 requiring all athletes with signs and symptoms of concussion be evaluated prior to return. This year, school administration requires all athletes to have the baseline test completed prior to participation. Our foundation generously supports the annual cost of this free neurocognitive testing partnership.
Along with the physical testing, the program works to educate all students, athletes, coaches, teachers and parents about concussions, including the signs and symptoms, what can happen to a student if they return to a sport too soon after a concussion and the typical protocol for athletes to follow post-concussion before returning to a sporting activity. In addition, our hospital also provides medical providers for sideline care at all home varsity games.
Helmet Safety Program
Our community Helmet Safety Program was designed to increase the number of local youth who wear a helmet while riding their bikes. Use of helmets reduces risk of head injury by 85%. The program was initiated by a local MD wanting to do something to protect kids in our community. The concept, based on positive reinforcement and a three-pronged campaign approach, is simple. Here is how it works: If a kid is seen riding a bike without a helmet they will be given a “ticket” by local police. The ticket is to come to DLMC to get a free helmet. Also, if a kid is seen riding a bike with a helmet on, they are issued a ticket for a free ice cream in town. Money to purchase the program helmets was generously donated by Powell County Medical Foundation.
Staff Giving Back
Another favorite partnership is staff giving to our $5 per Month Jeans Day Donations. We provide support to Council on Aging for transportation costs, Powell County Search & Rescue, Powell County Ambulance, local food bank, local safe house, the Senior Center, Deer Lodge Development Group, PAWHS, Kohrs Memorial Library, Rialto. Everyone gains!