Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

THHS Internship Program and Health Care Warriors youth camp seeking applicants

By B.L. Azure

POLSON — There are many well paying medical professional employment positions within the Tribal Health and Human Services Department. Tribal Health as well as the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes give employment preference to qualified enrolled Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai tribal members and descendants. However, through the years qualified non-CSKT members and/or descendants have filled many of the medical professions positions at THHS, be they members of other tribes or non-Indians, due to the lack of qualified tribal member applicants.

For instance, as a result of the construction of the Polson THHS Clinic 40 new jobs were created with an average annual wage or salary of $60,000 per annum. Many of those jobs were filled by qualified non-CSKT members or descendants under various years-length contracts.

In total THHS presently has 129 employees spread throughout its clinical, administrative system. There is no clear crystal ball revealing if the THHS employment levels will go up or down in the future. But regardless of that retirements and other types of staff turnovers presently create employment opportunities for qualified tribal members.

Nationally the health care professions employment opportunities are expected to continue their upward trajectory. One of the major reasons for the rise in health care professional employment opportunities is the aging of the Baby Boom Generation — those born between Jan. 1, 1946 to Dec. 31, 1964. An estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers reach the present full Social Security retirement age of 66 years every day. And regardless of proactive attempts like a healthy lifestyle to temper the effects of age, there is no doubting its toll on an elderly body’s physiology. And addressing that toll often means a trip to the doctor. And nowadays Medicare provides the financial wherewithal for the aging population to keep on top of its health concerns.

Since THHS began its switch about 10 years ago from a bill payer for third party health care services provided to Indian Health Service eligible American Indians to a provider of billable health care services at its clinics Tribal Health has morphed into a viable revenue producer on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

The revenues created by THHS cannot be spent on anything other than its health care delivery system. As a consequence of the switch in philosophy about heath care delivery on the Flathead Reservation Tribal Health was able to build the Polson THHS Clinic and staff it without having to beg, borrow or steal from the CSKT piggy bank. The money was already in the THHS piggy bank as a result of third party monetary collections. Now that money will be used to construct a new wing on the existing St. Ignatius THHS Clinic and remodel the rest of the well-built facility.

The new THHS management model is here to stay and that means so are job opportunities within the system. Consequently THHS Director Kevin Howlett with consultation of the professional staff has established a tribal member recruiting model based on getting young tribal members involved in health care based education beginning in middle school. That will in part ensure they are better prepared for the rigors of a college education based in math and science. The other target is those already in college who have the either the aptitude for the medical professions or those already seeking such a degree. To facilitate the recruiting model Tribal Health established the Intern Program and Health Care Warriors camp last year.

Now the Intern Advisory Committee is setting the step stones for the second annual summer Intern Program and Health Care Warriors camp. The IAC comprised of THHS medical providers and administrators has been meeting this winter and spring to fine tune the Intern Program and the associated Health Care Warriors camp based on lessons learned from last year’s inaugural foray of recruiting tribal members pursuing college degrees in health care.

This week the IAC will begin the process of recruitment for the Intern Program and Health Care Warriors camp.

• The first step is the advertisement — beginning this week — for the Intern Program coordinator who will supervise the summer interns. The advertisements close on Thursday, May 2 with finalist interviews scheduled for Monday, May 13 through Friday, May 17. The coordinator will begin work Monday, June 3 with his or her last day Friday, August 9.

• Next week the second step of advertising for the five intern slots will begin. The five intern slots include pharmacy, physical therapy, dental, medical and either behavioral health, nursing or dietician. The deadline for applications is Friday, May 10 with interviews for the finalists scheduled for Monday, May 20 through Friday, May 24. The selected interns begin work Wednesday, June 19 and their last day is Tuesday, July 30.

Among the qualification for the intern slots require that a post high school student must have completed their freshman year in college with a health related field of study with a minimum of a 2.5 grade point average.

• Recruitment for the affiliated youth “Health Care Warriors” camp for students entering the 7th grade this fall begins via advertisements and recruitment dissemination by Flathead Indian Reservation schools personnel that includes administrators and councilors Monday, April 15. Informational flyers will also be posted in the schools. The last day to submit an application will be Friday, July 12. The HCW camp will be held from Wednesday, July 24 through Saturday, July 27.

One of the purposes of the HCW camp is to plant medical profession educational seeds in young minds and hearts. Medical professional education is largely based on science and math, and the earlier a student starts taking those types of classes in their public education the better the foundation. Many educators advise not waiting until late in high school to begin taking the appropriate classes needed for the medical profession education foundation. Waiting to take the difficult — for some — math and science classes until college is often a tough road to hoe due to the lack of a good pre-college medical profession education. Middle school is the time to begin consequently the HCW camp is aimed at adolescents entering the 7th grade.

Tribal Health is committed to the development of a professional workforce and the opportunity for people to pursue a career in health care to serve the tribal membership as part of a professional team of heath care providers. Tribal Health recognizes the disparity of health care professionals from the Native population. Tribal Health is committed to rectify the disparity in a culturally competent approach with the internships and HCW camp.

For more information on the summer Intern Program and the Health Care Warriors camp, contact either Clarice Cooper at 745-3525, ext. 5013, or Shanna Robison at ext. 5065.

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