Keeping to a vision of serving the underserved throughout the uncertainty of a raging pandemic can prove to be a nearly impossible task. That certainly hasn’t stopped the Coal Country Medical Clinic from providing high quality medical care, despite constantly changing state and federal guidelines.
For Site Manager Sharlene Gjermundson, that meant making sure staff had all of the necessary equipment used to maintain staff and patient safety. Among the many novel changes was the clinic’s obtaining an ultraviolet light used to clean the clinic’s rooms — a small addition that was only half of the clinic’s fight against COVID-19.
COVID-19 brought in a surplus of patients, according to Gjermundson. At the height of the pandemic, she said Dunn County had a very high number of COVID-19 cases.
“We were testing, I would say, from four, maybe to eight people a day,” Gjermundson said.
Quality care is not possible without equally quality staff. The facility has two high-caliber medical professionals on staff, among a host of other qualified medical professionals.
According to the clinic’s website, Nurse Practitioner Cassandra Altringer has been working at the facility since June of 2016, two months after graduating with a Doctorate in Nursing Practice degree from Metropolitan State University. Altringer previously worked at the Mayo Clinic, completing her residency there. Prior to that, the website says she attended Southeast Technical College in Red Wing, Minnesota, obtaining her associates degree in Nursing. Altringer has also been certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
Alongside Altringer is Physician’s Assistant Britta Julson who, according to the clinic’s website, began working at the clinic in June of 2019, two years after obtaining her master’s in Physician Assistant Studies at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska. Julson also doubles as a PA at Sanford Medical Center in Hazen. Before joining the team at CCMC, she studied biology and pre-medicine at South Dakota State University, which according to medcolleges.com is the third best medical school in South Dakota. Julson has received her certification from three different boards, including, but not limited to, The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants and The North Dakota Board of Medicine.
Gjermundson also has two other nurses on staff in addition to Altringer and Julson, whom she said gave great service in a timely manner, making sure every patient had been cared for.
“We have a small clinic here...everyone wore several different hats to get all the (COVID-19) testing completed...it was definitely a team effort to get going with the pandemic,” Gjermundson said.
CCMC seeks to serve low income and underserved communities. According to the Rural Health’s Community’s Health Needs Assessment Report, no one goes without care — regardless of financial standing.
“Funded by a federal grant, the CCCHC’s sliding fee scale allows patients to pay according to their individual ability. This and other efforts help ensure that no one in the community goes without proper healthcare services,” the report said.
While not a full-fledged hospital, the clinic, Gjermundson said, offers services ranging from basic radiology (eg. x-rays and so on) to minor surgical procedures. They also offer programs such as diabetes education, led by Licensed Diabetes Educator Rhonda Pfenning, along with Nutritionist Janet Wanek. CCMC is also part of a larger compound, equipped with a full-service pharmacy on site. The pharmacy offers a variety of over the counter remedies as well as toys and other gifts to promote the well-being of the one receiving them.
Anyone in the Killdeer area with the desire to reach a new stage of well-being can call the clinic at (701)-764-5822. More information about the clinic and its variety of services can be found at https://www.coalcountryhealth.com/killdeer.