Meet our July Nurse of the Month: Sarah Phipps

Today we’re talking to Sarah Phipps, a Rosebud Sioux Tribal member and a popular face in our Great Plains facilities!

So Sarah, why did you become a nurse?

My mom says I’ve always been a caring person and always wanting to help others. I knew I wanted to do something medical when I graduated, but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. I was on the path to go to PA school but the more I looked at it, it wasn’t quite as hands on with patients as I wanted.

I talked to my cousin who’s a nurse and she said, “I think you’ll really like nursing school.” So I went and in nursing school, I thought, yep, this is what I want to be doing – this is what I’ve always loved doing.

I am from Houston, Texas, and I am enrolled in the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Indian Health Service paid for my nursing school and as part of that agreement, I had to come work 2 years on a reservation that had need of nurses. My dad grew up in Hot Springs, SD so I have family there. I came here often as a kid growing up. And I always knew there was something special here.

I came to Pine Ridge as a federal nurse to do my two-year payback for my scholarship. I met my fiancé during orientation and knew I would stay here forever. I did my two years of payback and then Tribal Health came in and I really liked them so I switched over to contract.

What’s the most gratifying part of your job?

Taking care of sick patients and helping them feel better. Seeing a smile on their face even when they’re sick because they’re feeling better and they’re grateful for the care. I’ve been on the reservation since 2016. So I know a lot of patients and they’re happy to see familiar faces when they come to ER and they’re sick. It helps with trust, knowing they know people here who will take good care of them.

Do you think that’s boosted trust in local healthcare resources?

I do. People from around here, there can be distrust with outsiders who come in because they don’t know the way of life here. So seeing a smiling familiar face can build a lot of trust, for sure.

In terms of outsiders coming in, what advice would you give to other nurses?

Be open. This is isolated. The closest Walmart is an hour away; Rapid City is 2 hours away. You’re kind of out in the middle of nowhere. But it’s beautiful.

Be kind and be caring. Don’t fall into pattern of saying, “Oh, another sick patient coming in who’s here every day.” And take time to know your patients. Taking a few minutes to get to know them goes a long way.

What mistakes have you seen nurses making?

Sometimes we make assumptions. Try not to have biases. Every visit is a new visit and every complaint -even if it’s the same complaint they’ve had forever – should be treated as a new complaint. You don’t know what’s going on today that wasn’t going on yesterday.

What do you do in your free time when you’re not nursing?

I’m definitely a homebody. I carve out time for family and friends; we spend a lot of time with our nieces and nephews in Rapid, and we’re very involved in their lives and sports. My stepson just graduated so we’ve gone to lots of football games, track meets, and wrestling meets over the years. He will be headed to college next month and running track there as well.

I also have 4 dogs. We’re outside pretty much all summer. In the summertime, I help my fiancé with gardening. I’m very involved in the community and culture here so we go to inipis, which are sweat lodges, and ceremonies, and we both sun dance in the summer. We love the wintertime as well. In the wintertime, we’ll go off-roading in the snow.

Thank you, Sarah!

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