Meet our May Nurse of the Month: Keith Chisamore!

Meet Keith Chisamore, one of our Pine Ridge nurses who’s friends with everyone. As nurse Katie Schindler says, “Keith is an amazing nurse and resource for the Pine Ridge ED. I always feel as if I have someone in my corner when he is working, whether it be to bounce questions/ideas off or need someone to step in and help out he’s always there.  To top if off, no matter how tough the day is I can  always count on him when I need a laugh or a pick me up!”


Hi Keith, thanks for speaking with us! How long have you been with Tribal Health?

I’ve been with Tribal Health for a year and a half, working at Pine Ridge IHS.

Are you from the Great Plains?

I’m originally from California. I moved to Missouri 25 years ago. I live about an hour west of St Louis, MO.

How did you hear about Tribal?

I was a flight nurse for 22 years. I flew in South Dakota and sometimes I’d fly into Pine Ridge. Some of the nurses I met encouraged me to work there – some of them were people I used to work with are also Tribal Health employees.

One of the problems as a flight nurse is you’re never home more than 3 days in a row. I was always traveling through Utah, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana. A big plus of working for Tribal Health is that I’m 7 days off, 7 days at work. It’s a real improvement.

                                                flight nurse   

                                                                                                     Assisting Idaho Search and Rescue                                                      


What’s your favorite part of working on Indigenous lands?

I knew Pine Ridge as I had flown in and taken patients to tertiary care centers, but I wasn’t expecting to connect with patients so much or to learn more and more about Indigenous patients. As a flight nurse, I missed the education portion of patient care. I only saw patients for a short time.

But now, getting to spend time with patients and ask them questions, ask them about growing up on a reservation, is great. That’s the most rewarding thing – providing healthcare education to them and learning about their lifestyles and ancestors.

There’s also my team. It’s a great group of folks that we have at Pine Ridge – they take care of each other. While I work just at Pine Ridge, I know nurses at Rosebud. We have nurses with more experience at these 2 facilities than some level one trauma centers.

Did you ever want to do anything besides nursing?

I was a paramedic right out of high school, then went through nursing school and graduated in 1989. I worked in multiple ICUs and ERs before becoming a flight nurse.

I don’t see myself completely retiring. Maybe slowing down and not working as much, but I would miss it too much to retire entirely. I really enjoy patient care. And I would be bored – there’s only so much yardwork you can do!



Keith with wife Marta and daughter Sophia at Sophia’s graduation from The University of Tennessee Knoxville


What do you do when you’re not at work?

Our kids are grown, so now it’s just my wife and our 2 dogs, who are different breeds of hounds. We do a lot of hiking with the dogs. We have a son in California, and a daughter that lives near us in Missouri. Our youngest daughter is currently doing an internship in Hawaii researching sea turtles and one son is in Alaska, so we travel a lot. I love to fish. I’m planning a trip to visit my youngest son in Alaska this July. We plan to go deep sea fishing for Halibut and go fishing off the bank for salmon.

That sounds fun. What’s your advice to nurses new to Tribal lands?

You have to come in and be observant – don’t assume anything. On Indigenous lands, you don’t know what’s going on. Some patients don’t have indoor plumbing and electricity. You can’t just say, “Go get your script and follow up on Tuesday with an orthopedist or ophthalmologist.” The patient may not have a car, may not be able to drive 2 hours to Rapid City.

You spend some of your time as a social worker, not just a nurse. So you have to take into consideration what’s going on in their life. Ask questions; you’ll get some answers you’re not expecting. Or you’ll have a patient who wants to talk to you away from their spouse or their parent.

Be observant and don’t take anything for granted.

Thank you for insightful advice, Keith!

                                                                                                    Keith Chisamore fishing

                                                                                                                          Keith fly fishing in Montana




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