Pine Ridge Volunteering

The 2016 year marks the seventh year of volunteer teams providing services, education and training in partnership with Indian Health Service and the Oglala Sioux Tribe Health Administration office, as well as with communities and schools on the reservation.

Global Partners-Pine Ridge teams blog during their trips to provide real-time updates on their activities. Click here to read current and past blog entries by Global Partners' volunteers in South Dakota!

In 2016, trips are scheduled for the dates below, and each trip will have a different area of focus. Teams will be going from March through November. Due to the community-to-community partnership model that underlies Global Partners, we give preference to volunteers from our local region (Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa). However, others from outside our region are able to join the team occasionally, space permitting.

2016 Trip Dates

 Trip Focus

Volunteer Roles Needed 

Sign-up Deadline
 March 6-11 Women's Health/Family Medicine Clinic
Specialty Clinic: Rheumatology
Behavioral Health Training
Family Practice and/or OB/GYN providers
Rheumatology providers
Nurses, MAs, and/or CNAs
Behavioral health professionals
Dec 18, 2015
 April 3-8 Specialty Clinic: Pulmonary, Internal Medicine
Physicals in schools and Head Starts
First Aid Fair (led by School District of La Crosse)
Pulmonary and Internal Medicine providers
Pediatric providers
Nurses, MAs, and/or CNAs
Individuals with experience in first aid (Paramedics, RNs, etc)
Jan 15, 2016
 June 12-18 Mammography
Clinical Breast Exams
Breast Health Education
Mammography Technicians
Providers to provide clinic breast exams
March 4, 2016
July 4-10 Healing Camp for Lakota youth
(healing for trauma and grief)
Behavioral health professionals
Social Workers
Individuals with experience working with youth
(camp counseling experience, etc)
April 8, 2016
 July 17-22 Women's Health/Family Medicine Clinic
Specialty Clinic: Internal Medicine, Pain Management
Physical exams for Oglala Sioux Tribe police officers
Community Team - focus TBD (e.g. gardening)
Family Practice and/or OB/GYN providers
Internal Medicine and Pain Specialists
Nurses, MAs, and/or CNAs
Non-clinical individuals to support community projects
April 8, 2016
 July 18-24 Youth Leadership Camp
This camp is led by students and faculty from the School District
of La Crosse, Health Science Academy
April 8, 2016
 July 24-29 Health for the Generations Camp
(for Ho-Chunk and Lakota students)
**this camp takes place in La Crosse
This camp is led by students and faculty from the WARM program
(Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine) and UW-La Crosse
April 8, 2016
(dates TBD)
Physicals in schools and Head Starts
Specialty Clinic: Rheum, Pulm, or Neuro
Pediatric or Family Medicine providers
Individuals to help with pediatric physicals (no clinical exp. needed)
Specialty providers (Rheumatology, Pulmonary, Neurology)
Nurses, MAs, and/or CNAs
May 20, 2016
 October 16-21 Women's Health/Family Medicine Clinic
Specialty Clinic: Rheum, Pulm, or Neuro
Health Fair (led by School District of La Crosse)
Family Practice and/or OB/GYN providers
Specialty providers (Rheumatology, Pulmonary, Neurology)
Nurses, MAs, and/or CNAs
June 24, 2016
 November 13-18 Women's Health/Family Medicine Clinic
Specialty Clinic: Rheum, Pulm, or Neuro
Physicals in schools and Head Starts
Behavioral Health training
Family Practice and/or OB/GYN providers
Pediatric providers
Specialty providers (Rheumatology, Pulmonary, Neurology)
Nurses, MAs and/or CNAs
Individuals to help with pediatric physicals (no clinical exp. needed)
Behavioral health professionals
June 24, 2016

First-time volunteers should plan to attend a cultural orientation prior to their trip.

Each trip also requires participation in 2 pre-trip meetings and one post-trip meeting for debriefing. Due to the community-based nature, in-person attendance is preferred for these meetings. Details about these sessions will be sent out via email to the volunteers signed up for each trip.

Once you are signed up for a trip, you will receive an email ~3 months before your trip with paperwork that you need to complete. All volunteers (medical or non-medical) also need to complete some general forms for Global Partners, such as a waiver of liability. Any medical volunteers providing services at an IHS clinic will need to complete an IHS volunteer packet and also get fingerprints. Providers (MD, DO, NP, PA) need to get credentialed through IHS, and a member of the Gundersen credentialing office will work with you to complete that.

Volunteers from a variety of backgrounds are needed to support the partnerships with Pine Ridge. Please complete a Volunteer Form and describe your interest and a member of the Global Partners team will follow up with you to discuss potential opportunities.

The Trip
Each team will determine the specifics of their departure/arrival times, but generally teams leave Sunday at 7am from Gundersen. It is a 10 hour drive, so teams usually stop in Mitchell, SD, for lunch, arriving in Pine Ridge about 5pm. Monday is typically a "cultural orientation day", which begins with a visit to the Oglala Lakota College Cultural Center, and often includes presentations and meetings with our tribal partners. For teams working in the Wanblee Clinic, on Monday they will also get an orientation at the clinic and access to the electronic health record, which is needed to complete patient documentation throughout the week.

Each evening (Monday-Thursday) volunteers will be done between 5 and 7pm, depending on their specific work. Plan to eat later each evening - around 7 or 7:30pm most nights - and spend time debriefing as a team. Also, take advantage of morning or evening downtime to see some of the sites around Pine Ridge: Red Cloud School heritage museum & art gallery, Wounded Knee, Piya Wiconi, the Badlands, Singing Horse Trading Post, etc.

The group will wrap up on Friday by noon, sometimes earlier. Some may choose to drive straight back to La Crosse (arriving in La Crosse around midnight) while others may choose a more leisurely pace and stay overnight in hotel on the way back, arriving back home on Saturday or Sunday.

The total cost per volunteer to serve on Pine Ridge for a week is $350. This cost covers lodging at the Lakota Prairie Ranch Resort for a double room; if a volunteer requests a single room, this increases the cost by $30/night (to a total trip cost of $500). Lakota Prairie Ranch provides bedding and towels, has wireless internet and a cafe. The team usually also reserves a room with a small kitchenette so that the group can prepare most of their meals family-style rather than eating out each evening, if preferred.

The $350 payment (or $500 if getting a single room) also helps pay for the vehicle rental (which is partially covered by Global Partners), gas expenses, breakfast and lunch food, and supplies to support the team's work. This amount is made payable to the Gundersen Medical Foundation-Global Partners and is considered a charitable contribution since it supports medical volunteer service work. Volunteers may choose to drive separately, which reduces their payment for the trip by $50. Volunteers should plan to bring additional money for eating out on the way to/from Pine Ridge (approximately 3-4 meals), and an optional overnight hotel stay when heading back to La Crosse at the end of the week.

Gundersen employees may apply for a Global Partners grant to help offset the costs of volunteering on Pine Ridge (up to $250). Click here to learn more about how to apply for a Global Partners Grant.

What to bring
Teams are encouraged to pack layers of clothing as the weather is highly variable, especially in spring and fall! Medical teams should plan to dress work casual and also bring your Gundersen name badge to wear while at the clinic. Non-Gundersen employees who plan to volunteer are welcome to email 3-4 weeks prior to their trip if they would like to have a Volunteer badge.

Volunteers are welcome to bring a camera for taking pictures; the scenery is breathtaking and the people are beautiful! However, please refrain from taking photos in the clinic unless you have received a patient's permission, as well as that of any staff who may present. It is always a good idea to ask someone's permission prior to taking a photo even in a non-medical setting, too. Please do not take pictures of ceremonial grounds on Pine Ridge.

For food, volunteers should plan to bring snacks and beverages for the drive (be forewarned, sharing happens). Each member of the team will bring one dinner meal to share as well, and these details will be organized during your pre-trip handoff meeting. Popular past meals have included tacos, lasagna, tater tot casserole, chicken alfredo, crock pot meals, baked potato bar, chili, spaghetti... pretty much anything that is easy to prepare or can be cooked in a crock pot, since you may not be getting back to the hotel until 7pm some evenings. Some teams decide to instead have dinner all or several evenings at the cafe in the motel, rather than bring dinner meals to prepare.

Medical Issues
Volunteers must be up-to-date on immunizations including DPT and influenza. Hepatitis A & B vaccines are also strongly recommended.

English is the primary language spoken by most members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, so no interpreters are needed to provide medical care on Pine Ridge. Some members of the tribe also speak Lakota, which is the language indigenous to the Lakota Sioux.

Time off
This is a volunteer experience for which you will not be paid. You may choose to take PTO or unpaid time off – you need to make arrangements with your manager. Gundersen associate and medical staff may also use CME time (but not CME money) to participate in a Global Partners trip.

If you are interested in volunteering, please fill out our volunteer form.

NOTE: Volunteers on a Pine Ridge trip must be able to endure long days (10+ hours) of physical activity, which may include standing, walking, light lifting and sitting. Volunteers must be age 18 or older; minors (14 and older) may be allowed on a volunteer trip if accompanied by a parent or guardian.

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