Wednesday, October 20, 2021
HomeHealthcare HeroHealthcare Hero Highlight: Brookings Health System Respiratory Therapists

Healthcare Hero Highlight: Brookings Health System Respiratory Therapists

​Respiratory Therapists are integral members of any healthcare team. Like many healthcare professionals on the frontlines of this pandemic, respiratory therapists are tired. Their shifts are long and challenging and some days are emotionally draining. That is why SDAHO has picked the Respiratory Therapy team from Brookings Health System as this week’s Healthcare Heroes. Congratulations to Lisa Rice, Janie Isham, Meghan Handegard, Meredith Meyer, and Derick Johnson.

“Brookings Health System’s mission is to provide high-quality, compassionate, personalized health care. The respiratory therapists have demonstrated compassion in the high-quality care they have given to their COVID-19 patients.”  Lynne Thompson R.N., Case Management Director, Brookings Health System

Janie Isham is the veteran RT, serving the Brookings Health system for the past 26 years. Janie is a native of Florida but moved to South Dakota in 1995 and decided to call the Rushmore state home. “One of my strongest memories was how everyone seemed to know everyone, the patients and healthcare providers. A small close-knit community where your patients are your neighbors was and continues to be exciting for me.” – Janie Isham, Respiratory Therapist, Brookings Health System

One of the newest members of the RT Team is Meghan Handegard. She is a 2019 graduate of Dakota State University with an associates degree in Respiratory Care. Meghan will graduate in May of 2021 with her bachelor’s degree.  She has called South Dakota home since 2011 and chose to start her healthcare career here. “I started my professional career in South Dakota, and it has exceeded my expectations, as the majority of the health system values correlate to those of my own.” – Meghan Handegard, Respiratory Therapist, Brookings Health System

The second newest member of the team is Lisa Rice who has been with the program for the past four years. Western South Dakota is where Lisa grew up but has called the eastern side of the state home for most of her adult life. “I feel grateful to be a part of such a wonderful and compassionate team at Brookings Health System; we are truly all in this together.” – Lisa Rice, Respiratory Therapist Brookings Health System

Derick Johnson has traveled the world with the South Dakota National Guard, which is when he realized he wanted a career in the medical field. “While I was in the South Dakota National Guard I had the opportunity to take a combat lifesaver course and I was hooked at that point.” In 2006, Derick became a Combat Medic then transitioned to active duty, then the opportunity came along for Derick to become part of the respiratory therapy program in Brookings which is not far from his hometown of Watertown. Derick says it was one of the best decisions he ever made.

With 11 years under her belt as a respiratory therapist with the Brookings Health System, Meredith Meyers says it is a privilege to work in her home state. “I appreciate the teamwork, available resources and expertise care that South Dakota provides. I was inspired to get into healthcare by fellow family members and friends.”  – Meredith Meyer, Respiratory Therapist, Brookings Health System

During the pandemic this fall, members of the Respiratory Therapy team experienced an increase in their workload as the hospitals inpatient care unit quickly filled, as patients experienced severe respiratory symptoms. “The respiratory therapists provided pulmonary care for these people, working a crucial role as part of the healthcare team alongside the physicians and nursing staff.” Lynne Thompson R.N., Case Management Director, Brookings Health System

COVID-19 presented challenges for all five Respiratory Therapists, pushing them to work long hours under unknown circumstances. “I was working more and more hours and it was a lot more intense, emotionally and physically. I am happy to know that I played a part in helping with a pandemic most of us will never forget.” – Meredith

Derick serves as the Respiratory Care Supervisor; he says every member of their staff stepped up to the challenge during COVID-19. “COVID changed a lot of things. While our department continued with its normal duties, it had to become ever changing with new concepts and equipment, sometimes on a daily basis.” – Derick

Meghan says the emotional and physical challenges that came with the pandemic brought everyone together and displayed the true meaning of teamwork and resilience.  According to Janie, the facility worked hard in the beginning to acquire all the equipment that was needed for the influx of COVID patients. The pandemic placed an unbelievable amount of stress on healthcare workers, but from the beginning Janie was looking out for her community and patients. “When COVID began, I immediately set to work sewing masks.  For two weeks I sewed and made over 250 masks. I considered traveling to where the need was the greatest but decided my place is here at home taking care of those in my community.” – Janie.

COVID left many in the healthcare industry feeling helpless but according to Lisa there were some bright spots. “The best days were when a long term COVID patient finally got the – all clear – to go home to their family and friends. I think those bright spots are what got us all through during those tough times.” – Lisa

As the world continues to fight the spread of the virus and lift-up healthcare professionals, the Respiratory Therapists at Brookings Health System are all thankful for the recognition but do not consider themselves heroes. “I will never consider myself a hero, I just feel fortunate to be able to work in this career field and I truly enjoy every day I work.” – Derick

“We have always been heroes; folks are just taking notice. Ask any of us though, and we will tell you we are just doing our job.” – Janie

I am so proud of all healthcare workers. I really do think they are all heroes.” – Meredith

Congratulations to Meredith Meyer, Derick Johnson, Lisa Rice, Janie Isham and Meghan Handegard with the Respiratory Therapist Team at Brookings Health System for being a SDAHO healthcare hero. Thank you for all you do.

The Healthcare Hero campaign is designed to recognize and celebrate healthcare professionals across South Dakota. If you know someone that is a healthcare hero and would like to nominate them, visit us online and nominate them today.


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Events This Month


18octAll Day21Recreation & Activity Professionals Virtual Conference(All Day) Event Type :Education Events,Webinar

19octAll Day20​​Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Clinical Skills Lab(All Day) Event Type :Community Events,Education Events

20oct12:00 pm1:00 pmReimagine Patient and Family Communication with Mobile Technology12:00 pm - 1:00 pm Event Type :Education Events,Webinar

20oct10:00 pm12:00 pmSDAHO District IV Fall Meeting10:00 pm - 12:00 pm CST Event Type :District Meeting

21oct11:00 am12:30 pmMarijuana in the Workplace - Drug Testing Policies11:00 am - 12:30 pm Event Type :Education Events,Webinar


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Monday, October 18

10:00 – 11:00 am | Discover the Power of Meaningful Activity | Barbara Speedling

This program is designed to provide caregivers, particularly those involved in designing and facilitating behavioral interventions, with ideas and strategies for satisfying the needs of a rapidly changing population. Developing a team approach to the provision of meaningful activity, integrating technology, recognizing the benefit of “life skills” programming, and recognizing the impact of positive activity interventions on challenging psychosocial behaviors are the focus of this discussion. The intent and objectives of the federal regulations relative to behavioral health and the provision of meaningful and diversional activities will be reviewed in anticipation of compliance with Phase 3 of the Final Rule.

11:00 am – 12:00 pm | Love Your Neighbor: Preventing Resident-to-Resident and Resident-to-Staff Aggression | Barbara Speedling

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened resident anxiety, depression, isolation, and loneliness which has resulted in an increase in dissatisfaction, social unrest, and, at times, resident-to-resident and resident-to-staff aggression. This session provides strategies for anticipating the circumstances and events that may trigger negative interactions in a diverse community of residents, offering new thinking on how to achieve an environment of healing and recovery for today and tomorrow.

1:30 – 2:30 pm | Fairness, Equity, and Social Justice: Emerging Transgender Issues in Nursing Homes and Long Term Care Facilities | Patrick Arbore

There are more than 2.7 million LGBT adults ages 50 or older living in communities across the country. Transgender adults often lack traditional support systems, so many of these individuals will rely on nursing homes and other institutions that provide long term care. Since many elder care facilities are not equipped to deal with the unique needs of the transgender elderly, these adults often become vulnerable to discrimination and harassment. If we are to develop balanced and tailored interventions that support the strengths of as well as address the challenges facing transgender older adults, it is critical that we fully investigate factors leading to good nursing home care of this population.

Tuesday, October 19

9:00 – 10:00 am | Achieving Excellence Through Positive Team Relationships Gail Weinstein

This session will provide an understanding of the process involved in developing and maintaining a cohesive and productive team. Gain tools to aid in understanding different staff personalities, confronting and resolving conflicts, and facilitating positive team outcomes.

12:00 – 1:00 pm | Cultural Diversity and HealingPatrick Arbore

Care professionals need to examine their expectations, attitudes, biases, and assumptions about how they engage with older adults from diverse groups.

Because most of us are uncomfortable acknowledging our cultural biases, acknowledging these mindsets takes courage. Until we are aware of the predisposed attitudes we hold towards diverse older adults, we may be unable to establish and maintain successful relationships with them.

In this training, participants will broaden their definition of culture and diversity, recognize and understand its importance, and identify communication skills that will strengthen interactions among a diverse group of older adults.

2:00 – 3:00 pm | Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 PandemicAlisa Tagg

Experiences during the pandemic have given activity professionals a fresh set of eyes to see more clearly the need for positive resident engagement. They can now grow and cultivate life-enriching experiences that will make quality engagement even better in the senior living setting. In this session, we will review the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the resident engagement experience and discuss the top five senior living trends affecting activity professionals.

Wednesday, October 20

11:30 am – 12:45 pm | Depression and Therapeutic Recreation Dr. Robert Figlerski,

Feeling depressed is something we all have experienced from time to time. However, when symptoms begin to reach a clinical threshold the way a person functions in their environment can be compromised. In a long term care environment this can lead our residents to socially withdraw, leading to more serious emotional and behavioral difficulties. With the current shift away from the use of pharmacological interventions, recreational therapy is an ideal psychosocial treatment to help maintain or improve our residents’ level of functioning and well-being. What if residents exhibiting symptoms of depression present with low energy and a lack of interest in participating in participating? This session will increase your recognition of the signs and symptoms of the various types of depression and introduce the theory behind Behavior Activation Theory.

1:00 – 2:30 pm | Residents’ Rights to Sexual Expression and the Legal Ramifications in a LTC FacilityKen Kern, Dana Walsh Sivak, Anne Weisbrod

The desire for sexual intimacy is an often overlooked part of residents’ lives, and it is important that long term care facilities recognize this need. With proper education and the enactment of policies which direct team members how to sensitively and appropriately respond when residents are found to be involved in sexual relationships in the facility, uncomfortable encounters and conversations can be avoided, and residents can feel supported in their ability to freely carry out their romantic relationships. This session will address various how facilities can enact “sexual expression policies”; how to appropriately balance the residents’ right to sexual expression and intimacy with facilities’ concerns regarding protecting residents’ safety; and much more.

Thursday, October 21

12:00 – 1:30 pm | Meeting the Activity Needs of Younger Populations in Nursing Homes Catherine R. “Cat” Selman

Long term care is no longer synonymous with "geriatric care." In the past 10 years, adults ages 31 to 64 have been the fastest growing population in nursing homes and now make up 14% of their population. Faced with a variety of issues, these younger residents can provide complicated challenges to facility staff who are attempting to meet their needs. With the CMS focus on person centered care, it is necessary to recognize the needs of this population and improve their quality of life during their time in a facility. The activities that have normally been provided to the elder population will not fit the bill. The younger resident will need a purpose and sense of accomplishment through activities. In this session, the speaker will discuss the challenges/barriers/needs presented by this group, the strategies/interventions that need to be provided, as well as an extensive list of successful activity ideas for this very special population.

2:00 – 3:30 pm | One-on-One Activities from Around the World!Catherine R. “Cat” Selman

COVID-19 turned everyone’s world upside down. In addition to the horror of the illness and death, group activities were cancelled, no communal functions/dining/ events could be scheduled, residents were isolated and confined to their rooms, and had no physical contact with anyone from their families or the community. The format and philosophy of activity programming HAD to change during this time to be responsive to the safety and well-being of our residents. As a result, and by default, nursing homes converted the delivery of all activity services to the provision of 1-1 activities. Going forward, how do you enhance your 1-1 programming that is designed to meet the needs of each individual resident? How do you involve ALL staff (which is a required component to be successful)? How do you capitalize on the use of technology? And WHERE do you come up with enough ideas? This session will address all these questions, plus provide participants with a list of 1-1 activities from nursing homes around the world.


Patrick Arbore, Ed.D., Director and Founder, Elderly Suicide Prevention & Grief Related Services, Institute on Aging, San Francisco, CA

Dr. Patrick Arbore, a nationally recognized expert in the field of elderly suicide prevention and grief services, has devoted his life to increasing awareness of isolation, loneliness, and depression in older adults. Dr. Arbore’s presentations promote better-informed and healthier communities whose members have increased understanding of the issues of aging, inner loneliness, sorrow, stress, and anxiety, and reach out to listen, make connections, and support each other as we adjust to the experiences of older age.

Robert Figlerski, PhD., Clinical Psychologist, Regional Director, CHE Behavioral Health Services, Inc., Brooklyn, NY

Dr. Robert Figlerski is Regional Director of CHE Behavioral Health Services. Prior to joining CHE Behavioral Health Services, he was the Director of Behavioral Health with Team Health and Director of Psychological Services at IPC Healthcare, where he managed, trained, and supervised a staff of more than 65 psychologists, providing clinical services in post-acute care with a primary focus on clinical matters, training, quality of service, productivity, and corporate compliance. In addition, Dr. Figlerski was the clinical director at RG Psychological Services hiring and training psychologists, supervising clinical services, productivity, and relationships with over 120 contracts with skilled nursing facilities and rehab programs. His focus was on quality of services and meeting regulatory guidelines established by the Department of Health, Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance companies and managed care contracts.

Ken Kern, Esq., Partner, Cona Elder Law, Melville, NY

Mr. Kern leads the firm’s Health Care Facility Reimbursement and Recovery Department, concentrating his practice in civil litigation, complex Medicaid eligibility matters, Fair Hearings, Article 78 proceedings, guardianships, and resolution of all issues related to resident financial accounts and health care facilities’ bottom line. He has received the prestigious Leadership in Law award, been named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers, and been featured in Who’s Who in Health Care Law.

Catherine R. “Cat” Selman, President and Owner, The Cat Selman Company, Vonore, TN

Educator. Motivator. Communicator. Consultant. Author. Catherine R. “Cat” Selman, BS, uses her dynamic personality and compelling presence to spread the message of positive, realistic, and common-sense strategies for the aging services professional. She is president and owner of The Cat Selman Company, a company specializing in continuing education for healthcare professionals. With over 30 years’ experience in management, education and consultation, Ms. Selman has trained providers and surveyors in all fifty states. Since 1989, she has often been requested by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to sit on stakeholder/expert panels responsible for the revision of surveyor guidance and compliance issues.

Dana Walsh Sivak, Esq., Senior Associate Attorney, Cona Elder Law, Melville, NY

Ms. Sivak concentrates her practice in health care reimbursement and recovery, devoting her time to litigation, guardianships, complex Medicaid eligibility issues, PRUCOL matters, HMO/Private insurance coverage issues, contract review, Article 78 proceedings, Fair Hearings, and other matters related to health care facility residents’ financial accounts.

Barbara Speedling, Quality of Life Specialist, Innovations for Quality Living, Bayside, NY

Barbara Speedling is an author, educator, and management consultant at the forefront of person-centered care. An innovator with more than 30 years of practical experience within the adult care community, she is the expert providers turn to when they want to ensure that the services they provide meet not only the physical needs of their residents, but their emotional and psychosocial needs as well. The author of two books devoted to common sense advice for meeting the holistic needs of an increasingly diverse and challenging community, both Why is Grandma Screaming and Toward Better Behavior: Yours, Mine & Everyone Else’s are now widely distributed to staff at community, residential, and long term care facilities across the country and in Canada.

Alisa Tagg, BA ACC/EDU CADDCT CDP CDCS, Association Director, National Association of Activity Professionals, Eau Claire, WI

Alisa Tagg has been a certified activity consultant since 2006 and an activity director working primarily in skilled nursing facilities since 1995. She also works as an independent consultant in various facilities throughout southern Nevada. Ms. Tagg holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, a provider’s Certificate of Completion specializing in Aging with the Nevada Geriatric Education Center, and is a Certified Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care Trainer, a Certified Dementia Practitioner with the National Certification Council for Dementia Practitioners, and a Certified Dementia Communication Specialist with the Silver Dawn Training Institute. Ms. Tagg is the past President of NAAP.

Gail Weinstein, MS, LNHA, CTRS, Consultant, LeadingAge New York ProCare, Latham, NY

Gail Weinstein is a New York State licensed nursing home administrator and certified therapeutic recreation specialist. For more than 40 years, Ms. Weinstein’s long term care and adult day health care experience has ranged from a hands-on recreation therapist to supervisory, administrative and, since 2000, consulting positions. She has lectured on subjects relating to Alzheimer’s disease, behavior management, accident prevention/root cause analysis, care planning, policies and procedures, quality assurance, and therapeutic programming throughout NYS and appeared as an Alzheimer’s expert on the Sally Jesse Raphael Show. She is also the co-author of the “Approaches to Special Programming” chapter published in Dementia: Issues in Nursing Home Care.

Anne Weisbrod, Director, Social Services, Hebrew Home of Riverdale, Bronx, NY

Anne Weisbrod, LMSW, has had a passion for advocating and caring for older adults that spans over three decades. She graduated from SUNY Binghamton and received her master’s degree in Social Work from Adelphi University. She has worked in both the community with seniors in supportive housing programs as well as medical model day care programs. Ms. Weisbrod has been at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale for over 30 years and is currently the Director of Social Work, overseeing the social workers in the Discharge Planning Department as well as the nursing home’s long term care social work staff. She works closely with residents, families, and staff in matters of sexual expression and intimacy within the nursing home setting.