Nurses gain experience from the Benefis Native internship program

Tina Red Star Hendricks, a registered nurse, checks on a patient at the Billings Clinic Hospital. Red Star Hendricks is a graduate from the Montana American Indian Nurse Internship program at Benefis Health System. Billings Clinic Photo/Jeff Giffinbilde

Story from Great Falls Tribune 

Under the direction of Benefis Health System’s Native American Programs, the Montana American Indian Nurse Internship is an 11-month program designed for new or recent American Indian registered nurse graduates with no acute-care hospital experience. The program is guided by experienced nurse preceptors who provide life-long lessons to these new graduates to ensure the quality of knowledge within the nursing profession will remain strong for years to come.

“Nurses have a responsibility to advance their abilities and knowledge to be able to provide care that is increasingly complex,” said Jan Leishman-Donahue, MSN, RN, CNM, and Benefis MAINI Project Director. “Through the MAINI program, preceptors share their skills with new nurses so that they are better equipped to provide quality patient care.”

Internships with the Benefis MAINI program afford nurses additional tools to prepare for positions in a Montana Reservation Indian Health Service hospital in-patient setting.

Trisha Croff, RN, ASN, is a graduate of the Benefis program. Croff is now using her skills to care for patients on the inpatient ward of the Blackfeet Community Hospital.

“I chose to participate in the MAINI program because I saw it as an opportunity to gain a wide variety of experience as a new grad,” said Croff. “The program prepared me to take care of a variety of patients with varying diagnoses. I gained excellent skills in time management, prioritization, communication, and most importantly, patient care.”

Working in a large hospital such as Benefis provides many clinical care opportunities, time with experienced staff, and a strong support system.

“My experience at Benefis was priceless,” said Croff. “I could not have asked for a better start to my career in nursing.”

Benefis was awarded a three year grant in 2010 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, which partly funds the MAINI program. The Benefis program was one of 31 grants nationwide that were funded by the HRSA that year. So far, three American Indian nurses have graduated from the Benefis program to date. In addition to Croff, Alexis Dustyhorn and Tina Red Star Hendricks graduated from the program.

“For the nurses, the MAINI program aims to improve job satisfaction, decrease orientation time and have a direct impact on how well they will practice at Montana IHS hospitals,” said Leishman-Donahue. “We want to ensure that these nurses can return to their communities and perform with confidence the best possible care for their patients.”

For more information about the MAINI program, call 731-8264 or log on to and click on the Employment heading.

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