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Full Hearts: PMC Visits UMS for Heart Health Workshops

On February 13th, Pondera Medical Center visited UMS students for a Healthy Heart Workshop! Each grade spent 45 minutes with a group of PMC personnel from a variety of departments: Stephanie Keil, Speech Language Pathologist, Director of Rehabilitation Services; Charlene Bouma, Physical Therapy; Erica Krings, Registered Nurse, Asst. Director of Nursing; Erin Knepple, Registered Dietician, Dietary Manager; Casey Rasmussen, Marketing.


UMS is 4th, 5th and 6thgrade students, with 30 to 40 students in each grade. This age group presented a good opportunity to make an impact on heart health, as the students make the transition from young children to teenagers and prepare for junior high school.

Erin Knepple talked about MyPlate and the three food groups that are vital to heart health, including whole grains, fruits and vegetables. We then transitioned the group to exercising the heart. This was the really fun part! Students were asked to spread out around the gym and each one was given a bendable straw. We showed the students how to locate their pulse and get a feel for the speed of their heartbeat after being at rest. The entire group then got moving- jumping jacks, high knees, air punches, push-ups… and then we checked our pulse again. Their heart rates were of course increased, and we gave everyone a round of applause for exercising their heart! The group then repeated the series of exercises with the straw in their mouth. Erica Krings, A-DON, explained that we can’t talk about the heart without talking about the lungs. The straw exercised mimicked the difficulty in doing physical activity without healthy lungs; and how the things we love to do aren’t fun anymore if they are difficult.


The message: SAVE YOURSELF SOME HEARTACHE! Take care of your heart so you can continue to do the things you love with the people you love!


The final phase of the Heart Health workout put a new spin on being a leader. Because we are in the age of social media and influencers, we took this opportunity to challenge each student to be the influence. We went through a series of questions: How do students your age exercise? Recess, sports, chores. Do you have younger siblings watching you? Did you know you make an influence on your peers and they influence you? We had a special guest, three-year-old Kanin Johnson, who wrestles in Conrad Wrestling Club with many of the students and was a good example of how they can influence those young children looking up to them. We explained that as they get into junior high and high school, and beyond school, they have the chance to make a difference and change the culture.


The students were broken up into groups of 4-6 and given a poster. They were tasked with being the “Heart Health Influencers.” Each group had a job to choose the messages, images and phrases they felt were most important to target their own age group and promote heart health. The students brought glue, markers, and scissors; and PMC supplied a pile of magazines. It was truly fascinating to hear the discussion and watch the project play out. It was a great opportunity to hear what stuck with them and what activities made heart health worth while to them. PMC learned just as much, or more, from the 4-6th grades as they (hopefully) learned from us.


The posters will be on display in the PMC Rural Health Clinic for the entire week 2/17 – 2/19, and we invite everyone to come look at them! One winning poster will be chosen and made into a real-life advertisement in the Independent Observer, the Valerian and the PMC Facebook page and website.


Pondera Medical Center is truly humbled by the experience we shared with UMS. The teachers and staff are incredible. We contacted Jennifer Schlepp and she jumped right in with two feet. They opened up the gym and gave us free reign for an entire afternoon. It’s clear the students have been educated in health and wellness; and they also have excellent teamwork and leadership skills. Our gratitude can not be emphasized enough. Kudos to each and every parent and guardian, teacher and school official, and this community for your role in impacting our youth. Our vitality as a community rests on the shoulders of teamwork; and the best investment we can make together is in our youth…our future.


To learn more about our Heart Health Workshop, to host PMC at your group or organization, or to learn about our Cardiac capabilities at PMC, please call 406-271-3495. When your patients are your friends and neighbors- and your children- it fills your heart a little differently.




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