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As COVID-19 rates remain high and healthcare worker shortages worsen, a western Wisconsin alumnus is rolling up her sleeves to help deal with the crisis as part of the Minnesota National Guard. In late November, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz activated the Minnesota National Guard to serve as “rapid response teams” of trained nurses to support healthcare facilities with severe staff shortages. This meant that Heather Rushfeldt, a 2005 Amery High School graduate, had to prepare for work.

Minnesota is one of the last states to join Indiana, Maine, New Hampshire and New York for the National Guard to train as certified nursing assistants as part of their COVID-19 response. State.

After graduating from Amery, Rushfeldt attended the University of Wisconsin at River Falls for two years. She graduated from Crown College in St. Bonifacius, MN. for one semester and returned to Bethlehem College and Seminary where she obtained a BA in Divinity in 2012.

“I decided to enlist in the military during my last year of college. As I neared graduation, I realized that the career opportunities for me were slim. The country was still recovering from the 2008 recession, and I had no intention of working in the formal ministry area, ”Rushfeldt said.

She shared that her family had a solid military background, so she discussed military service with her father and a few of her teachers. She said: “My father (a West Point graduate) was surprised but thought enlisting in the military seemed like a good next step. My school pastoral teacher happened to be a recently retired military chaplain. He provided me with wonderful insight and mentorship.

Rushfeldt originally planned to complete a four-year enlistment, separate from the military, and pursue higher education. “However, plans and circumstances tend to change, and I did. I decided to continue serving with the Minnesota National Guard while pursuing a master’s degree. I have become a close friend of many of my colleagues, really enjoy my job and have developed a great appreciation for the care provided by military chaplains. I am now a student at Bethel Seminary and hope to become a chaplain myself, ”she said.

In all of his assignments his official role has been the same. Rushfeldt said: “Along with the battalion chaplain, I am part of what is called a ‘unity ministry team’ which works to support and ensure the free exercise of religion for all soldiers in the world. unity. The three basic skills of the Army Chaplain Corps are: Feed the living, take care of the wounded, honor the dead. I have tried to do this to the best of my ability in each unit I have been assigned to.

Rushfeldt’s current assignment, trained as a licensed practical nurse to support long-term care facilities facing staff shortages, goes beyond his usual duties. “I’m trying to do it to the best of my ability as well,” she said.

Although she is aware that the Minnesota National Guard had been involved in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year, Rushfeldt received notice of her activation for this mission on Sunday, November 21 and presented herself. at work on Friday November 26. be part of this mission. I have great confidence in my colleagues. I am confident that we will be able to provide quality care to people residing in any long term care facility we are assigned to, ”she said.

Rushfeldt was assigned to practical nurse training and state certification testing at Anoka Technical College. She, along with about 80 other soldiers, completed 75 hours of training (including 16 hours of practical training). The training consists of mastering 60 specific skills and learning to provide care as a caregiver. Rushefeldt said: “I enjoyed the training. I found all of the trainers at Anoka Technical College to be incredibly patient, professional and experienced. We have learned more than the specific skills needed to provide physical care. Many of us had practical or situational questions. Our trainers were always ready to answer these questions, provide advice and offer insight. “

Rushfeldt has not yet been assigned. His duties will include assisting residents of long-term care facilities in their activities of daily living.

“Our force is highly adaptive and with training, it will help the Minnesota healthcare community respond to health worker shortages,” said Maj. Gen. Shawn Manke, adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard.

“One of the mainstays of the Minnesota National Guard is people, because they are our most precious resource,” Manke said. “We recognize that we share this resource with employers and we know that these activations can disrupt their businesses and organizations. We value the employers of our Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen because we could not carry out our federal, state and community missions without their support.

Minnesota National Guard officials said they were unsure how long missions involving long-term care facilities and alternative care sites would last. Rushfeldt said she was ready to provide support for as long as needed.