this article was published, Christi Rondeau, Turtle
Mountain Tribe of Chippewa Indians, PharmD, RPh, was
chief pharmacist at Belcourt Indian Hospital (Quentin
N. Burdick Memorial Health Care Facility) located in
Belcourt on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation.
Experiencing the Need for More Pharmacists
Christi Rondeau, PharmD, RPh, and her staff are acutely aware of the shortage in pharmacists. “We have two pharmacies,” says Rondeau. “One is an outpatient based pharmacy and the other is an inpatient pharmacy. We fill up to 800 plus prescriptions a day. To be fully staffed, we need 15 pharmacists. Currently we have three permanent pharmacists and five technicians. Robots help with tasks, such as getting a drug and putting it into a bottle, but robots can’t counsel patients or do other human tasks.
“I spend a lot of my weekends and evenings here," admits Rondeau. So does her husband, Tom Rondeau, Turtle Mountain Tribe of Chippewa Indians, who is a certified, licensed pharmacy technician. “He’s a big plus here,” Rondeau says. “We want to be able to do more counseling of patients, so Tom helped me clean up a room that was being used as a stockroom. We put a desk and patient information in there. I hope that before too long we’ll have more staff, so that we can do a lot more counseling. For now we do the best we can.”
Every day, nurses bring Rondeau and her staff piles of patient charts. They check the physicians’ prescriptions for potential problems and then provide patients with the appropriate medications in the correct dosage. Like other health professionals, the pharmacists enter information and notes into the patients’ charts. The pharmacists consult regularly with physicians, but they don’t have enough staff to be able to “round” with the doctors, as Jeff Maxon and his colleagues do at Parker.
As chief pharmacist, Rondeau has administrative responsibilities, for example, hiring and supervising staff, formulating policies, and updating the formulary - a list of medications that has been systematically reviewed and approved for use. She is also responsible for accounting for all of the narcotics.
This is the second time that Rondeau has worked at the Belcourt Indian Hospital. When she received her PharmD. from North Dakota State University in 2000, she worked at Belcourt for a year. Then, because of their desire to see another part of the world, Christi, Tom and their two children moved to Yakima, Washington where Christi worked at the Indian Health Service and Tom trained to become certified as a pharmacy technician. “I learned a lot out there because they do things differently than we do here,” says Rondeau . “But after 9 months we came back to Belcourt because my children missed their grandma, relatives, and school.” Still Christi was able to bring back some new strategies that she has been putting into place at Belcourt.
Rondeau has come a long way since she first became interested in being a pharmacist. While attending high school on the reservation, she participated in a health careers class that included opportunities to do hands-on work in the Belcourt Indian Hospital Pharmacy. “It helped me to physically get into the environment, meet pharmacists, and see what the work was all about. The department chief, Mr. Doug Demontigny, was very interested in helping students. He let us do jobs within the pharmacy, such as prepackaging medications and compounding. There were lots of patients. That was a plus. I enjoyed the atmosphere and realized this work was something I wanted to do and could do.”
After her senior year of high school, Rondeau began attending a small college near her home, which was then called North Dakota State University – Bottineau. That summer, after graduating from high school, she participated in the Native American Pharmacy Summer Program on the North Dakota State University campus. “The program gave me an important head start,” she said. “We stayed in dorms on campus and had to get up bright and early for full days of classes in anatomy, chemistry, and other subjects. “We also got to meet some of the faculty.”
After about a year and a half at NDSU-Bottineau, Rondeau transferred to the Turtle Mountain Community College and, from there, to North Dakota State University-Fargo. In the summers, during her first couple years of college, she continued to participate in the NAPP summer programs. Then she began doing summer externships with the Indian Health Service. “The hands-on was really good,” she remembers. “Not only did I earn an income, I also gained experience”.
Rondeau’s path wasn’t without problems, so she was grateful for the support of family and friends. "My husband, Tom, is her best friend," she exclaims. “He takes care of me. He’s been my source of inspiration. There were some rough spots, but he hung in there.”
Now a successful pharmacist, Rondeau is hopeful that more Native Americans will enter her profession. As she interviews people for her department, she will be looking for pharmacists who are dedicated to helping people and “not just looking for a paycheck”. She also wants to hire pharmacists who have a positive outlook and can handle stressful situations. Judging from all that she has already accomplished, it seems that Rondeau has the characteristics that she is seeking in others and that she and her husband will continue to enhance the quality of health care for their people.
The article was originally published in the Autumn, 2004 issue of Winds of Change. (The cover artist is Clarrisa Hudson, Tlingit.)