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Published on May 10, 2022

Carrie Heine

Long-Time Yankton Nurse Spreads Unique Kindness

“Do you believe in the power of the word?”

A Lakota COVID-19 patient asked that question of Carrie Heine, RN, an Avera Sacred Heart Hospital intensive care nurse. It was among the last things he said.

The man who asked her about the word did not survive, but his words did. With more than 40 years of intensive care experience, Heine felt his truth.

“He revealed so much that remains with me,” Heine said. “He asked me if COVID would remain in his body,”

It led Heine on a journey that would lead to more awareness.

Cultural Awareness to Create Connections

His questions were based in Lakota tradition. He wanted to make sure the remembrance his family would host would be safe – it was a ceremony that sometimes lasted days, in the home. He also wanted her to understand his question.

She might not have known specifics. But after another long shift on the front lines of a pandemic, Heine sought more information. What is the power of the word?

She realized this single utterance meant so much, she later asked her leaders to provide cultural education for nurses and caretakers. In doing so, she hoped all Avera employees who provided care would better understand the cultural needs of every patient population. Doing so can help ease anxieties and create more robust personal connections.

Heine’s idea resulted in reading materials being disseminated to staff.

While this was one of thousands of examples of Heine working at her best, she disagrees.

“It’s not work,” she said. Nursing is her calling.

From Where Compassion Springs

Heine will retire soon and was recently honored for her service. Heine was nominated by her peers to with the Avera Quality Congress award in the Compassion category. This award is given to people who exemplify the Avera values of compassion, hospitality and stewardship.

Heine is a northeastern Nebraska native, where she was one of 12 kids.

“Both my parents were eighth-grade graduates,” she said. “My dad started high school three times.”

So when she ventured into her secondary school education and beyond, she remembered his dedication. Because both of her parents worked hard, she knew quitting was never an option. Not as she sought her nursing degree, nor when COVID-19 raged in her hospital unit.

“I saw my parents pass, and they gave me gifts I still use,” Heine explained. Her father had experienced what’s called “air hunger” because of his COPD. She also drew a line to her faith and talks with her priest.

“Christ died on the cross from suffocation,” she said. “I saw air hunger in my father, and I saw it in many patients.” Her supportive parents, their vivid examples, as well as her own experience, all meshed to lead her to become an inspiration to other nurses.

“Being nice can make a giant difference in someone’s day – and in their career,” she said. “When we need care, we must rely on others. I try to show that you can spend more time, share more of yourself.”

Culture is important within Avera, and our employees are important for all we do. Learn more about health care careers at Avera.

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