The Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation is one of the most economically distressed areas in the rural United States. Seventy eight percent of the Native Americans on the reservation are unemployed; of those employed, 96% still live below federal poverty guidelines. As a result of recent state and federal legislation that lifts nursing home development bans from reservations, the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation will build an inter-generational facility that offers nursing home, assisted living, and day care services. In order to provide a full range of services, the new facility will require skilled health care employees.
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Authority, the University of South Dakota, and community partners propose to develop a technology-based Certified Nursing Assistant Training Program through the Cheyenne River Community Technology Center in Eagle Butte, South Dakota. The program will prepare 40 Native Americans annually for careers in health care, demonstrate the effectiveness of technology-accessed training in isolated areas, decrease area unemployment, and support personal economic self-sufficiency. The health care component will be developed through the University of South Dakota, the South Dakota Health Technology Innovations, and the Sioux Valley Hospitals and Health System.
The project poses the following research question: Is distance learning technology effective for building job readiness skills in resource-poor areas and filling a critical local need for health care workers? Evaluation measures will address (1) impact – participation levels, employment data, community poverty levels, and acquisition of work skills and practical knowledge; and (2) process – the effectiveness of distance learning technology and the training curriculum. Additional measures, including descriptive evaluations, will be assigned as part of ongoing planning and monitoring. An Operations Manual documenting planning, implementation, and lessons learned will be disseminated to other demographically similar communities nationwide.