South Dakota Health Organizations Encourage End-of-Life Planning

VERMILLION, S.D. -- Health workers across South Dakota are using National Healthcare Decisions Day on Saturday to draw awareness to the important but often overlooked decision process called advanced care planning (ACP).

The University of South Dakota Department of Nursing is leading the campaign that includes partners Sanford Health, Avera Health, Rapid City Regional Hospital and the Sioux Falls Veterans Administration Health Care System.

ACP encourages families and individuals to have conversations and make plans well before death imminently looms or happens. The process helps resolve the difficult decisions that often accompany life’s final days for a loved one.

“In our everyday lives we prepare for so much, but we often don’t prepare for sudden changes in health. This project encourages adults to have conversations with their loved ones and their health care providers in case of sudden health changes,” said Helene Hegge, instructor of nursing at USD and co-coordinator for the Advance Care Planning quality conversations project.

Cheryl Fischbach, nursing instructor at USD and another co-coordinator of the project, said the benefits of ACP are numerous. “In addition to the cost-effectiveness and financial benefits, there is increased patient and general population satisfaction, and increased satisfaction by health care providers,” she said.

Student volunteers are presenting a short survey and distributing information about Advance Care Planning in popular, public places like shopping malls, wellness centers and senior citizen centers this week.


USD’s School of Health Sciences is a national leader in interprofessional health sciences education. South Dakota’s comprehensive School of Health Sciences develops scholars, practitioners and leaders in health and human services, including addiction counselors, dental hygienists, health science practitioners, medical laboratory scientists, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, physician assistants, public health practitioners and social workers.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Michael Ewald
USD News