Why does Gov. Noem claim to have worked as a home health nurse? —The South Dakota Standard

I became aware via a social media group that Gov. Kristi Noem had made a claim on Twitter that one of the jobs she had held was a home health nurse.

She had listed a total of five jobs in the April 26, 2019, Tweet:

“Five jobs I’ve had (that few people know about):

1) Carpet cleaning telemarketer

2) Home health nurse

3) Grocery store checker

4) Restaurant cook

5) Vacuum salesperson.”

Department of Public Safety Secretary Craig Price responded with a list of his previous jobs. I began to do research when I read her claim to have been a home health nurse which led me to her speech at the CPAC in Dallas on July 11, 2021 (shown above in a Reuters/Octavio Jones Photo)in which she states that she was a home health nurse as she listed her former careers:

“Probably what you don’t know is I used to do carpet cleaning telemarketing. I used to sell carpet cleaning over the phone. I used to sell vacuum cleaners. I was a home health nurse. I was a grocery store checkout girl. What else did I do? I was a waitress. I loved that job, actually. That was great. I’ve done a lot of things.”

I then reviewed her education biography, researched the South Dakota Board of Nursing online nurse license verification registry under both Noem and her maiden name Arnold, and was unable to confirm that a nursing license for her had been issued for as an RN, LPN or CNA. I was unable to find any mention of her having attended a nursing program, practical or registered.

Having been a licensed nurse in South Dakota since 1982, it is my responsibility to know what the regulations are related to my scope of practice and to protect the public as most nurses do. I reviewed the Administrative Rules of South Dakota (ARSD), and the laws set forth by the Legislature and found that Govt. Noem’s claim to have practiced as a home health nurse as defined by ARSD is in fact considered a violation of these rules as a threat to public health, which is a prosecutable offense.

The South Dakota Standard checked with the Department of Health on Noem and her claim to have worked as a nurse. The department did not immediately respond.

As a health-care provider, I can say that it is not uncommon for a patient, in any setting, to address the staff caring for them as a nurse. The staff member must correctly identify who they are, what their role/title is, and what their role is in the patient’s plan of care. It is very unethical and in many health-care environments a violation of policy to not correctly identify yourself and what the caregiver’s role is.

This practice is vital for an open and honest relationship with the patient and their family and builds trust in their caregivers.

Ian Fury, Noem’s campaign spokesman, said the governor did not work as a professional nurse.

“She helped care for a disabled older lady who was a family friend with some home health functions,” Fury told The South Dakota Standard. “She’s not claiming to be a certified nurse or anything like that.”

Nursing is one of the most trusted occupations and we need to work to keep it as such. No one, no matter who they are, should be allowed to lay claim to the title of a nurse when they have not attended and graduated from an accredited nursing program, sat for and passed the nursing boards, and received a license to practice as a nurse within the scope of their practice.

Nurses are held to a higher standard, ethically, morally and legally — as it should be and no one should be able to lay claim to that title. Govt. Noem has no right to claim to be a nurse, she needs to retract her statements or provide proof that she was licensed as a nurse at one time.

Diane Smith was born and raised on a grain and cattle farm in Brookings County. She attended and graduated from St. Mary’s School of Practical Nursing in Pierre and successfully sat for the LPN nursing boards in 1982. Smith, who has two children and one grandchild, recently retired and now lives in Rapid City with several pets.

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