SPOKANE, Wash. — Students from 13 Native American western and southwestern tribes have a unique opportunity to learn more about nursing and Native American health issues through an annual summer Na-ha-shnee Summer Nursing Institute program sponsored by the Intercollegiate College of Nursing/Washington State University College of Nursing.

The week-long course, which runs June 14-20 in Spokane, addresses the history, culture and health care needs of Native Americans and is intended to get and keep high school students interested in nursing as a career. As part of the curriculum, students gain an understanding for the value and necessity advanced math and science coursework can play in their college preparation.

Some 25 students, ages 15-18, are expected to attend the eighth annual Na-ha-shnee Summer Nursing Institute. The 13 tribes and reservations represented by students include the Aleut, Colville Confederated Tribes, Hopi, Kalispel, Lummi, Navajo, Nez Perce, Shoshone/Piaute, Spokane, Spirit Lake Sioux, Tlingit, Yakama Nation and Warm Springs.

Students will have a true college experience by staying in Whitworth College residence halls. The ability to stay on a college campus helps to remove some of the mystery of what to expect when they begin to attend college on their own, said Robbie Paul, Native American coordinator at the WSU College of Nursing.

“The individual student experiences make such an impact that this year we have a record nine previous Summer Institute students returning to the camp,” Paul said. “The returning students are particularly committed to pursuing a career in nursing, and that’s exciting for everyone involved.”

Having Native American nurse leaders lead discussions and lectures is a major strength of the Summer Nursing Institute student experience. Students will have extensive hands-on opportunities to explore nursing processes related to infection control, CPR, first aid, beginning assessment skills, leadership skill building and college preparation requirements. Second- and third-year returning students will have a more advanced curriculum that includes job shadowing and tours of health facilities.

Native nurses will present information on a variety of topics, including wellness, the Medicine Wheel, living a balanced life and other approaches to native health care needs. Eight nursing professionals will attend camp this year, volunteering their time and providing perspective for the next generation of Native American nurses.

Karen Wapato Cawston, a public health nurse at the Colville Indian Health Center in Nespelem, says the camp allows Native American youth to realize the opportunities that are available to them. “I see a great need for nursing skills in Indian Country and for our people to become positive role models in our communities. This camp piques the interest and aptitude of youth who will know this is definitely the field for them and the career of their dreams,” she said.

Of the more than two million Native Americans in the United States, Washington state has the sixth highest population of native peoples at 93,000. There are 38,000 Native Americans living in the Plateau Tribes region that extends from the Cascade Mountains to the Rocky Mountains and includes central and eastern Washington, northern Idaho, parts of Montana and all of Oregon.

“The nursing shortage is just as acute, if not more so, on the reservations and with Indian health clinics,” Paul said. “These students get a very clear picture of a profession that needs more nurses and a career that benefits natives in a very important way, their health.”

Third-year student Shoshannah Jordan is excited about returning to the Na-ha-shnee Summer Camp. Jordan is a recent graduate of Lake Roosevelt High School in Grand Coulee and is a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes. “This camp is helping me to reach my goal of becoming a pediatrician someday. Every year I’ve attended the camp I’ve learned many things that will help me not only in the health field, but also in life,” Jordan said.

Interested students do not pay for the Na-ha-shnee Summer Nursing Institute experience. The camp is sponsored and supported by the Intercollegiate College of Nursing/WSU College of Nursing, Trude Smith Fund, Group Health Community Foundation, Kalispel Tribe, WSU Creighton Endowment for Native American Students and the WSU Area Health Education Consortium.

A recognition dinner will be held June 19 to honor the nurse leaders as well as thank the sponsors. U.S. senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and Rep. George Nethercutt have been invited to attend the dinner.

Established in 1968, the Intercollegiate College of Nursing/WSU College of Nursing is the nation’s first, oldest and most comprehensive nursing education consortium. The College of Nursing offers baccalaureate, graduate and professional development course work to nursing students enrolled through its four consortium partners: Eastern Washington University, Gonzaga University, Washington State University and Whitworth College. Each year, the college educates more than 600 graduate and upper-division undergraduate students and prepares more entry-level nurses than any other educational institution in the state. For more information about the Intercollegiate College of Nursing/WSU College of Nursing, visit the college Web site at nursing.wsu.edu.