Native American nursing institute attracts 24 students

SPOKANE — Twenty-two high school students from 14 Native American Western tribes will learn about nursing and Native American health care issues June 25 through July 1 during the 10th annual Na-ha-shnee Native American Summer Nursing Institute, sponsored by the Washington State University Intercollegiate College of Nursing.

The weeklong institute coursework addresses the history, culture and health care needs of Native Americans and begins to create an awareness of the need for native nurses now and in the future. The program is administered by Native American nursing students and practicing nurses who are teachers and role models.

The worldwide nursing shortage, affecting large and small communities, is as acute for Native American communities and cultures. Native nursing graduates and practicing native nurses who return to work with their tribes or other Native American communities bring invaluable nursing expertise and perspective to the health care needs of this population.

“We have seven Native American nurses assisting with the camp this year,” said Robbie Paul, Native American recruitment and retention coordinator and Na-ha-shnee director at the WSU Intercollegiate College of Nursing. “These nurses are wonderful and very dedicated to wanting to encourage our youth to pursue a nursing career.”

The tribes and reservations represented by students include the Blackfeet, Colville Confederated Tribes, Haida, Hopi, Hualapai, Lummi, Muckleshoot, Noosack, Oglala Peoria, Sioux, Red Lake Ojibwa, White Earth and Yakama.

Students will have a true college experience staying in residence halls at Whitworth College. Many of these students have not been away from home before, such as Chelsea Bender, a Neah Bay High School student from the Hualapai Tribe.

“I will get a glimpse of what it means to take responsibility for myself in how I spend my time, effort and attitude in learning all that my mind can take in during this weeklong camp,” wrote Bender in her application form.

The students will experience a variety of activities, including a trip to the WSU City Lab to conduct DNA experiments with Dr. Silvia Oliver, a visit to the WSU Human Anatomy Lab in Pullman and a career panel discussion with Native American health care professionals.

“Most of the experiences the students will have during their week will be very new, very challenging and very thought provoking,” Paul said. “Many of these students want to find a career where they can help other people and nursing is an ideal profession for that desire. The concept of giving back to your community is a fundamental ideology of Native American culture.”

Native nurses will present information on a variety of topics throughout the week, including first aid and CPR, gathering of traditional medicines, Native American traditional teachings, basic nursing skills, leadership skills, team building activities, diabetes education, substance abuse and sex education.

The week will culminate with a June 30 banquet at Whitworth College to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the camp. Guest speakers Karen Wapato Cawston, an ICN graduate and Colville tribal member, and Becky Wilson, a nurse from the Nez Perce Tribe and a member of the ICN Native American Advisory Board, will share their experiences of being native nurses and the importance of blending Western medical models with native traditions.

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

The result of an earlier student leadership exercise to give the summer institute a Native American-sounding name, Na-ha-shnee is an amalgamation of the words Native American High School Summer Nursing Institute.  It has no literal translation in any tribal language.

Established in 1968, the WSU Intercollegiate College of Nursing is fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The college is the nation’s oldest and most comprehensive nursing education consortium. Celebrating 37 years of world-class nursing education, the college offers baccalaureate, graduate and professional development course work to nursing students enrolled through its four consortium partners: Eastern Washington University, Gonzaga University, WSU and Whitworth College. Each year the college educates more than 780 graduate and upper-division undergraduate students and prepares more entry-level nurses than any other Washington state educational institution. For more information about the College of Nursing, visit its Web site at

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