Why did you choose your specific health professional career?
As a nurse, I am involved with very personal moments in the lives of my patients. Through my training I am able to make a difference. There are so many opportunities and avenues for a nurse such as, direct patient care, executive/administration, teaching and research.
What experiences did you have to make sure this profession was right for you?
I was one of those people who did not find my calling right away. I returned to school in my late 20’s after a close friend of mine was involved in a motorcycle accident. I would visit him often in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and I always felt at home. I then volunteered in the same hospital for 6 months before I decided to apply to nursing school. My volunteer experience in the hospital really helped me decide on pursuing a career in nursing.
Describe any obstacles or barriers to success that you encountered along your health professional career path. How did you overcome them?
Returning to school was a big obstacle. I began the nursing program in my late 20’s with no prior healthcare experience. I had to prove to the university that I was worthy of a slot in the nursing program. Unfortunately, I was on probation for the first semester of school and I have to admit that it was difficult getting used to homework, papers and finals after 10 years. When I returned to graduate school in my 30’s, I had to work every weekend so that I could attend school during the week and still pay my bills.
What do you do in your current job?
I have been a Family Nurse Practitioner in the Department of General Surgery at Phoenix Indian Medical Center for the past seven years. For the last three years I have served as the Program Director for the Native American Breast Care Clinic that Dr. Tillman, Chief of General Surgery, and I started. This clinic was established about 4 years ago as a specialized clinic for patients needing further work-ups and care for breast related health issues. I am proud to say that our facility offers breast reconstruction surgery for Native American women who have faced or are currently facing breast cancer.
What advice do you have for American Indian/Alaska Native students who are interested in health careers?
My advice would be no different for anyone; you need to follow your heart and your passion. At the end of the day, if you are really happy about what you do, then you are living a good life. The healthcare field is vast with opportunities. Students should try to volunteer and not be afraid to ask for experiences or ask questions.
What would you like to see for your tribe’s future?
I am very proud to call myself a member of the Chickasaw Nation. We are at the forefront when it comes to helping our elders and our children, as well as our community at-large. I would like to see the Chickasaw Nation continue to be at the forefront of helping those among our tribe who need healthcare assistance, and I look forward to the opening of our new hospital in Ada, Oklahoma.