As a way to increase the number of qualified Native American and Alaska Native nurses entering the health profession, the Caring for Our Own Program was founded at Montana State University in 1999.
Even though Native populations are on the rise, as a group, Natives still have a lower life expectancy and face serious health concerns as well as economic hardships, points out the program website. Along with these issues, Native nurses are seriously underrepresented in the healthcare industry. “Health care of the American Indian and Alaska Native people can be improved by increasing the number of nurses with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing who can provide clinically excellent and culturally sensitive care to their people,” reads the program website.
The program’s goals are to:
Expand nursing education opportunities for American Indian and Alaska Native students.
Enhance workforce diversity in nursing to meet the increasing need for culturally sensitive quality healthcare.
Encourage leadership development of American Indian and Alaska Native students to become innovators in the nursing profession.
Assist American Indian and Alaska Native students to overcome educational and economic barriers to earn a college degree.
Why should Native American students choose nursing? Less than one percent of the professional nursing workforce is American Indian or Alaska Native, which leaves a lot of room for improvement.
“As nurse leaders we have an opportunity to guide the future of Native American healthcare in a manner that meets our local cultural needs,” one Caring for Our Own Program student said in a press release. “I am pursing a degree in nursing because I see a large need for clinical and administrative leadership in our tribal and IHS healthcare organizations. I feel it is important for us as Native American nurses to step forward and fill these leadership roles.”
This story was originally published June 9, 2016.