'Modern-Day Medicine People' Health Education Camp Introduces Indian Students to Medical Fields

By Alexander, Rachel | The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), June 21, 2018 | Go to article overview

'Modern-Day Medicine People' Health Education Camp Introduces Indian Students to Medical Fields


Alexander, Rachel, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)


Nina Card was not doing well.

"I'm having a hard time breathing," she said, as five high school students surrounded her bed.

Under the guidance of Terrin Utter, a senior at Washington State University's College of Nursing, the students measured Card's blood oxygen saturation and hooked her up to a cannula to get more oxygen flowing into her lungs. The beeping monitor in the room showed her saturation levels improving as students increased the flow of oxygen.

Card is not, strictly speaking, a person: She's a hyper-realistic mannequin at Washington State University's College of Nursing Simulation Lab, voiced by one of the lab directors.

Typically, the lab is used so nurses in training can practice clinical care on realistic patients. But this week's lab was a little different. It was part of the Na-ha-shnee Health Sciences Institute, a fusion of summer camp and in-depth health education for Native American high school students.

"It was very realistic. A little creepy," said Tyee Rigdon, a Yakama Nation teenager who wants to be a pediatric nurse.

Na-ha-shnee is an 11-day educational workshop in which students learn everything from pharmacy compounding to basic dental health care on the WSU campus, while staying in dorms at Gonzaga University.

Many of the counselors, like Utter, are native and work in health fields.

The program blends cultural activities, like making baskets and learning Salish, with hands-on lab time.

For Emma Noyes, the camp's director, the two are deeply intertwined.

Noyes is WSU's director of Native American health sciences and has a background in public health work. She told Na-ha-shnee students that she went into health care because of an experience her cousin had going to a hospital in Omak with severe abdominal pain during the Omak Stampede, a large intertribal event.

Noyes said her cousin was doubled over and vomiting repeatedly. The nurse in charge of triage in the emergency room tried to get him to leave and told her uncle, "We're not going to have a drunk Indian throw up all over our waiting room."

"That nurse would not see him, would not take him back," she said. Her uncle persisted, and her cousin was rushed into surgery for appendicitis after another nurse correctly diagnosed him.

"Stories help us find purpose," she said.

When applying to the camp, students write a personal statement about why they want to become "modern-day medicine people," as Noyes calls them. Many speak of wanting to give back to their communities or share personal stories about wanting to help cure diseases that have affected loved ones: cancer, diabetes, drug and alcohol abuse.

Tuesday was the second day of the institute, and the first with hands-on lab sessions. …

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