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Indigenous student overcomes obstacles to earn her SDSU nursing degree

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anna and family SDSU

Anna Jealous of Him surrounded by her family during her honor ceremony in December 2021.

An enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe, Anna Jealous of Him never intentionally set out to build a career in healthcare. It seems the path chose her, guiding her through roles as a state-certified nursing assistant and pharmacy technician before becoming a registered nurse.

“As a child, I disliked hospitals, medicine and shots, but I always wanted to help people,” she explains. “Through my various positions, I met health professionals who encouraged me to become a nurse, and eventually, I took the step to pursue higher education.”

Anna earned her bachelor of science in nursing degree from the South Dakota State University College of Nursing in fall 2021.

“It took me five years, but I took a course or two through the local tribal college between 2012 and 2014 to help get some of my general education credits before applying to SDSU,” she explains.

As a single working mother, Anna struggled to meet the demands of her coursework while also dealing with the challenges of poverty, mental health and addiction issues within her family. She didn’t have internet access at home, sometimes finishing her homework in the parking lot of a hospital or bookstore.

“I took a hybrid anatomy and physiology course that was intense, failing the first attempt and retaking it,” she says. “It was the same with microbiology. It was hard to retake two semesters due to my personal circumstances. Through it all, it was a learning and healing process for me. The courses provided the knowledge I needed to pass the [National Council Licensing Examination] and start my career.”

Over the course of earning her degree, Anna began to better understand the complexity and impacts of her Indigenous upbringing and now intends to use what she’s learned to address disparities in the healthcare profession. As an Indigenous person who was born and raised on a reservation, Anna found it challenging to maintain her own identity. Anna was able to achieve this through her work with SDSU’s Native American Nursing Education Center (NANEC).

“Mentors in the NANEC team contribute greatly to student success through intentional mentoring that supports the student’s academic, social, cultural and financial challenges within the degree program,” says Mary Anne Krogh, the college’s dean. “We see the emotion and joys as those students work toward graduation, cross the stage at commencement and enter the workforce.”

“Nursing is a career of service, and in this, we have to constantly be evaluating ourselves,” says Anna. “We have to face our biased views and see where they originate.”

With a mission to support the ambitions and aspirations of Native American nursing students, NANEC offers mentoring programs for both undergraduate and graduate students, a break room for students and faculty, “Soup and Learn” (Wohanpi na Wounspe) sessions led by Lakota speakers and honoring ceremonies (Yu'onihan) at graduation. To date, more than 30 students have graduated with assistance from NANEC and a recent grant could allow that number to surpass 100 in the near future.

After graduation, Anna enlisted the help of an Indian Health Service recruiter and NANEC for job placement. Anna passed the National Council Licensing Examination in February, began applying for nursing positions in March, and started a new job in May.

With locations in Brookings, Sioux Falls, Aberdeen and Rapid City, South Dakota State University offers a variety of pathways to nursing education. Through a new partnership with Black Hills State University and Monument Health, SDSU has created the West River Health Science Center to serve as a comprehensive hub for its nursing program and the Native American Nursing Education Center. For more information, visit sdstate.edu.


This content was produced by Brand Ave. Studios. The news and editorial departments had no role in its creation or display. Brand Ave. Studios connects advertisers with a targeted audience through compelling content programs, from concept to production and distribution. For more information contact sales@brandavestudios.com.
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