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ANC "Grows Its Own" with New Nursing Program

: Journal of American Indian Higher Education; Mancos Vol. 27, Iss. 4,  (Summer 2016): 14-15.

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Aaniiih Nakoda College (ANC) on the Fort Belknap reservation is located in north-central Montana, where towns are few and far between, and the distant reservation communities of Browning to the west and Poplar to the east seem light years away. If ANC allied health graduates want to pursue a nursing degree, they must leave their community and reside in one of the larger towns in Montana where there are nursing programs. Often this leads to an increased financial burden and removal from their community's cultural and spiritual lifeway. This has become evident throughout the years, as students from ANC enter nursing programs that have no Indigenous grounding. Our students leave ANC with an empowerment of who they are and excel in the pre-science courses that are needed for entrance into nursing. Once accepted, however, many are not retained or do not finish or graduate. And yet there is a drastic shortage of nurses in Montana, especially on the state's seven Indian reservations.

Moreover, a recent study of health outcomes by the Joseph Wood Johnson Foundation indicates that those counties in or near Indian reservations in Montana have the lowest health outcomes. This finding, along with the shortage of American Indian nurses and our students' experiences at institutions away from home, galvanized ANC to look into developing its own nursing program to "Grow Our Own." A survey of the Fort Belknap community and the region indicated a need for such a program. The survey also indicated that 89% of respondents said the program should have a cultural emphasis and 94% believed having such a program would impact the health of the community. Accordingly, the college held community meetings with tribal council members; the consensus was that ANC should have a Registered Nursing program.

Since then the college has received funding for...