Nursing school graduate leads by example
In December, Tiffany Nipisan Scott, 32, became one of Kotzebue's newest registered nurses when she earned her associate's degree in nursing from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She, along with the other regional students, used distance learning to complete her course of study. The Sounder spoke with Scott about her recent achievement.
Q: Why was this something you were interested in?
A: I have always known that I wanted to be of service to people, and so when I thought about ways that I could be of service to others, I thought about the things I'm interested in and what I think that I have to offer others. I've always enjoyed disease process and injury — the how, the why and the what. How were they injured or how did they get sick? Why were they injured or why did they get sick? What do we do from here? What are our interventions and treatment plan?
I think with nursing, it's a good way to marry the interests of disease process and injury with critical thinking and hands-on work.
Q: Why was the nitty gritty of injuries and disease and how to deal with them something you were drawn to? What fascinates you about that?
A: If you think about the schematic network and how it fires, like one thought leads to the next, which leads to the next, it's kind of tracing back how someone arrived in the state that they are currently in at the time that I see them. The inquiry of thought, I think, is very fascinating. No two things are the same, which is also intriguing and it keeps you on your toes. No two patients are alike. I like that.
Q: I'd love to hear from you a little bit about being a rural student doing a distance and Anchorage-based program. What was that like for you?
A: It was a challenging experience. Obviously, we don't have the same resources that the students in Anchorage have. We don't have a physical campus with administrative support. We have to really rely on our local instructor to communicate to the school and with us every time we needed something addressed. We had to rely on each other, too, to provide the network of support we felt would serve us well in a rural area. I think that was a real key to success while taking courses through distance learning.
Q: As somebody who has a family and was going to school, how did you find that negotiation with your family? Did they end up going to school with you, in a way?
A: Absolutely, they did. I made a comment during our pinning ceremony that when I married my husband eight years ago, I had no idea I'd also ask him to go along to nursing school with me, but he did. We did it, him and our two children. They are seven and six years old. Very much it's a family commitment. They're with me start, middle and end. They did well. I really owe it to them for my completing the program.
Q: What do you hope to do next now that you've graduated?
A: I have said from the very beginning that what I want is to serve the people of the Maniilaq service area — the people that I've grown up around and grown up with. Being of service to them, here, locally, is something that I will keep my word on. (As students), we went to Alaska Regional Hospital, Providence Alaska Medical Center and the Alaska Psychiatric Institute in Anchorage and also Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and the Fairbanks Surgery Center.
It's interesting, when you complete clinical rotations and you see how other hospitals, in other, larger areas where both human and technological resources abound, can be attractive to a student from a rural area. I had written a Facebook post saying that it's those times, when keeping the people that you have always wished to serve near to your heart to keep you grounded where you'd like to practice is important.
Q: I've heard from other health care providers that there is a great need, especially in rural areas, to have people who are from the area return and bring their skills with them. What do you think about that?
A: I worked two years as a relief patient care technician in the emergency department here at Maniilaq Health Center and it is awesome to see the eyes light up in folks that know you, or who may not know you and come to know that you're from the area, especially when you use the language in treatment. There's a special understanding among one another, whether it be family history or personal history or just understanding of way of life.
I am also incredibly appreciative of the people who are not from Kotzebue that make Kotzebue their home and really care from the heart for our people. I think it's also really important to recognise the people who do that — who take the time to get to know members of our community and engage with them both at work and in their personal lives. I think that's what patients really want — that you respect them, you respect where they come from and you work from that mutual understanding.
Q: What kind of background do you think personally helped you through this program?
A: I think anytime that I have faced any personal challenges in terms of setting and meeting goals, I think of college softball. I played down in Arizona for two years and it was probably one of the most trying times of my life. I really had to test my own grit and resiliency, and I think having gone through that helps. We ended up winning the national championship. A lot of hard work went into that. Understanding time management and discipline set me up pretty well for any challenge that I need to take on.
Q: Coming out of this program, did you gain any new interests or is there something, in particular, that you're fascinated in pursuing?
A: I volunteered somewhat with the volunteer fire department prior to applying to nursing school, so I've always enjoyed pre-hospital care. I'm always so intrigued by the flight nurses that we work with, with Guardian and LifeMed. But also, I've come to realize, through my work with the emergency department, how important prevention of illness and injury is, and a lot of that happens in primary care and public health. That's kind of a new area of opportunity my eyes have been opened to throughout these two years.
Q: What do you think the community's role in prevention is? Is there a way people who know each other and live with each other can help support each other in learning about good health and prevention?
A: I think that leading by example is very important to changing the culture of health of a community group — being someone that others can see is being physically active, eating healthy foods and really enjoying the subsistence way of life. I think so much of this can be pulled from participating in our cultural and traditional activities.
You know, there are fun ways to incorporate physical activity that way and you can eat good healthy foods through our free-range, organic diet in the Arctic (with) harvesting and gathering. I think having a sense of community wellness is very important toward realizing an improved health status.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about one of the more difficult moments for you in school and explain how you worked through that?
A: I think as each semester passed and the content increased significantly, especially through our psychiatric and critical care nursing courses, we spent a lot of time — many hours each day of the week — reading, quizzing and testing, that it became easy to lose touch with friends and family throughout the process.
I had reached out to one of my close friends and said, 'I am really missing being together with one another, whether it's an activity outdoors or sharing meals.' Because I felt like all I was doing was school and it's easy to feel discouraged during those moments, so I'm lucky that I have friends that really descended in at that point and became more suggestive of spending time together.
I think the key to success is staying dedicated to your school work and also realizing the importance of maintaining interpersonal relationships with friends. That's what will help someone get through their hard times. There is no replacement for friends and family.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is considering going back to school or continuing with their schooling, but that's kind of unsure if they should do it or not it — who might be kind of scared of taking that leap?
A: That was totally me back in 2015. I had gone to school and graduated and had started to establish myself in another career. I worked government affairs for a number of years, but I always had this desire to work in health care. My eggs were never in a line, so to say. I was never in a place where I felt that I could take that step.
I had conversations with a couple of people that really stick out in my mind. I had a conversation with John Lincoln down the beach at Tent City about where I wanted to see my life go and he said, 'Just do it.' I had the same conversation with Hans Hansen and he said, 'You've just got to do it.' That's what I did. I just enrolled in a CNA course and my life completely took a right turn.
So, that would be my advice. Just take that step and surround yourself with people who want to support you when you do decide to take that step.
Q: Is there anything else you want to add that I didn't ask you about?
A: I want to say thank you to the people of the Maniilaq service area and those who supported us over the last two years.