Montana - March 2012

After a 22-hour train ride across four states, the 30 senior nursing students and three faculty members from Andrews University Department of Nursing arrived in Wolf Point, Montana. For several weeks, the students in Pediatrics, Community Health and Complementary Wellness II,  had been preparing themselves to be immersed in the culture of the Assiniboine and Sioux Native American tribes, and to hopefully make a difference in the lives of the members of the Fort Peck Reservation, while applying the concepts they have learned here at Andrews University. Students had previously researched the culture and the health challenges of the tribe, but this in no way compared to physically experiencing the culture. This study tour is held every year and senior students are expected to participate to fulfill  part of the requirements for mission service.

Once settled in their living quarters, the group was driven to the Council Lodge where they had the honor of meeting the Tribal Chief and several of the Tribal Council members. The group was greeted warmly by the Council and thanked in advance for working with their children, their most-prized possessions. For the next week, the students rotated through the three school-based clinics in the towns of Poplar, Brockton, and Fraser. They applied their nursing knowledge by teaching a variety of health topics to the children in grades K–12 including hygiene, the benefits of exercise, good nutrition and adequate sleep, good dental hygiene, interpersonal relationships, sex education, STD prevention, and “Project Alert”, substance abuse prevention program for middle school children. 

While the Andrews nursing students also treated students and community members with acute medical problems, a major thrust of their care were wellness exams of the school children which included measurements of height and weight, vital signs, head lice checks and assessments of ears, throat, lungs and the heart. Students became acutely aware of the challenges in the community regarding obesity, suicide, substance abuse and unemployment.

By the end of the week, almost all of the nearly 1,000 students in the three school systems had experienced some type of contact with the Andrews students. The week concluded with a colorful and lively Pow Wow in the Cultural Center, a gesture of thanks from the community.

The Andrews University senior nursing students learned valuable lessons in their week on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana. This included how to work and cooperate with each other in close quarters, how valuable the education and information they have obtained thus far as a student nurse truly is, and about the health care needs of the Native American Indian as a whole. Students and faculty alike developed a love and appreciation for the people of that region and several students  expressed a desire to serve in areas of need after graduation.

         ~Arlene Saliba~
         Assistant Professor
         Department of Nursing