Nov 12, 2020

A Pathway to Promote Academic Success for American Indian/Alaska Native Nursing Student Mentoring Toolkit for Nursing Faculty- Leading Health Equity for Native American Nurses

A young Navajo girl wears a mask for protection from Coronavirus stands on her family property in Monument Valley Tribal Park

Boozhoo Niijii (Hello my friend/Ojibwe),  

November is Native American Heritage month and a time to remember and share experiences of what it is to be Native in the United States. As we continue to experience the current global pandemic there are constant reminders of racism and inequity at the forefront of our daily lives. Native Americans have been historically marginalized in our country and now suffer even greater levels of health disparities due to the pandemic.

In response, the profession of nursing continues to educate and prepare nurses for practice in every area of health care – acute and outpatient care, nursing homes, community health care, home care, and public health programs – to serve Native Americans to achieve greater health. Nurses working in all health care settings hold unique knowledge, skills, and strong dedication to improve access to health care and improved health status. Nurses are the most trusted health professional and in the ideal position to lead change to improve health disparities as a result of the pandemic and make a significant difference for Native communities.

This year The Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, an initiative of AARP Foundation, AARP, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, continues its efforts towards building a more diverse nursing workforce, and a culture of health with a focus on the social determinants of health. The Campaign has supported the work of Native American nurse leaders who are creating progress toward greater health equity for Native Americans and Native American nursing students through A Pathway to Promote Academic Success for American Indian/Alaska Native Nursing Student Mentoring Toolkit for Nursing Faculty.

The toolkit is for nursing faculty in secondary institutions to become familiar with the unique needs of Native American nursing students, in order to achieve greater student recruitment, retention, and successful matriculation in undergraduate or graduate nursing programs.

The toolkit includes:
  • The historical background of Native Americans in the US,
  • Current needs of Native American nursing students,
  • Native American culture influences for nursing education, and;
  • Suggestions for nursing faculty as they work one-to-one with Native American nursing students towards greater success and support to reach their education goals in nursing.

Beginning in 2021, the toolkit will be introduced in the Campaign’s mentoring support programs for Native American-serving schools of nursing through US tribal colleges and universities, Native American serving institutions and programs, and in partnership with the Federal Indian Health Service (IHS) Native Americans into Nursing Programs. The toolkit offers one way to realize Native American values and health perspectives in nursing education, in order to create new generations of nurses and nurse educators who will lead towards greater health equity for Native Americans and Native American nurses. As we recognize Native American Heritage month, we celebrate the partnership of these Native American nurse leaders and the Campaign for Action working to impact greater health equity for all Native Americans.                  

Miig wetch (Thank you/Ojibwe)

To learn more about the Campaign for Action’s work with American Indian/Native American nurses, contact Scott Tanaka at stanaka@aarp.org.


Lisa Martin, PhD, RN, PHN, FAAN, immediate past-president of NANAINA and associate professor with St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Martin is also a diversity consultant for the Campaign for Action and is a member of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Chippewa Indians in Wisconsin.  


Sandra Littlejohn, MA, BSN, RN, president, National Alaska Native American Indian Nurses Association, and administrative director, Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders, Gundersen Health System, La Crosse, WI. Littlejohn is Mdewakanton Dakota and a member of Lower Sioux Indian Community of Minnesota.


Regina Eddie, PhD, RN, assistant professor, Northern Arizona University, diversity consultant for the Campaign. She is also an enrolled member of Diné (Navajo) Nation of Arizona.