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Doyon Foundation Student Profile: Roberta Ward

Alumna Shares Insights on Health Care Career
By Roberta Ward, Doyon Foundation alumna

These days, many people go to the “doctor” and find themselves instead seeing a certified nurse midwife (CNM) or a nurse practitioner (NP). There can be much confusion about the educational background and qualifications of such health care providers. A person may feel that he or she is not getting the quality of care that they expect from a “doctor,” a physician. In fact, the education of CNMs and NPs are vigorous.

Each of these professions fall under the category of advanced nurse practitioners (ANP). ANPs have a four-year nursing degree as a basis to their education. The registered nurse (RN) typically gets experience in health care by working as a nurse for one year to many years. He or she then attends a school that provides post-graduate education to obtain a master’s degree.

Licensure in the state of Alaska is granted after the master’s-prepared graduate obtains credentialing (a national exam that ensures an adequate level of knowledge) from their national professional organization. There are many professional opportunities available in these professions. The ANP may then practice independently by opening an independent health care business, work in a private health care practice as an employee, or work as an employee in a large health care setting, such as Chief Andrew Isaac Health Center or Southcentral Foundation. Licensure also gives the ANP the ability to write prescriptions for medication, provide treatments, order tests and, in the case of the CNM, deliver babies, usually in a hospital setting.

I attended a distance-based education program at the Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing. I had worked as an RN for thirteen years. The education process was hard work, but well worth it. Using a distance-based program allowed me to continue working and living in my home community. I first received my CNM and then, several years later, I completed my FNP program.

I received grants from Doyon Foundation and also from the National Health Services Corp. The Indian Health Services (IHS) also provides grants for these graduate-level education programs. After graduation, working in a qualified facility, like Chief Andrew Isaac Health Center or Southcentral Foundation, allows a person to work off the loan or scholarship and thus be relatively debt-free. The IHS is actively looking to promote Native students to care for their constituents.

My work is very fulfilling. It has helped me to care for both Alaska Native people and people of other populations. I see daily what I have learned affecting people in a positive way. I feel that I can actually improve the health of an individual or a family one small step at a time. There is no other work that I would rather do.

Note to readers: Roberta Ward was born in Juneau, raised in Fairbanks and currently lives in Provo, Utah. Her birth parents are Barbara and Joseph Johnson, and she was raised by Robert and Marileen Hamme.