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Student Spotlight

October 2012 Stellar Students - Sheyenne Lemieux & Sabrina James: Transcultural Nursing

Photo of Sheyenne & SabrinaThe College of Menominee Nation (CMN) Nursing Program is graduating two stellar students: Sheyenne Lemieux and Sabrina James. Both women are of Native American heritage and eager to advance transcultural nursing. The CMN uses the tribal clan circle depicting a moose, crane, wolf, bear and eagle as the early social organization of the Menominee people. This tribal clan circle is a framework for CMN education as students learn to gain security through knowledge (moose), build safe environments (crane), become hunters and gathers of knowledge & research (wolf), engage in governance with professional voices (bear) and use freedom to seek social justice (eagle).  Read how the tribal clan circle has guided these two stellar students into the field of nursing, and their achievement of receiving an Associate Degree in Nursing.

Sheyenne Lemieux is a member of the Ho Chunk Nation. Her story of becoming a nurse is based on her personnel experience with childbirth.  Sheyenne recalls being asked by a RN if there was anything in her culture important to her for her childbirth experience. The answer was yes! She remembers how being able to include her Ho Chunk traditions made a difference in her childbirth process and in her healing. She remembers observing all the things nurses do, their knowledge, and caring nature. They were phenomenal! Sheyenne knew she wanted to be one of them; a nurse!  She wanted to gain their knowledge and make others feel safe and welcome. She quit her job, and with the support of her husband and family, went back to school. She made a conscious choice to enter the nursing program of the College of Menominee Nation. Here she felt she would be among other Native American students in a college with American Indian culture at the heart of the program.  She wanted a program that emphasized her history, traditions and the focus on sustainability and balance with mother earth. To her surprise, she was one of only three Native Americans in the nursing program in a class of 20. Sheyenne felt even more driven to succeed and bring the culture and voice of Native Americans into healthcare.

Her clinical experiences throughout Northern Wisconsin emphasized the need for transcultural nursing. Sheyenne relates: “I did not see much diversity in the nursing workforce.  Time after time, I would be approached by patients who would be considered from a minority ethnic group. They often said they trusted me to understand their different ways and perspectives.  My taking care of them helped them feel not so alone.  My instincts sensed there was a reason a patient may not be healing as expected.   I easily related to the Native American patients. We often shared stories of our parents and where we came from across America. We respected each other’s history and traditions. Knowing about culture is so very important to healing and wellness. For instance, Native Americans patients may have with them pouches of tobacco, not to smoke, but as scared healing or protection symbols.  Native Americans also have ‘boundaries’ or personal forces/space that should not be broken. It is essential to ask about culture and traditions.“ 

Sabrina James is also from the Menominee Nation. Her call to nursing came from her experience of becoming a first responder at a local factory. She reports: “After the factory where I was working closed its doors, I found myself without a job. Ironically, this was literally perfect timing!  I chose to go back to school and study what I had always wanted to do…nursing. ” Sabrina was attracted to CMN by one of her younger sisters, Natalie who spoke highly of the college, the staff, and the environment which promoted cultural diversity.  “The faculty has been supportive, helpful, and most of all, willing to understand the hardships that students in my position experience.

College of Menominee Nation Logo

I felt they took me under their wings to let me know I wasn’t alone in this new journey. I never had the feeling of being singled out or that I was the only one struggling to understand a certain topic or lesson,” she recalled. Growing up in a blended  family has increased Sabrina’s awareness to different tribes and cultures as her family is comprised of members from the Ho Chunk Nation, Menominee Nation, Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans, and Mexican Americans. 

Sabrina’s first clinical was at Pine Manor Healthcare Center, a skilled nursing facility with a combination of long term care, rehabilitation, and the ‘Bridge to Rediscovery’ unit. Sabrina was proud to say, “After my first day of clinical, I knew I had made the right decision. Having the ability to relate and understand people has always been my greatest asset. By listening to someone’s story we open a new world of communication. We end up building a relationship which encompasses trust, comfort, and a sense of stability. We learn that people are not just a number or an illness.” Sabrina currently works at Pine Manor Healthcare Center as an LPN, and is looking forward to transitioning into the RN role.

Each has advice for current nursing students.  Sabrina emphasizes, “Study hard and don’t give up. We all have obstacles to get through, trust in your inner strength.”  Sheyenne advises, “Ask for help at home and at school. I learned that others can do what you do at home, maybe not perfectly like you wanted it done, but could help you. I knew I had to ask more questions to faculty when I was struggling with a concept. I would also recommend forming study groups and friendships.  At first I thought I would not have the time for new friends and study groups, but in the end they helped me succeed. I realized ‘life balance’ is part of our Native American sustainability.” 
Both women have goals to return to school and further develop their professional voice by achieving their BSN. Sabrina hopes to gain acute care experience, but ultimately she is hoping to contribute to the health of the Menominee Nation through a career in community health. 

For Sheyenne, “My goal is to become a certified Diabetic Educator. I see how diabetes is invading our Native American communities. I see a big need for bringing culture and diabetic teaching together.” I also think I will bring unique insights to my patients. I am an older student at age 36, with many life experiences. I think I will be able to relate to the day to day challenges that patients face in managing diabetes or other health problems. “
You can hear the theme of seeking social justice to decrease health disparities in the voices of both these women! Sheyenne and Sabrina…you now fly among the eagles! 

Submitted by:
Teri Vega-Stromberg, MSN, RN, AOCN, ACHPN
WCN Board of Directors


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