Home Health care provider After failing in high school, nurse practitioner now champions equity and diversity in healthcare – InForum

After failing in high school, nurse practitioner now champions equity and diversity in healthcare – InForum


FARGO — Whitney Fear overheard a judgmental conversation between her fellow nurses in a hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) that she couldn’t pass up.

Her fellow nurses were talking about a baby who was going to be brought to the unit at the White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota. One of the nurses said dismissively that the child probably had fetal alcohol syndrome.

“I turned around and told them you had no idea what it was like growing up there,” she said.

Fear, now a psychiatric nurse practitioner, knows firsthand what it’s like to grow up on a reservation, where entrenched poverty and lack of opportunity are entrenched realities of life. She is a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Experiences like the NICU conversation convinced Fear that the nursing profession needs more diversity. She believes that the more educated healthcare professionals from diverse backgrounds are, the better the profession can provide comprehensive patient care.

“There really is a need for this,” said Fear, who works at the Family HealthCare clinic in downtown Fargo. There are only 12 Native American nurses with doctorate degrees in the United States, and 0.8% of nurses are Native American.

Yet Native Americans suffer from much higher rates of disease, including diabetes, heart disease, and alcoholism, than the general population.

Fear, which started talking about the need for more diversity in healthcare, is featured in a documentary film, ”

Who Cares: A Nurse’s Fight for Equity

which will be presented to an audience of nurses and nursing students in a special screening at the Fargo Theatre.

She hopes the film, which has been supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will help open people’s eyes. It includes candid discussions between Fear and his colleagues – one of whom jokes that Fear “talks like a sailor” – and includes comments from his grateful patients, including a former homeless Indigenous man who struggles with addiction.

Fear worked her way up, starting as a licensed practical nurse, then working as a registered nurse before becoming a nurse practitioner.

She has found herself drawn to mental health and psychiatric nursing, and also enjoys working with the diverse community of patients at Family HealthCare, a federally licensed health center.

Today, with a dozen years of nursing experience, Fear says, “I’ve worked with people with mental illness since birth.”

Whitney Fear, right, then a nurse case manager and shelter outreach nurse at Family HealthCare, speaks with community member Harlan Sylvester following a community meeting. Fear was one of six panelists during the discussion.

Picture from forum folder

* * *

Fear’s grades were so low in high school that she thought she had carved an academic hole for herself that she couldn’t escape.
“I kind of hit a wall in high school,” she said.

Her grades plummeted as she grew apathetic about her school work, driven by deep pessimism.

She saw that her father never seemed to get ahead despite years of hard work, including jobs on the family’s cattle ranch to pay the bills.

“Many times it was by the skin of his teeth to go on another year,” she said. “He was exhausted all the time. What’s even the point of working so hard? You can work hard all your life and have nothing.

Disheartened, Fear fell into a period of alcohol abuse.

“I was a teenage alcoholic,” she said, adding that she also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. “It feels good not to feel anything. Poverty is so high there.

But then a high school counselor, who recognized his intelligence and saw his potential, was able to change Fear’s fatalistic attitude and help him find meaning in life.

“He was very direct about it,” she said. At the time, she was supposed to be in high school, but only had enough credits to be a sophomore. “I didn’t know how to fix it,” Fear said.

The counselor got her into an early entry program at the tribal college, Oglala Lakota College, where she attended classes two nights a week while attending high school.

“I basically kept myself busy as much as possible so I wouldn’t get lazy and give up again,” she said.

Encouragement from her teachers boosted her confidence and she entered a science competition. Inspiration also came from her family, especially her father, who is a role model.

“My family was very lucky in so many ways,” she said. “We had electricity and running water. We had enough to eat. »

She began her nursing education at a technical college, then attended North Dakota State University before earning a master’s degree in nursing from Maryville University in St. Louis. His clinical interests include disorders arising from trauma or stressors, schizophrenia and psychotic disorders, personality disorders and substance use disorders.

Early in her nursing career, much of her exposure to mental health cases came through contact she had with patients in the emergency room.

Her early experiences with mental illness and her childhood in rural poverty helped her build relationships with patients. She is also the mother of 9-year-old twins, a boy and a girl.

“I am no longer in this place and it has been a long time,” but this dark chapter in his life gives him insight into the illnesses of his patients.

To heal his patients, Fear learned to pick up cues from their body language while bringing them out by confiding in his own struggles.

She learned “the power of really listening to people”.

Psychiatric nurse practitioner Whitney Fear draws on her experiences, including early struggles with alcohol abuse and post-traumatic stress, to help treat her patients.

Courtesy of SHIFT Productions, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

* * *

A panel discussion will follow the special, invitation-only screening of the documentary “Who Cares: A Nurse’s Fight for Equity” at the Fargo Theatre.
Participants will discuss health equity, how nurses can best provide individualized care and integrate health justice acts into their practice, and reshape the nursing narrative. They will end with a discussion on how to inspire the next generation of nurses.

The story of Whitney Fear shows how nurses can help achieve health justice for their patients, said Beth Toner, nurse and spokesperson for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“We really believe that nurses can — they already do — play a role in health equity,” she said. Nurses are vital links because they play a central role in direct patient care. “They have the most contact with people wherever they work – hospitals, community clinics, schools.”

Fear’s story and example in overcoming difficulties in her life can also inspire other nurses, Toner said. “In some ways, it reminds nurses why they got into nursing,” she said. “We wanted health professionals and the public to be represented in the health professions. The nursing profession needs to be more diverse.

You can stream the documentary “Who Cares: A Nurse’s Fight for Equity”

online here


The film, made by SHIFT Productions and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, stars Whitney Fear, a psychiatric nurse practitioner at Family HealthCare in Fargo.

SHIFT_WhoCares_TrailerCover (1).jpg

SHIFT Productions, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation