Native Americans face disparities in healthcare, but these five trailblazing nurses confronted the medical system to improve healthcare access and outcomes for Indigeneous people. Read about their legacies.
The accomplishments of Native American nurses often remain overlooked. However, Native Americans and Indigenous people have a history in medicine that dates back thousands of years.
Healers in 1,000 B.C. used native plants, such as peyote, for anesthesia. Native Americans sang healing songs passed down from generations and made poultices for medicine. Indigenous nurses who recognized the benefits of traditional medicine have incorporated it into Western medicine, while often facing backlash.
Despite the important contributions made in healthcare, Native Americans and Indigenous people have a life expectancy of 5.5 years less than other communities in the United States, according to the Indian Health Service. More than 5 million Native Americans and Indigenous people face drastic health disparities. These communities encounter some of the highest rates for heart disease, diabetes, and chronic liver disease.
The five trailblazing Native American nurses featured here overcame discrimination to pursue their education and made it their mission to improve healthcare for their communities.