Building a Strong Mind, Body, and Spirit Together Through the Native Nations Nursing Summit 

Native Nations Nursing Summit

Annual UW–Madison School of Nursing event focuses on holistic and interprofessional healthcare approaches to address public health needs of Wisconsin Native communities 

By Caitlin Clark

5th Annual Native Nations
Nursing Summit

Friday, November 15, 8:00AM–3:30PM
Baraboo, WI
Free of charge and open to the public

Learn more & register

The University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Nursing is proud to partner with the Ho-Chunk Nation to co-host the fifth annual Native Nations Nursing Summit in Baraboo, WI, on November 15 as part of an ongoing effort to increase the number of Native nurses in Wisconsin, and to address the unique public health needs of Wisconsin Native communities. The program also reflects our collaborations with our community partners at the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council and our academic partners at the Native American Center for Health Professions in the School of Medicine and Public Health. This year’s summit will focus on tribal health advocacy, holistic healthcare approaches, and the importance of interprofessional collaboration to the overall wellness of communities. The day will conclude with an optional tour of the House of Wellness and other Ho-Chunk facilities.

The Native Nations Nursing Summit provides learning opportunities for current nursing students, registered nurses and advanced practice nurses, as well as provides Native middle school and high school students, teachers, and counselors with information about educational and career pathways in nursing. As young students begin to contemplate what they would like to do for a future career, they may not be aware of all the opportunities available to them. This is especially true for Native students who may be interested in nursing.

“A majority of nurses, especially in tribal communities, are white women,” says Mel Freitag, UW–Madison School of Nursing diversity officer and co-founder of the STREAM program. “This lack of representation often discourages Native students from pursuing a career in nursing because they can’t identify with the nurses they see and therefore struggle to imagine what their lives as nurses would look like.”

But a lack of representation is not the only barrier to Native students pursuing a career in nursing. According to Jeneile Luebke, a UW–Madison School of Nursing alumna who will be presenting at this year’s event, there has historically been a lack of information about what career opportunities are available within nursing for Native Americans.

“I never dreamed that when I first went [to UW–Madison] that I would ever end up in a research role…people just never talked about it,” says Luebke. “A lot of students who are just starting out in nursing think that they’re limited to working in a hospital or clinic. I always try to promote the fact that nurses are needed in research and that [there are] many ways to be advocates or allies for communities, whether it is through research or direct patient care.”

The Native Nations Nursing Summit seeks to remove these barriers by providing middle school and high school students with interactive, hands-on activities and informational sessions led by Native American nurses.

“Our goal is to make sure every student walks away from this event feeling enthusiastic about becoming a nurse and equipped with a plan to achieve their goals.” —Dr. Mel Freitag, diversity officer, UW–Madison School of Nursing

“In the past, we’ve had activities such as a hand-washing black light demonstration. We try to keep our sessions engaging, fun and educational, and we put Native American nurse leaders front and center to highlight what is possible for Native students,” says Freitag. “Our goal is to make sure every student walks away from this event feeling enthusiastic about becoming a nurse and equipped with a plan to achieve their goals.”

In addition to sessions designed to inspire students to pursue a nursing career, the School of Nursing hopes the summit will also inspire current Native and non-Native nurses to provide culturally relevant care to tribal communities. The event will feature several speakers who demonstrate how interprofessional healthcare teams and tribal communities can work together to improve public health outcomes for Native Americans.

Keynote address: “Healing the Whole Person Together”

In the keynote address, “Healing the Whole Person Together,” Evangeline M. Suquet, the director of the Ho-Chunk Nation Behavioral Health Division, will share information about the Ho-Chunk Department of Health’s implementation of their Behavioral Health Integration Initiative grant from the Indian Health Service. She will explore how their integrative team mindset and implementation of this initiative allows them to provide supportive services and bridge gaps between primary care and behavioral health.

During one of the breakout sessions, Pam Thunder, registered sanitarian and environmental health program manager at the Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Health, will discuss how creating a community health assessment and community health implementation plan can help health departments determine what members of the community need for better health outcomes. Thanks to Thunder’s leadership, the Ho-Chunk Nation will soon receive their accreditation, and she hopes to take what she’s learned through this process to help all Wisconsin tribes receive public health accreditation.

In her session, Jeneile Luebke, a registered nurse and an instructor at Edgewood College, will share her personal experience with intimate partner violence, as well as her professional expertise in intimate partner violence in the lives of American Indian women, community health nursing, and utilization and application of postcolonial and indigenous feminist methodologies. She hopes that this session creates awareness around the issue of intimate partner violence against indigenous women, provides Native-specific resources for healthcare professionals and survivors when they need help, and empowers nurses and other healthcare professionals to leverage their collective power to make changes at a policy level.

The free, one-day event is supported by a grant from the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) for Nursing Workforce Diversity awarded to the UW–Madison School of Nursing. Nurses may earn continuing education credit from the University of Wisconsin–Madison Interprofessional Continuing Education Partnership (ICEP), which is jointly accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Visit to learn more and register by November 1. Attendance is limited and is expected to fill.