Guest Blog: Indian Health Services in Arizona

Today’s post is a guest entry from a Traveling Nurse Practitioner, Kate, and her experiences working in Chinle, Arizona with an Indian Health Service facility.

somewhere in Chinle, AZ (1)

Why I became a travel nurse practitioner?

After having a permanent nurse practitioner position in a rural area that required me to commute an hour and forty minutes going to work and another hour and forty minutes from work to home, I decided after 10 months of being a brand new nurse practitioner that I might as well get paid to travel and have my accommodations paid for while on an assignment. I have a permanent home in TX and have been living in TX for 20 years. I often daydreamed what it would be like to live and practice in another state or experience and learn about other cultures, societies, and observe how other health care organizations function.

First travel assignment

I am currently finishing up my 3 month assignment. I accepted the job for Flu Nurse Practitioner for my first travel assignment in Chinle, AZ (an Indian Health Service facility). I have one more month left and so far, I have enjoyed every minute of it. My role is to help run the flu clinic and assess patients’ health status prior to administration of the flu vaccine. Flu clinics are held in the outpatient department of the hospital and outreach flu clinics (surrounding places in Chinle like near a grocery store/chapter houses/other surrounding towns). When I am assigned to work at the outreach clinics, I ride with the public health nurses so I don’t have to drive my own vehicle. I felt that the role of the Flu Nurse Practitioner was a unique one. When I am not running the outreach clinics, I am either in the Pediatrics or Family Practice/Internal Medicine department running the flu clinics there. If flu clinic is slow, then I  see regular walk- in patients or same day appointments in between my scheduled patients for the flu clinic. Chinle, AZ is a rural area but a very beautiful one. There is no mall here. No place to get a haircut. Only a few places to eat outside. Only one grocery store. The nearest town/small city with major urban amenities like Walmart/Walgreens is about an hour and a half drive away, in fact, it is in another state!

What Chinle, AZ lacks for in urban/comfortable amenities, Chinle makes up for it in its community and its scenery. I also have been so lucky to have such wonderful support staff at work and be able to work with AMAZING medical providers who have been helpful and have been so welcoming towards me.

Antelope Canyon 2

Accommodations in Chinle, AZ

There are only 3 hotels here in Chinle, AZ. There is government housing for permanent staff and some RV trailers for rent. It is better for your recruiters to arrange housing here because it can be hard to find especially during tourist season which is from March through October. Currently I am staying in a hotel chain– my company is paying for this. I have a small fridge and a microwave in my room. I bought kitchen ware and a hot plate which my company gave me reimbursement for. The hotel is nice and I feel secure. Although not having a full kitchen and a big fridge gets old after a while. I don’t have a separate room for cooking other than the bathroom. So I clean my bathroom first and use the sink countertop to put my hot plate on and cook. I don’t like my bedroom smelling like food. A good perk about staying in a hotel chain is that even though you are not the one paying for the hotel room you can still get reward points for a free hotel stay since the hotel room is under your name.

Navajo patients

Most are friendly. Many of the patients that I have seen in the clinic have chronic illness with multiple co-morbidities. Some of the chronic illnesses include: diabetes, hypertension, alcoholism, asthma/COPD, etc. Some of the patients still live in the canyon and places in the desert with no electricity or running water, no street names, and sometimes they have to travel more than 50 miles to get to the clinic or hospital. One thing I don’t like is that some patients jump around from one clinic/hospital to another even if you advise them to stick to one primary care provider which makes it difficult to achieve continuity of care.

Spider rock_Canyon De Chelly

What to do outside work in Chinle, AZ or outside Chinle, AZ ?

Chinle, AZ is located in the Navajo Nation near the northeast corner of Arizona. So more or less than 2 hours of a drive you will be in another state. Below is a list of things to do:

  • Chinle, AZ
    • Visit Canyon De Chelly
    • Do ranger led hikes in the Canyon
    • Go to church if you are spiritual or if you are a church goer
    • Sometimes there are parties and potlucks with the healthcare staff/medical providers – don’t miss out because this is a good way to socialize
  • Flagstaff, AZ
    • Museums/Arbortereum
    • Conconino Forest – hiking
    • Arizona Snowbowl
    • I get my car maintenance here
    • Whole food, natural grocers, other urban amenities are located here.
    • Airport
  • Page, AZ
    • Antelope canyon
    • Horshoebend
    • Glen Canyon Dam
  • Durango, CO
    • Train ride Silverton to Durango
    • Breweries
  • Pagosa Springs, CO
    • Hot Springs – my husband and I are going here for Thanksgiving this year
  • Telluride, CO
    • Skiing
  • Window Rock, AZ
    • Navajo Museum
    • Window Rock
  • Gallup, NM
    • Has the nearest Safeway/Albertson’s/Walmart
    • Has some shops and restaurants
  • Moab, UT
    • Arches National Park – worth visiting
    • Other parks
  • Albuquerque, NM
    • Airport
    • I haven’t explored much of ABQ, NM other than passing through here and getting some stuff
    • Has the nearest Costco

I’m sure that there are other things to do in the towns I have listed above that I haven’t mentioned, but everywhere you go there is always something to explore.

Antelope Canyon

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