Walter Lindahl didn’t always know nursing was his calling. But when he left a successful career in construction and discovered his passion for emergency services, something clicked.
After graduating high school, Lindahl followed in his father’s footsteps and started his own construction company serving the Twin Cities area. He later returned to Bemidji to be closer to his family, where he began his journey in crisis service. He joined the Bemidji Fire Department as a firefighter and eventually became its captain.
“I started out getting my first responder degree inside the fire department,” the senior nursing major from Bemidji said. “I went to car accidents, house fires and major medical runs. I thought it was cool, so I got my emergency medical technician license and worked ambulance — I knew this is where I needed to be.”
During one of his EMT shifts, a nurse practitioner encouraged Lindahl to register for nursing classes at Northwest Technical College. He enrolled shortly thereafter and became a certified nursing assistant and licensed practical nurse. Lindahl was then drawn to Bemidji State’s Niganawenimaanaanig Indigenous Nursing Program and the support offered to Indigenous students looking to become registered nurses. He started classes in Spring 2019.
“I don’t know that I would have made it as far as I have without the Niganawenimaanaanig program,” Lindahl said. “The support that you get is not only financial but also emotional and inspirational.”
The shift from on-campus learning to online instruction at the onset of COVID-19 has been a challenge, but Lindahl says students and professors alike are making the best out of this new experience. Lindahl also appreciates knowing he has a support system within the Indigenous nursing program.
“I was afraid I would fail, but the instructors have been amazing and creative with their lab assignments,” Lindahl said. “We’ve definitely had to be resilient in the face of the pandemic.”
On track to graduate in the spring of 2022, Lindahl hopes to one day become bilingual and continue on his path of helping others in crisis.