Department of Nursing Hosts International Conference on Culturally Focused Care

On Sept. 19, faculty and students from Bemidji State University’s Department of Nursing hosted the Society for the Advancement of Modeling and Role-Modeling international conference, held at Bemidji’s Hampton Inn and Suites.

The 17th biennial international conference, “Facilitating Holistic Nursing Care Through a Cultural Lens,” helped nursing practitioners better understand their patients’ unique worldviews and approach their health, healing and well-being from a cultural perspective.

Dr. Misty Wilkie, associate professor of nursing at BSU, provided a keynote address on Niganawenimaanaanig* *— an Ojibwe word meaning “we take care of them.” This grant-funded program, now in its second year, provides American Indian and indigenous students with academic, social, financial and cultural support to increase their likelihood of graduating from the BSU nursing program.

“I started out with a history of my childhood and my experiences that led me to the development of Niganawenimaanaanig,” Wilkie said. “I wanted to use my experience and mistakes to help others. We have also incorporated research and what has been shown to be effective for indigenous nursing students as they face unique challenges and barriers in high school — and even more so in college.”

The conference also featured several BSU faculty members and associates including Dr. Mary Fairbanks, professor of nursing; Dr. Jeanine McDermott, associate professor of nursing; and Dr. Rochelle Scheela, professor emerita of nursing. In addition, Bill Blackwell Jr., executive director of the American Indian Resource Center, Buck Jordain of Red Lake, Minn. and Brandon Quagon, a BSU freshman indigenous studies major from Duluth, Minn., facilitated cultural immersion drumming experiences to both open and close the conference.

Bemidji State’s Niganawenimaanaanig program was developed in 2017 and is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s (HHS) Nursing Workforce Diversity program. Total funding for the four-year project could extend to a total of nearly $2 million. Niganawenimaanaanig seeks to improve diversity in the nation’s nursing workforce by offering significant scholarships and financial support to as many as 12 American Indian nursing students.

“Research shows that patients have better health outcomes when they receive health care from providers with the same ethnic background,” Wilkie said. “It won’t be overnight. But eventually, we will see improved health in the indigenous population. That is where the real positive results will be evident.”

Dr. Helen Erickson provided the conference’s second keynote address. Erickson is a world-renowned nurse educator who has taught at the University of Michigan, the University of South Carolina and the University of Texas, where she retired as a professor emerita in 1997. She is the founder of the modeling and role-modeling theory of nursing, which enables nurses to care for patients with an awareness of and respect for their individual needs and backgrounds. She was the first president of the Society for the Advancement of Modeling and Role-Modeling, which was founded in 1986.

The biennial conference aims to provide attendees with a forum for inter-cultural conversations about Erickson’s modeling and role-modeling theories of nursing. Nurses and nurse practitioners in attendance were encouraged to develop a better understanding of the unique cultural backgrounds of their patients in order to provide the best opportunities for healing, health and well-being.

“It was great to have so many people from around the country in our beautiful town,” Wilkie said. “BSU was well represented through presenters, and Niganawenimaanaanig had a table of information for participants.”

**Bemidji State University**, located amid the lakes and forests of northern Minnesota, occupies a wooded campus along the shore of Lake Bemidji. Enrolling more than 5,100 students, Bemidji State offers more than 80 undergraduate majors and eight graduate degrees encompassing arts, sciences and select professional programs. BSU is a member of the Minnesota State system of colleges and universities and has a faculty and staff of more than 550. The university’s Shared Fundamental Values include environmental stewardship, civic engagement and international and multicultural understanding. For more, visit or find us at BemidjiState on most of your favorite social media networks.


*Carissa Menefee
Associate Director of Communications & Marketing (interim)*
Bemidji State University // (218) 755-3344 // @BemidjiState //