Frontier Nursing University (FNU) faculty member Erin Tenney (DNP, WHNP, CNM) is passionate about working with rural and Indigenous underserved populations in her northern Wisconsin community.
Erin began working at FNU in 2016 and served in both didactic and clinical faculty roles. Soon after, she made the transition to full-time regional clinical faculty for the Upper Midwest for the Nurse-Midwifery and Women’s Health programs.
In her rural northern Wisconsin community, Erin works in a tribal healthcare system where she has served for over 17 years. She practices at several tribal health centers within the tribal healthcare system, making the three-hour commute to her remote clinical site weekly.
The Indigenous populations Erin serves in the tribal healthcare system face the traditional challenges to rural and underserved populations: limited access to healthcare, poverty and transportation issues. Additionally, Indigenous people often grapple with intergenerational trauma and the on-going negative effects of colonization.
In her doctorate work at FNU, Erin unearthed some research that has become a focal point in her work. A Maori nurse researcher from New Zealand developed the Theory of Cultural Safety. She examined the history of colonization and how it has led to health inequities in Indigenous populations that are still present today.
The theory encourages non-Indigenous healthcare providers within Indigenous communities to be self-reflective and sensitive to their position in society, privilege, and the dynamics between the cultures. The patient should be allowed to define what culturally safe care means to them.
Erin has taken the principles she learned from this theory to heart.
“I have really made an effort to learn the history, practice self-reflection, and listen to my patients to ensure I’m including any personal and spiritual-cultural aspects that are important to them into their care,” she said. “I also do a lot of work on myself, to know where I come from and who I am in the interaction. I believe this helps ensure that the care I give is respectful.”
When she was deciding where to pursue her degree, Erin read FNU’s mission on the website and she was sold.
“I read the description and it deeply resonated with me,” said Erin. “FNU’s focus on the underserved and rural communities continues to resonate with me today.”
In her faculty role at FNU, Erin has been heavily involved in the Diversity and Inclusion Initiative. She is chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Curriculum sub-committee and has focused much of her energy on the FNU mission of building a diverse and inclusive university culture that translates into improved healthcare for underserved populations around the country.
Erin also presented on cultural safety and Indigenous health as a part of FNU’s 2017 Virtual Event celebrating National Midwifery Week. You can watch her presentation on FNU’s YouTube page.
Thank you, Erin, for your hard work in your own community as well as at FNU!