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Bering Witness: Emory nursing graduate in rural Alaska

In the short time she’s been there, Cheryl Dukas 05N 06MN could write a book about her experiences as a nurse practitioner with a regional tribal health hospital in Northwest Coastal Alaska.

In Fall 2010, Dukas was hired as a village mid-level provider by Norton Sound Hospital and left Georgia in December to begin a three-month orientation in Nome to prepare her for village life and frontier practice. During the first month, she helped deliver her first baby at the hospital.

“It was ‘easy’ with a doctor behind me,” Dukas writes in her online journal. “Not sure how I would feel if I’d been alone out in a village.”

Her orientation prepares mid-level providers for just such medical emergencies. Most of the villages served by Norton Sound are isolated in the Alaskan tundra and can only be reached by air if the weather is good, leaving only well-trained health aides and possibly a mid-level provider as vital links in the health care system.

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