Health Careers in Alaska

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Career Profiles

Registered Nurse

Mary Viveiros

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The person…

Mary Viveiros, an RN with the Maniilaq Health Center in Kotzebue, always knew she wanted to go into the health field. As a child she ended up in the hospital a lot with earaches and it was during these trips that she began thinking about becoming a nurse.

Prior to working at the Maniilaq Health Center, Mary served as a volunteer EMT with the local fire department for 22 years. As part of this job she had the opportunity to fly medevacs for the hospital. Her first job with the hospital was as a Patient Care Technician.

Mary decided to go back to school later in life. She obtained her LPN license in May of 2004 and her RN license in May 2005. Mary was able to obtain her nursing degree while still staying at home in Kotzebue by enrolling in a distance education nursing program with Weber State University. (Note: Mary received a Student of the Year award from Chukchi College in 2004-see photo above)

Mary is currently working towards a bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Administration through on-line coursework with the University of Phoenix. Acquiring this degree will allow Mary to be eligible for administration positions such as a nursing manager.

When Mary is not at work she enjoys spending time with her family; helping her kids with their homework and cooking. She has recently been enjoying ice fishing for sheefish, as well.

The job…

Mary describes the Maniilaq Health Center as a 17-bed hospital. Because it is a small hospital, Mary says she ends up moving around a lot between the sections of the hospital. “I don’t really have a typical day. We can have anywhere from 2 patients to 11 patients on a shift. I work the night shift. Some nights are calm, while others can be kind of crazy.”

Mary works 3 or 4 nights a week. The shifts are 12 hours long. When Mary starts her shift at 7 pm, she and the other night shift nurses, listen to taped patient reports from the nurses on the previous day shift. Once the charge nurse assigns Mary her patients for the evening, Mary assesses each of her patients by determining when vital checks are due and when the medications need to be administered.

When asked to describe some of the types of patients and activities Mary might work with on a shift, she gave the following examples: a baby with RSV (Respiratory Syncytical Virus), a child who needs a nebulizer (breathing treatment), assisting with the delivery of a baby, checking on a mental health patient to make sure they don’t leave the hospital or harm themselves.

Mary notes that working in a small hospital such as Kotzebue is a very different experience than working in a large hospital such as the Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC) in Anchorage. (Mary spent 10 weeks at ANMC as part of her nursing program internship.)  “In ANMC you may spend your whole shift working in a neo-natal unit where you are only working with babies, or you might work in the step-down unit, where you are working only with patients who recently got out of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). In Kotzebue there is a lot variety on my shift each night. I may be working with an elder that has a cardiac problem one hour and then be with a postpartum mom with a baby another hour.”

Mary noted that since she works the night shift, sometimes they have to call in other professionals if they need a mental health consult or an x-ray taken, since these professionals are not part of the regular nightshift crew.

Mary has to do her own lab blood draws and generally does these at the end of her shift early in the morning. To conclude her shift at 6 am, Mary tapes her report about the patients for the next group of nurses who begin the day shift.

When asked what she most liked about her job, Mary responded, “I like the satisfaction of being able to help people. I also like the people I work with; we have a great night crew!”

When asked about the challenges in her job, Mary commented that working with critical patients could be very challenging. Weather, such as fog, often prevents planes from getting into and out of Kotzebue, which means they have to hold patients longer at the hospital before medevacing them to Anchorage.

Advice to students…

For students interested in the field of nursing, Mary enthusiastically says, “Do it now!” Mary noted that she waited until later in life (after having a family) to get her nursing license. “I would encourage students to hold off having kids and to go to school right away.” She also suggested that it is helpful to get a job in the healthcare field to see if that is what you would like to do.

Mary has other tips for students planning for college: 1) Go for all the scholarships, 2) Keep all your college planning paperwork together, 3) Keep a calendar for when everything is due like scholarship applications, and 4) Be sure to always have three current letters of reference available all the time.

This page was last updated by janice on May 02, 2007

Registered Nurse

Alex Taylor

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The person… 


As a freshman in high school, Alex Taylor was asked to research two careers. The exercise included participating in an on-line career assessment program, where Alex came upon the field of nursing. She compared the occupations of nursing and restaurant manager. “This is what put the idea in my head that I might want to be a nurse.”

Alex is an Inupiat Eskimo who grew up in Fairbanks, although her family is originally from Shishmaref. She is currently working on her Bachelor of Science degree at UAA’s School of Nursing to become an RN (Registered Nurse). She will complete her degree in the Spring of 2003 and hopes to gain employment at the Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC). During the summer of 2001, with the assistance of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium’s Summer Internship program, Alex worked in the Med/Surg Unit of ANMC. Alex is currently assisting Dr. Kari Hamrick, a dietitian and researcher with the Institute of Circumpolar Health Studies, in literature searches and data entry.

Recently, Alex learned that she is an IHS scholarship recipient, which will help pay her tuition fees and provide her with a $1084 stipend/month. Congratulations, Alex!

The rewards of the job…

When asked what she likes best about nursing so far, Alex says, “I like helping people feel more comfortable.” During her internship last summer, Alex recalls a patient who was in the hospital for a month and never received visitors. “I felt bad for her and so I started poking my head into her room to say hello. That seemed to really cheer her up and she didn’t complain so much.”

Although Alex finds it rewarding to build relationships with patients, she says it can also be the most challenging part of her job. “Everyone is so different and you have to figure out what each patient needs.”

Advice to students…

To Alaska’s high school students, Alex says, if you want to become a nurse you need to “stick it through. If you can get through all your pre-requisite courses, the nursing classes will be really fun.” She also advises, “pay attention to deadlines! For example, you have to apply a year in advance to nursing school. And there are many scholarships out there for Alaska Natives, but you need to pay attention to those scholarship deadlines.”

And a final piece of advice: “I think that everyone needs to make time for the fun stuff, no matter how busy they are.” Alex takes time for fun by hiking and rock wall climbing. She also enjoys stamping and scrapbooking.

This page was last updated by janice on September 09, 2002

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