The Phoenix Indian Medical Center is where I was always meant to be. I was born in this hospital, and I’ve always felt a connection to it. My grandmother was a Pima native, and my grandfather was African-American. I’m enrolled in the Gila River Indian Community Tribe.
I’m proud of my heritage and I know I can celebrate it here.
When I was little, I wanted to be a doctor. But I saw how patients really relate to their nurses, so I went for nursing instead. I always felt I would work here. When I graduated, they couldn’t take me right away. I took a job somewhere else, but it felt empty, without mission or purpose. Finally I got the call to re-apply and I’ve been here ever since. I’ve been here a little over 12 years. It feels like home. You’re part of a community here.
I’m married with a little girl, and I love family time. In my job, work-life balance is strongly supported. We practice relationship-based care, which means we take care of ourselves, our colleagues and our patients. I’ve gotten to know many patients and their families. We are here for them their whole lives. You don’t know them just by their health record number, you really actually get to know them.
And it’s also about recognizing the importance of family in the Native American culture, so it’s not just about taking care of that patient, it’s about taking care of their family, too. We’re all interconnected because our patients are sometimes our families, so it’s really about taking care of the whole community.
At this hospital, every unit has an action plan, and we strive to reach our goals and to fix any problems. In primary nursing, we take ownership of each patient and their progress. I was part of a multi-disciplinary team that won a 2015 HHS Innovates award for our POSH initiative — Peri-Operative Surgical Home program — to ensure that care is patient-centered and tailored to the needs of individual surgical patients.
My early home life was turbulent, which was one of the things that made me want to become a nurse and care for others. I love that feeling of having the power to help.
I’ve had many opportunities at the Phoenix Indian Medical Center to expand my nursing and leadership capabilities. I’m now working on my master’s in nursing, which I hope to complete next year.
Working for the Indian Health Service is not about a pay check. I do this because it’s my calling. It’s not just a job, it’s a way of being.
I’m Candace Lee and I’m a nurse for the Indian Health Service. And I am HHS.