LaQuita Cooper, RN, has worked at St. Francis Medical Center as a registered nurse on the telemetry unit for the past seven years.
Cooper started at St. Francis as a nurse tech on the telemetry unit after graduating from nursing school and continues to work there.
Celebrating Her Navajo Culture and Heritage
Cooper is a member of the Navajo nation. She enjoys family gatherings, powwows and prayer meetings. The prayer meetings are done on native land in a teepee. They pray in their native Navajo language to the rhythm of a drum.
“As Native Americans, family is very important to us. During our family gatherings we eat traditional foods such as fry bread and mutton.”
Challenges Faced by Native Americans
Cooper grew up on a reservation in Arizona called Tolani Lake in a rural area. It is at least 25 minutes from the nearest town.
Some of the challenges she and her family faced were access to healthcare, clean/hot water, electricity and other necessities.
Cooper shares about her family, “If they needed supplies, they had to travel to town by car (if gas was available) or walk. The reservation did not have paved roads. Our family home only had a 10-gallon water tank.” Most of the water came from a well, so access to clean water was a concern.
“My family went to a chapter house, similar to a YMCA, to take showers,” Cooper says.
Access to healthcare was also a concern. “My grandfather was a dialysis patient. He had to travel three hours to receive dialysis. After the treatments, he was very weak. He and his family had to stay in town overnight when he had dialysis.”
Native Heritage Influence
“My great grandfather and grandfather were both a part of the Navajo Code Talkers,” Cooper says. “In WWII, the Navajo Code Talkers created a code based on the unwritten Navajo language. The code primarily used word association by assigning a Navajo word to key phrases and military tactics.”
Cooper’s mother, Sandra Refina Smith, was in the military as well. Smith was involved in a Netflix documentary, “How to Change Your Mind,” in which she talked about some of the natural medicines used in the Native American culture.
Cooper says, “One thing I would like for people to know about our heritage is that we show reverence to our planet anytime we disturb the balance of nature. We show respect by saying prayers for the gifts we receive from our surroundings. We have openness to everyone. As a nation, we are interested in people learning about our culture.”
Finding a Path in Healthcare
Within the Native American culture there are medicine women and medicine men.
“When I lived on the reservation, we had missionaries visit us,” Cooper says. “There was a nurse who came with them. She offered assessments to the members of the community. I remember the nurse taking out her stethoscope and listening to my heartbeat. I watched the nurse as she pulled items from her bag.”
This experience sparked her interest in the nursing field. As she went through nursing school, she learned helpful information that she shares with her family to help create a healthier community.