Donna Grandbois, BSN, MS, PhD, RN
NURSE Corps Faculty Member
Loan Repayment Program
North Dakota State University
Dr. Donna Grandbois has always had a spirit to give back to underserved communities. As a Native American tribal member, nurse and health educator, she’s seen firsthand the health disparities that continue to exist among Native Americans, both urban and those living on reservations.
Grandbois helps address these disparities through her work at North Dakota State University (NDSU) and throughout the state. She’s one of approximately 30 Native American nurses with a doctoral degree and one of a few teaching in a tenure-track position nationwide. An NDSU Department of Nursing faculty member, she also teaches graduate courses for the NDSU Master of Public Health program’s American Indian specialization. This program is taught by an all American Indian staff and is the first of its kind in the country.
Grandbois was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Indian reservation near Belcourt, ND. After completing her registered nurse degree, she spent some time away raising a family and working as a clinical instructor. After returning to the reservation, she became committed and passionate about her health care career and the opportunities she saw to improve the health conditions of the residents of the reservation.
For example, American Indians living on reservations experience higher rates of death and diabetes compared to the rest of the U.S. population; lower high school graduation rates; and poverty that can rival third world conditions.
After finishing her master’s degree in psychiatric nursing, she began teaching in higher education but realized that she needed a doctorate to be qualified to conduct the research studies that were so desperately needed by her community.
“When I knew I needed to acquire a doctoral degree to be competitive, I began widespread efforts to locate resources to make my plans possible. This is when I learned about the wonderful opportunity called the NURSE Corps,” she said. The NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program helps pay educational loans while Dr. Grandbois works as a nurse faculty member in an accredited school of nursing.
When she began her academic career in a tenure-track position, it became apparent that having an understanding of how cultural, social, psychological, structural and environmental factors affect health – and how being sensitive to these factors – can make an important difference in health outcomes for vulnerable populations.
“As a psychiatric nurse, I know our belief systems are powerful forces that affect our health and our capacity to heal,” she said. “American Indians have been particularly unresponsive to traditional allopathic health care services. Native people often hold a holistic, spiritually grounded worldview that stipulates that a multi-dimensional connection exists among all aspects of life. Their ability to heal must be supported by a health care system that incorporates these beliefs.”
Grandbois has framed much of her community-based research around these themes and developed key relationships for her work. She’s gained support from all four tribal nations in North Dakota for her research and continues to partner and collaborate with Native communities, both urban and on reservations, and tribal community colleges. She also serves on a state leadership team for a Community Transformation grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to build North Dakota’s chronic disease prevention capacity for all state citizens.
Grandbois also hopes to impact her community through her students who describe her as “warm,” “enthusiastic,” and a “champion for her culture.” She says her “heart sings” with each nurse graduate who has a heart to work in disadvantaged communities and for students who become dedicated health care workers in public health.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to give back to communities who are so deserving and so needy.”
HRSA Study Finds Uptick of Nurse Practitioners Working in Primary Care news release (05/09/2014)
Observing 2014 National Nurses Week - Nurses: Leading the Way, statement by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
The Nursing Profession: A Platform for Leadership, blog by HRSA Administrator Mary K. Wakefield, PhD, RN
HRSA Investments in the Nursing Workforce (PDF - 106 KB)
The U.S. Nursing Workforce: Trends in Supply and Education (PDF - 2.2 MB)