Traveler stories

Traveler Finds Fulfillment in Native American Culture

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By Claire Brocato, feature writer

Kathleen D’Eufemia, RN, has always been fascinated with Native American culture. When she made the decision to become a travel nurse, one of her motivating reasons was to travel to areas where she could immerse herself in the culture and participate in their age-old ceremonies.

"I’d been working in Rochester, New York, for seven years and was beginning to feel burnt out," she explained, "I knew that there was more to life than my day-to-day routine. When I considered my desire to pursue a new kind of life, combined with my deep interest in Native American culture, I knew that travel nursing was the perfect option."

In her four years of travel nursing with American Mobile Healthcare, D’Eufemia has had the opportunity to travel to places steeped in Native American tradition and culture, including Oklahoma, Arizona, California and parts of upstate New York.

"One of the highlights for me has been my participation in traditional Native American sweat lodges," she said. "This is one of the most sacred ceremonies of the Native American people and an experience that I have found to be incredibly joyful and healing."

"A sweat lodge is typically made with young saplings and covered with animal hides," she explained. "The structure is completely covered so that no light can enter. It is very low to the ground and you have to crawl on your hands and knees to get inside. Once inside you sit around a fire pit in the center of the lodge. Rocks, which have been carefully selected for their spiritual qualities are heated until they are red hot, and then brought into the lodge and placed in the pit. The ceremonial leader then sprinkles sacred herbs on the rocks and prayers are offered for family, friends and Mother Earth. The purpose of the ceremony, which lasts about 20 minutes, is to purify the body, mind and spirit and to connect with the Earth."

While working as a travel nurse, D’Eufemia has also had the opportunity to join Native American drumming circles and has even learned how to make her own tom-toms and double-sided drums.

Recently, while on assignment in the Catskills area of New York, she enrolled in West African drumming classes and is hoping to take a trip to Senegal next year to participate in several drumming workshops.

Aside from her cultural pursuits, this intrepid ER nurse has taken the initiative to enhance her education while on the road.

"When I stop nursing, I want something reliable that I can fall back on, " she explained. "For this reason, I decided to embark on a legal nurse consultant course."

Not that D’Eufemia plans to stop nursing any time soon. She’s hoping to take assignments in Alaska, Oregon and Washington before she considers switching careers.

"Traveling has allowed me to grow in so many ways," she said. "If I had stayed in Rochester instead of traveling I would have missed out on the most amazing opportunities and wonderful friendships. This has truly been the most fulfilling experience of my life."

© 2003. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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