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Program Aims To Improve Cherokee Nation Healthcare

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It was an emotional and proud day for Rochelle Phillips. She's one of three graduates in the Cherokee Nation's surgical technicians program. It was an emotional and proud day for Rochelle Phillips. She's one of three graduates in the Cherokee Nation's surgical technicians program.
Tommy Hays is proud the Cherokee Nation has found a way to get more of its members into the world of healthcare. Tommy Hays is proud the Cherokee Nation has found a way to get more of its members into the world of healthcare.
Phillips' job will be to know what each surgical instrument does and to know when to hand them to the surgeon. Phillips' job will be to know what each surgical instrument does and to know when to hand them to the surgeon.

Dan Bewley, News On 6

TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma -- The Cherokee Nation has a new plan to help its members find jobs and increase the quality of tribe's healthcare.

The first class of surgical technicians graduated Monday in Tahlequah. The scrub techs, as they're called, will help surgeons in the operating room.

It was an emotional and proud day for Rochelle Phillips. She's one of three graduates in the Cherokee Nation's surgical technicians program.

"I've always wanted to be in the healthcare profession," Phillips said.

Phillips' job will be to know what each surgical instrument does and to know when to hand them to the surgeon.

"It's their job to anticipate, usually be two or three steps ahead," said Tommy Hays, Program Instructor.

He's proud the Cherokee Nation has found a way to get more of its members into the world of healthcare.

"I'm just really excited that the Cherokee Nation has its own program now and that we're able to educate the people here in our community and become more involved in health sciences," Hays said.

Tribal members accepted into the program get a scholarship for tuition and books. Once they've graduated they're eligible to be nationally certified and get a job anywhere in the U.S.

The Cherokee Nation is hoping the graduates work in one of its nine clinics.

Mitch Thornbrugh--the COO of W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah--says it's important for his fellow Cherokees to help provide quality healthcare.

"I think they bring a lot of passion to supporting and being involved in healthcare with their relatives, their cousins, their aunts," Thornbrugh said.

For Phillips the program is a dream come true. She's now able to work in a field she's always wanted and help improve the lives of brother and sister Cherokees

"It's exciting, kind of nerve wracking at times...sometimes get your adrenaline pumping but it's always rewarding at the end of the day to know you've helped somebody," Phillips said.

The next class will start in August but it's already full. However, they are taking applications for the class that begins one year from now.

For more information on the program contact Patricia Summer at 918-458-3499.

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