In our article Why Take an Indian Health Services (IHS) Contract, we discussed the benefits of working for an IHS government-run facility. We included the benefits of giving back to the community and learning about a different culture, but that’s not all you need to know. Once you’ve been submitted and accept the position, here are some other things that we hope you find helpful to be successful during your assignment working at an Indian Health Services facility.
Working at an Indian Health Services (IHS) Facility
IHS serves more than 560 federally recognized American Indian and Alaskan Indian tribes, nearly two million people, throughout the United States. With more than 300 hospitals and clinics, travel nurses and other medical professionals have many opportunities to work in diverse settings and specialties. These include in-patient and outpatient services, clinical care, dental and pharmaceutical services.
As you begin your work at an IHS facility, consider the following:
- Learn and respect the culture. Ask your supervisor and coworkers for advice on how to adapt to customs or traditions that may be new to you. Learn a few words of the native language so it is easier to communicate with patients and coworkers. Keep in mind many aren’t written languages but ones that are passed down through the generations. While you may be challenged in new ways, know that you are appreciated. There is a great need for medical professionals like yourself in many of these facilities. Travel Nurse Lindsey shared her experience working on the Navajo Nation Reservation with us.
- Background clearance can take longer than anticipated. Some facilities are faster than others making it important to listen to the advice of the recruiter regarding the timeline. We do not recommend leaving for your new location until you have received proper clearance to go.
- Housing options may be limited. This is because IHS facilities are located in rural and remote areas. Our AB Housing Department does their best to find housing and will let you know what to expect. These are not places where you can fly into the city and grab a rideshare or rental car. In fact, we have nurses even that prefer to take their RVs to locations and find this works best for them.
- Food and other necessities may be far away and cost more. This is also due to the remoteness of the facilities. It is likely you won’t have big box stores and national food and coffee chains at your fingertips. Plan ahead and stock up on the essentials like groceries and household items. Ask coworkers how often and where they shop to get a better idea of what is available and how far you must go to get it.
- Be open-minded. Of all the points we’ve made in this article, this one may be the most important. You’re working in a culture and community that is perhaps quite different from where you’ve worked in the past. Respect the culture and understand the facility itself has specific processes and procedures. Be open-minded, ask questions as needed, and be wary of trying to change policies and procedures as this may not go well.
When working at an Indian Health Services (IHS) facility, it is important to remember that you are working in a culture that is different than your own. While it can be tempting to make changes or infuse your ideas, please be respectful and mindful of how this will be received. Go in with an open mind, be ready to learn and enjoy the journey!