Author ORCID Identifier

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Karen Card


There has been a calling to promote diversity in the healthcare workforce to alleviate the health problems that currently exist among the Native American population. Minorities are disproportionately represented in the nursing workforce (Beard, 2014), especially Native Americans. Increasing the number of Native American nurses in the healthcare workforce has been found to significantly reduce these health disparities (Eddie, 2018; Eschiti, 2004; Gebbie et al., 2003), supporting the need for more Native American nursing students to graduate from college. There has been little research regarding the implications of cultural identity experienced by Native American nursing college students in higher education institutions as one of these factors. Addressing this gap in higher education practices and examining cultural identity development among Native American nursing students can help address these issues. The researcher found that a phenomenological study would fit this study as this approach promotes students to tell their stories and lived experiences through the lens of their cultural identity. Phenomenological research focuses on a shared experience among participants that participated in a program that holistically supports Native American nursing students (Creswell & Poth, 2018; Peoples, 2021). In this case, the common theme of cultural identity and how it influenced Native American nursing students’ college experience, and their academic success is explored in this study. A focus group was conducted with staff that worked at Native American Nursing Education Center to further understand the program and how it supported the participants. Seven key themes emerged from this study from participant interviews: 1.) the importance of family support in students’ lives; 2.) the lack of access to cultural norms and experiences that shape students’ cultural identity; 3.) the challenge of nursing school compared to pre-nursing coursework; 4.) that students live complex lives calling for flexibility in their learning environments in nursing school; 5.) that mentoring is integral to their persistence in nursing school; 6.) that academic success is self-defined; 7.) and that students want to pave the way the future generations of Native American students, encouraging others to give back to their communities through their education.

Subject Categories

Adult and Continuing Education | Educational Leadership | Higher Education


cultural identity, cultural identity development, Native American acculturation, Native American nursing, Native American students

Number of Pages



University of South Dakota