Newswise — A documentary film titled “Essence of Healing: Journey of American Indian Nurses” received the 2017 Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Media Award at the group’s 44th biennial convention in Indianapolis in October and the Best Service Film Award from the 42nd American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco in November. 

The documentary captures the journeys of 14 American Indian nurses from the Northern Plains as they follow their calling into the nursing profession.

STTI is an International Honor Society of Nursing that advances world health and celebrates nursing excellence in scholarship, leadership, and service. The organization reports more than 135,000 active members in 85 countries, and honors healthcare professionals for their contributions to professional excellence.

“Our International Award recipients are recognized by their peers for their excellence and outstanding contributions to global health. I am honored to offer my personal congratulations on these achievements,” said STTI president Cathy Catrambone.

The American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco is the world’s longest-running exposition showcasing independent films of U.S. American Indians and First Nations peoples of Canada. During the past 42 years, the American Indian Film Institute has celebrated generations of Indian filmmakers, performing artists and audiences with the best of the most current Indian Cinema.

Groups collaborating to develop the documentary that received the STTI and AIFI awards include:

  • Loretta Heuer, professor and documentary executive producer, NDSU School of Nursing, Fargo and Bismarck, North Dakota
  • Cynthia Lindquist, president, Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Fort Totten, North Dakota
  • Candace Muggerud, executive producer; Greg Kasowski, content development manager; and Juan Thomas, videographer; KAT Communications, Bismarck, North Dakota
  • Deb Wilson, director, and Barb Anderson, program coordinator; University of North Dakota Recruitment and Retention of American Indians into Nursing (RAIN Program), Grand Forks, North Dakota

“This joint project of multiple institutions has improved education/awareness by the public and officials about the ongoing inequities for nursing and American Indians,” said Lindquist, noting she hopes the work will spur continued improvement to recruit and retain Native American nurses.

“The American Indian nurses in this documentary have touched the lives of many and they make valuable contributions to the health and wellness of their communities,” Heuer said. “It is humbling that the film has received so many accolades. This demonstrates the need to promote the contributions of American Indian nurses, along with the unique perspectives and values they bring to the nursing profession.”

DVDs of the documentary have been provided to North Dakota Tribal Councils, Tribal Colleges and high schools on the Tribal Nations or reservations. It has been archived in local, state and national museums.

In addition, "Essence of Healing: Journey of American Indian Nurses" has received the following awards:

  • Wales International Film Festival, Swansea, Wales, September 2017 Official Winner Documentary Feature
  • 2017 Oregon Film Awards – Gold Award for Documentary Feature Competition
  • Top Indie Film Awards, Online Festival, June 2017, Best Documentary Feature
  • Festigious International Film Competition, Los Angeles, April 2017, Best Documentary Feature
  • Highway 61 Film Festival, Pine City, Minnesota, 2017 Second Place Winner Documentary Feature

The documentary was selected as a finalist or semi-finalist in the following film festivals:

  • Hollywood International Independent Documentary Film Festival, Los Angeles, California, January 2017, Finalist
  • European Film Festival (Mainstream & Underground), Moscow, Russia, October 2017, Semi-finalist
  • Film Festival of Columbus, Columbus, Ohio, 2017, Semi-finalist
  • Southern States Indie FanFilmFest, Biloxi, Mississippi, January 2018, Semi-finalist

Twenty-five public service announcements developed from the film aired on GoodHealthTV, an American Indian health and wellness network that reaches more than 6 million American Indians annually.

The documentary was screened at events including the NDSU Native Voices Exhibit, the North Dakota Center for Nursing Culture of Health event and as a premiere at the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck.

Copies of the film are available through the NDSU Bookstore and the North Dakota Heritage Center and Museum Store, Bismarck, North Dakota and online at

Funding for the project was provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, University Partnership Research Grant for the Health Profession Opportunity Grants Program, No. 90PH0019, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families.

For more information, contact Heuer at [email protected] or 701-231-8205.

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