“I was born and raised in Kipnuk. I moved up here to Bethel in 1988. I became an alternate health aide in 1978/79. I didn’t have no training or nothing. After a year my boss left and the elders asked me to stay—they said I was a good health aide. So, I thought about it, and I applied and they said, “When are you going to start?” No interview or nothing. My training started on September 1, 1980. In 1988, they were worried that I might get burned out and quit, because there were other people that quit just like that when they were burned out. So they talked to me about promoting me to supervisor in Bethel. It took me one year to tell my mother!
There have been a lot of changes; back then it was easier. There was no appointments at the hospital, you just came in. Some nights you would have to get up with calls for home visits. There was no privacy—they would even come knocking on the door [Laughs]. We didn’t care too much about pay—I would receive my check, I would just sign it and give them to my dad or mom. Didn’t even know how much we got paid.
My coordinator was my mom. She would debrief me. I don’t know how many times I came home saying, “I quit, I quit this job”! She would leave me alone, I would take a nap, wake up hungry, and while I would be eating, she would sit in front of me and talk to me, and what time do you think I would go to work the next day? Before 9AM. She would give me advice, and I am glad I listened. Now days, I get calls from young health aids scared and I am happy to give them advice now.”—Martha Attie is Yup'ik and a Community Health Aide in Bethel, Alaska.
- © Brian Adams
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