Whitney Fear is someone who cares. But growing up on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, one of the poorest areas in the United States, it could sometimes feel like no one did.
On the reservation, her family and other members of the Oglala Lakota Nation struggled to survive. Limited resources still contribute to the lowest life expectancy nationwide.
But it was in her community that Whitney found the care and support she needed to discover a new path. A path to become a nurse.
Now, Whitney fights to help her community find their path, to health and healing.
Who cares? Let’s find out.
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MSN, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Whitney has spent most of her nursing career working at Family HealthCare, a federally qualified health center in Fargo, North Dakota. For her first six years, she exclusively treated patients experiencing homelessness. Her psychiatric practice takes a holistic and trauma-informed approach to treating behavioral health and substance use disorders. A member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, her firsthand knowledge of the barriers Native Americans face to good health informs the care she provides, which factors in social determinants of health.
What she cares about: social determinants of health, health equity, Lakota culture, beadwork, her family, her new puppy — a corgi named Toast. Oh, and TikTok.
RN, Clinical Service Manager
Stacey and Whitney’s longtime friendship from college brought Stacey to work at Family HealthCare six years ago. In her role as a clinical services manager, Stacey supervises nurses taking care of people experiencing homelessness. Her responsibilities can range from site visits to coordinating social services and managing a triage line for patients. A self-described member of the “Overshare Club,” Stacey places a high value on personal connection as part of her nursing philosophy.
What she cares about: nurse burnout, new nurse graduates, people experiencing homelessness, refugees, going on adventures with her husband and daughter, and keeping their six pets happy and healthy.
LBSW, Human Trafficking Navigator
Melissa is an independent consultant in the anti-human trafficking field and was the first human trafficking navigator in Eastern North Dakota for the North Dakota Human Trafficking Task Force, where she developed protocols for the state and helped develop a victim-witness program. With her specialization, Melissa trains local and national groups on person-centered, trauma-informed case management of victims. To help herself and others cope with the heaviness surrounding their work, Melissa maintains a space for supporting and encouraging other social workers on her blog and dedicates time outside of work to service projects for children in her community.
What she cares about: trauma-informed care, human trafficking, and soaking up the sun in her new home in Florida.
About the Film
As a psychiatric nurse practitioner, Whitney Fear extends the compassion, empathy and respect at the foundation of her Lakota culture to the many vulnerable populations she comes across at Family HealthCare, a federally qualified health center in Fargo, North Dakota.
Having grown up on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Whitney has firsthand knowledge of the many barriers Indigenous people face to good health, which helps her provide care that factors in the cultural, historical and social determinants of their past — and present. This trauma-informed approach provides a step up to a more equitable and healthy future. Because that’s the future of nursing. Daily acts of justice that answer the call for help from our society’s most vulnerable: Does anybody care? Nurses like Whitney are the answer.
Beyond the clinic, Whitney advocates for equity for Indigenous people and other underserved populations as a founding board member of the Indigenous Association, a board member of the City of Fargo Native American Commission, part of the steering committee member of the Culture of Health North Dakota and a leadership team member for the North Dakota Center for Nursing.
Her story is one of adversity, compassion and the difference it can make when one person cares. Especially when that person is a nurse.
SHIFT is a community for nurses to listen, read, laugh, cry, think and talk about big issues — together. We believe in the power of community because we know that you (yes, YOU) can shape the future of nursing. But none of us can do it alone.
We started this community around a podcast. In Season 2 of SHIFT Talk, we turned our focus to health equity. That’s when we discovered Whitney Fear and knew we had to take our storytelling to the next level.
“Who Cares” is our first film. We hope it encourages, motivates and inspires this generation of nurses to be advocates for health equity — and see their potential as leaders in the community.
We’re constantly sharing resources to support nurses on our website. Please let us know if you’d like to become more involved in elevating nurses, together.
SHIFT — and the production of this film — is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
“Something we know is important for approaching patients, is asking people what they want from their care and what they think is possible, because that is communicative of respect, rather than compliance.”
MSN, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Are You Someone Who Cares?
Host a Screening
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Promote the Documentary
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Share Your Story
How are you addressing health equity and bringing your whole self to nursing? Tell us.
Are you a journalist? Download the Media Kit (71MB)
Cathy Collins-Fulea, DNP, CNM, FACNM
President, American College of Nurse-Midwives
Deborah C. Stamps, EdD, MBA, MS, RN, GNP, NE-BC
Executive Vice President | Chief Nursing Education and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer
College of Health Careers | President Isabella Graham Hart School of Practical Nursing
Rochester Regional Health
Stacy Hutton Johnson, PhD, MS/MBA, RN, NEA-BC
Co-Founder at Canopy Consultants Inc. | Previously: CNO, Boston Hope (COVID-19 Field Hospital)
Dr. Scharmaine Lawson, FNP-BC, PMHNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN
Author, CEO at Nola The Nurse | Co-chairman, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Steering Committee | The Future of Nursing, Campaign for Action
What Whitney Cares About
The first step to addressing a problem is understanding it. Click on each tile to read more.
57% of people experiencing homelessness in Fargo-Moorhead are persons of color. Native American and Black individuals are the most likely to experience homelessness in the area.
Substance Use Disorder
Within the last month, 34.1 percent of adults in North Dakota engaged in binge drinking (five or more drinks in two hours), compared to the U.S. average of 26.5 percent.Learn More
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic events before age 17 that are linked to chronic health problems in adulthood. Women and racial/ethnic minorities are more likely to have more ACEs.
Pine Ridge Reservation
On the Pine Ridge Reservation, rates of health conditions like tuberculosis and diabetes are eight times the national average. Extreme poverty and other social determinants contribute to poor health outcomes.Learn More
The coronavirus pandemic led to a significant increase in human trafficking nationwide. Victims being recruited by a family member or caregiver increased significantly in 2020, to 31% of all victims.Learn More
Contributing to the well-being of all life — ‘Wacantognaka’ — by sharing and giving freely of your time, possessions, and especially emotions, is foundational to Lakota culture.
Prior to the pandemic, 20.5% of adults in North Dakota suffered a mental illness. Of those who needed mental health treatment but did not receive it, 36.3% said it was due to cost.Learn More
What Do You Care About?
We’d love to hear from you!
What SHIFT Cares About
Healthcare workers can do something about human trafficking — if they’re enabled with awareness and the resources to help victims.
Hiding in Plain Sight: How Nurses Can Stop Human Trafficking
The Pine Ridge Reservation is evidence of how social determinants and systemic issues like racism led to our nation’s health inequities.
What Led to Health Disparities for Native Americans on the Pine Ridge Reservation — and What Can Nurses Do About Them?
How more than two years of fighting the coronavirus has led to a mass exodus from nursing.
How Burnout Impacts Nursing: Before, During and After COVID-19
In North Dakota, the mental health crisis is compounded by limited access to care — especially for Native Americans.