Anlot Wright, RN, graduated with her BSN from PLU in 1997. After nearly 25-years of nursing service, she recently returned to earn a Master of Science in Nursing and Health Care Leadership Administration degree from WGU. She also holds active certifications from the National Academy of Certified Care Managers (CCM) and American Case Management (ACM).
Wright is a member of the Puyallup Tribe and a nurse leader with an exceptional career in service both to her tribal and non-native communities.
WCN recently sat down with Wright to discuss her nursing journey. Her struggles, victories, and goals for the future.
WCN: You recently went back to school to earn your master’s degree. What was your motivation?
Anlot Wright: I told one of my co-workers recently that I feel mid-careerish because I probably have another 20 years in me. I attempted to get my master’s a couple of times over the past five years, but juggling personal and professional responsibilities and trying to fit school in was difficult. Finally, I said, I need to get this done. One of the advantages this time was the flexible schedule offered by WGU. Things are going to happen in work and home life because life is life. WGU is all online, allowing me to adjust and proceed to the best of my ability.
WCN: In what healthcare environments have you worked?
Anlot Wright: Out of school, I did a standard couple of years of bedside in-patient nursing at St. Joseph. And I have spent quite a bit of my 25-years of nursing in tribal health working for the Puyallup Tribal Clinic in various capacities. More specifically, I worked for the Puyallup Tribal Elders’ program, where I integrated a new assisted living facility.
For the past five years, I have been at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital, working with the in-patient care management team. Our job is to help with disposition planning.
WCN: What does it mean to you to bring your nursing skills back to your tribal community?
Anlot Wright: My parents are both Native American. My mom is from the Puyallup and Blackfeet tribes and my dad is a member of the Klamath tribe, which is in southern Oregon. Because I am a Native, I think it was easier for me to acclimate to those positions. Native communities are close-knit. Sometimes there are some trust issues with people coming in from the outside. Being known in the community helped me.
I am so very grateful to my tribe for supporting my professional and educational endeavors. The tribe has always embraced people being able to get their education and get experience in whatever way possible, then bring that back to the community and help.
WCN: Nursing is a challenging job and often traumatic. What techniques or strategies do you use to build resiliency?
Anlot Wright: Jokingly with my peers, I’ve said that there are only two guarantees in life: death and taxes. But you could also add patients and healthcare. I often use the analogy of Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill for eternity. The work is never done. Over the years, the adage of trying to put yourself first so you can be of service to your patients, co-workers, and community is key. I have run myself into the ground more than once with extra shifts and added responsibilities. You must learn to take time for yourself, even in little bites, to refresh and reenergize. Otherwise, you will continue in a bad direction until you hit a wall.
I am also a faithful practitioner of a specific type of meditation called Transcendental Meditation (tm.org). TM is a specific meditation with an analogy likened to the ocean. At the surface, it can be bumpy, wavy, and chaotic. But as you transcend deeper below the surface, it is quieter, and there is stillness and calm. I have practiced this meditation for almost four years now. The TM organization also developed a program specific to healthcare workers when the pandemic started called Heal the Healers (healthehealersnow.org). It is an informative page for folks in healthcare and information specific to meditation. For me, it was a game-changer.
WCN: What are some challenges you faced to becoming to nurse? And how did you overcome them?
Anlot Wright: In my perception, I had a lot of barriers because no one in my family had gone through and completed a four-year undergraduate degree. I got to school, and I was so out of place. I did not know how I should be prioritizing or accomplishing things. The other thing is, at the time, PLU wasn’t very diverse. I went from being in my native community, surrounded by people like me, to going to PLU and feeling like I stood out. The first couple of years, I struggled. Thankfully, I was able to get my brain together and push through those last couple of years. At 17, you’re not necessarily executing confidence and control. I felt like I wasn’t sure if I should be there.
I did have the support of my family and my tribe. And that was helpful. I had a lot of people rooting for me and wanting me to get through school and come back and work for the community. That was a big part of my support.
Initially, finding my niche was also challenging. I did a couple of years of bedside nursing and thought, this is not what I want to do for the rest of my life. Then, by chance, I came across care management, which I’ve done now for quite a while.
WCN: So far in your career, what do you enjoy most about being a nurse?
Anlot Wright: For me, with care management, I often use the analogy of a puzzle. Sometimes we have a 10-piece puzzle, and sometimes we have a 500-piece puzzle. I like being able to work through the system(s) to complete the puzzle. I like to sit back when the puzzle is done and look and say, OK, that was a lot of work, and I learned some things, but knowing I helped a patient, a co-worker, or even my leadership, I get a lot of satisfaction from that feeling. I enjoy getting my hands into something complex and being able to work through it.
WCN: What has your experience been through the pandemic?
Anlot Wright: I try focusing on what I’m grateful for, and I can say that being in an in-patient environment for the past year and a half (almost two years) has been a learning experience. It has tested every one of us on some level. What I do not want it to do is make me angry or jaded towards our healthcare system. In the last six months, when the COVID numbers were going back up, a lot of my patients were unvaccinated, very sick COVID patients. You always want to come into a situation with an objective and caring mind. I want to be compassionate regardless of what the circumstances are or what decisions anyone else has made. I think a lot of people were tested by that.
WCN: Why do you think diversity and representation are imperative in the nursing workforce?
Anlot Wright: I think it is important on several different levels. Being Native means that I have been in many environments where I’m one of only a few minorities if any. Even back at St. Joseph, I was always mistaken for the CNA. People would often say to me, I need you to get this patient water, or I need you to take this patient to the bathroom. I would say, yes, OK, of course, but let me ask the CNA. The person would then say, oh, aren’t you the CNA? And I would be like, no, I’m the RN.
I feel it is imperative for people of color to have a voice and to be heard. When serving in an educator or a mentor role, what I have found people want the most, is to feel heard. For a lot of us, it’s about knowing that what has happened in the past, or the present, is something that is heard and received.
The other thing that I think is huge is trust. Growing up in a native community all my life, and being in diverse communities, not just native, there is a significant aspect of trust. When I’ve been in those situations where I walked into people’s homes, and they see me, and I’m not white, I can feel the air change a little bit, and the patient feels that this lady might understand, she might get it. I feel that minorities have been pushed into a corner for a long time. Their specific needs have not been acknowledged, let alone addressed. Having somebody who can be that direct voice and that direct connection can help move things along in the right direction.
WCN: What are your future career goals in nursing?
Anlot Wright: I have had a variety of nursing experiences, including bedside nursing, tribal health, care management, utilization management, and patient education. Again, that is one of the things I love about nursing, the spectrum of things you can do. I like challenging puzzles, and I like being part of a solution. Right now, I want to focus on getting my education done and then see where it takes me. I have an affinity for care management because I’ve done it so long, and I have a lot of experience in different areas and positions. But I’m always willing to learn and gain experience elsewhere, too.
WCN: Given your experience so far in nursing, what advice do you have for those considering a career in nursing?
Anlot Wright: One thing I tell folks is that healthcare is very dynamic. The scope is so grand, and each capacity benefits the whole of healthcare. My great-niece is getting ready to graduate in a few months, and she is very into social media, computers, and technology. That is another area of healthcare, technology. Technology is really going to run the show here in the next generation. One of my bosses at work recently left us for the IT department. Now she is an IT nurse, and she doesn’t do anything directly with patients. It’s data and research, but it’s all stuff we need. I always try to reiterate that healthcare does need quality people. There are many ways to learn and grow and experience life. Healthcare is full of opportunities.
I also encourage people to complete their education as soon as possible (because here I am 25-years in and just now going to get my master’s degree). It gives you options and avenues to explore that will help you in the long run.