Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Registered Nurse Bonnie Tucker is preparing for retirement after dedicating 10 years of service to the Community.
Tucker and her family moved to Arizona in 1958, when she was 15 years old. She attended Arizona State University (ASU) and obtained two degrees, a bachelor of science in nursing and a master’s degree in health service administration. With those degrees she worked as a nurse in many hospitals and at ASU’s Student Health Service. She also worked in hospital administration for about 20 years.
Tucker said she had always wanted to be a public health nurse on an Indian reservation, and her wish finally came true when she got her job with the Community.
“I always wanted to work with Native Americans. I have been here for nine-plus years and I have loved it every day,” said Tucker. “I got to know many people, especially the seniors.”
Community members may know Tucker because of her work with flu shots, home health visits and her work at the Salt River Clinic.
“It’s been a real pleasant experience as a nurse [here on the Community], and working with everybody and making home visits made it memorable,” Tucker said. “I worked real close with the Salt River Clinic because that is where the doctors, providers and pharmacy is and where people get their medical care and medications.”
When Tucker started she said it seemed like the number of qualified seniors was a lot lower compared with what it is now. “I think a lot of it is because they have started taking better care of themselves and going to the clinic and getting help,” said Tucker.
“The seniors are very wise people, they know their roots are here in Salt River,” Tucker said. “They know their heritage and culture, [and] they really have their feet on the ground [regarding] how their family and children should be.”
Tucker said the seniors are the essence of the philosophy of Salt River because they are living in the 21st century but are bringing the old ways with them.
Memories of Caring for a Community
“On my first day, which was in 2002, I had to go to my orientation, and back then we had to go to the old Purchasing Building,” said Tucker. “The building was real small and there was only a few of us in there, and that was interesting to me because at the time I didn’t know my way around the Community at all. Everyone was very helpful, which has always been a pleasure to me.”
One thing Tucker really likes about working in healthcare on the Community is that the doctors and providers in the Salt River Clinic work in partnership with the nurses. “We are all here to take care of the patients and to give them the best care that we can. And that is very different than working in the non-Native community,” Tucker said.
When she worked on the outside, at non-Native health facilities, she said they worried about costs, “but here in the Community we worry about how we can help the patient get healthy.”
Tucker has a new nurse working with her right now, and like Tucker she has never worked on an Indian reservation before. “I tell her that there are so many wonderful people here and we want to do our best to help them take care of themselves the best way they can to optimize their health and their life,” said Tucker. “I say that because a lot of people out here are very, very sick and they need as much help as they can get. You do what you can to get them to the right direction, so that they can have the right quality of life and health. That is what our goal is here.”
Tucker has worked since she graduated from ASU, so she is looking forward to relaxing for a while. She has a lot of things planned, including spending time with her grandchildren and getting to know the younger one better. In the summer she would like to travel someplace where it is cool, plus she wants to compost and plant a garden.
“I look forward to not having to hear the alarm clock anymore and being able to enjoy my coffee and read my newspaper in the mornings and not worry about watching the clock all the time,” said Tucker.
“I will miss all the Community members I got to know. I can go to the clinic right now, and half of the people who are waiting are people I know and talk to all the time,” she said.
“I will miss the employees and a lot of the people living in the Community, because everyone has been really great,” Tucker said. “It’s been fun working with them.” She added that she might stop by occasionally to see how things are going.