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Indian Health Service The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives

Community health representative: The first tribally contracted program, since 1968 - American indian paraprofessional healthcare providers

Education

CHR Stories Series Archive

October 2009

Joe and Monica VigilDo you know that person in the community or your family who always has a smile, a joke or a laugh to share? I know her as Monica Vigil who is Nambe (Nam-Bay) Pueblo. A few miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Monica has been serving her Nambe Pueblo community as a CHR for 10 years. In April 2009, I met Monica when we sat by each other at the Physical Activity Kit (PAK) Training in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Like most CHRs, Monica speaks of the love she has for her people, community and job. “I know I'm providing a service to my community to help make it a safer healthier place for everyone to live.  I try to make sure that I help everyone so I have a clear conscience and a good heart knowing I did my best for that individual. I like helping people especially the ones that like to help themselves.” said Monica.

Over lunch one day, Monica and I talked about her CHR program. Her commitment was evident immediately; you could hear the excitement in her voice. But as I listened to the exhaustive list of activities and services she provides, quickly the Johnny Cash song “I’ve been everywhere man” leaped to my mind; as she continued I couldn’t help but think the lyrics should be “I do everything man”.

Monica is involved in many aspects of the community she lives and works, like most of her peers across the nation. When I asked Monica about some of the services she provides, she told me she:

  • measures and records heights and weights at the Head Start
  • leads exercise classes at Head Start & Senior Center
  • conducts vital sign screenings and provides health education to community members
  • promotes exercise and physical fitness with Tribal staff
  • provides home visits to monitor health, social, physical and emotional needs for elderly, disabled or sick, then locates resources to help those people. For some they may just need help with light house cleaning, cooking, menu planning or yard work.
  • assists people with no other form of transportation to their doctor appointments, to pay utility bills or pick up groceries or commodities.
  • serves as a patient advocate by scheduling and confirming appointments
  • orders, picks up and delivers medications
  • identifies health or safety hazards in and outside the home and recommends or seeks a solution to prevent injuries
  • assist people in setting up living wills
  • assists seniors on Vial of L.I.F.E
  • coordinates and conducts rabies and spay/neuter clinics to prevent the spread of disease and injury
  • communicates and coordinates with other departments and agencies to learn how to provide the best patient care services
  • teaches CPR and First Aid classes to all Tribal members
  • inspects child passenger safety seats
  • assists in writing grants for injury prevention community projects
  • educates and promotes immunizations and vaccinations to community members, such as the HPV shots for girls ages 12-19.
  • educates and promotes oral health by ensuring all Tribal members have tooth brushes, toothpaste and dental floss.

Monica's children Deionna and Anthony after dancing on the Nambe Feast Day 2008One thing I have learned in the past 17 years of working with CHRs is that they love what they do and they love people.

Monica first learned about the PAK at the national CHR conference in Las Vegas, NV in 2008. Instead of waiting for the PAK materials to be printed and available, she went back to her community and downloaded them off the IHS website. She immediately began to implement the Elder PAK in the Tribe’s Elder Program as well as during home visits with homebound elders. She said she could hardly wait for the training to get her hands on the entire packet.

On a personal note, Monica and her husband, Joe Vigil, have been together for 16 years.  They have two children:  - Deionna, their 13-year-old daughter; and Anthony, their 11- year-old son. Besides spending time with her family and friends, Monica loves to read, with the Twilight Series her favorite. She enjoys watching movies, especially love stories, such as Pride & Prejudice, Gone with the Wind, or West Side Story (she always cries).  She labeled herself an organization freak admitting she likes it when everything has a place and is in it and labeled. When Monica’s kids graduate high school, her goal is to go back to school and become a nurse. She takes classes every other semester to “keep in the loop of school” but doesn’t want to miss out too much on her children’s childhood.

Our best wishes to Monica and to all our CHRs who work daily to bring a healthier life to their community members. Somehow we know with Monica’s energy and enthusiasm she’ll be successful in all her endeavors.

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