ALUM | Kristin Weston, 2006

B.S.N, Methodist Women's Hospital

Kristin Weston ‘06 is the type of person who seeks out challenges. In her words, “staying in your comfort zone is no fun!” It is no surprise, then, that Kristin participated in rodeo as a child and runs marathons today. Her personality and drive have led her to pursue a career in nursing that involves working 13-hour night shifts in the High Risk Labor and Delivery Department at Methodist Women’s Hospital in Omaha.

Hello, Kristin! Thank you so much for chatting with us. I understand you’ve lived an exciting life from the start—including some rodeo!

I was born in the town of Pine Ridge and lived there for a short time, but I grew up mostly in Porcupine, SD as a country kid riding horses and, yes, doing rodeo. Participating in rodeo was one of the best parts of my childhood. I mostly did barrel racing and breakaway roping, and I started competing in fifth grade. It was a sport where I could set goals for myself. I would even get a summer job to help pay for my entry fees. My parents instilled in me that if you want to do something you have to work hard for it so, if I really wanted to do it, I had to put my work in.

How exciting! Speaking of your parents, I hear your mom has spent some time at Red Cloud as well.

Yes, my mom has worked at Red Cloud since I was a student there. We would ride into Pine Ridge every day, go to school, then ride home together. I actually started at Red Cloud when they had a program for three-year-olds! I graduated from the high school in 2006 and I have to say that all of my teachers were great. I wouldn’t have loved learning so much if it wasn’t for them. In 5th grade, Pam Lliteras was one of my favorite teachers. She gave us creative projects, including a study of tribal subjects. Another amazing teacher was Wendell Gehman, my high school chemistry teacher. He made science so much fun. All of my older cousins went to Red Cloud and all of my younger cousins are at Red Cloud now.

So Red Cloud is a real part of your family. After graduation, what came next for you?

When I started college, my goal was to become a physical therapist. I had a full-ride scholarship to Creighton University, so I started my major in pre-athletic training and physical therapy. After doing some shadowing and working through the courses, though, I realized that physical therapy was not my calling, it just wasn’t me. This was really confusing because becoming a physical therapist had always been my goal.

Around that time, my grandmother became sick and I saw how the nurses cared for her. I realized then that I wanted to be a nurse. I had to soul search about how to make this change in my course of study. I could take on debt by pursuing [another] degree at Creighton University, or I could go back to Pine Ridge and earn the degree at Oglala Lakota College, which is less expensive. I had to ask myself, “Is it the degree that makes the person or is it what you make of the degree?” After thinking about it, I realized that I know a lot of amazing nurses who have come from Oglala Lakota College, so I decided I would move back to Pine Ridge and study nursing there. 

That sounds like an important moment of transition in your life.

It was. After I earned my Associates Degree in Nursing at Oglala Lakota College, I was awarded the Indian Health Services Scholarship, and worked for two years at Indian Health Services Pine Ridge Hospital in Labor and Delivery in the Obstetrics Department. I then completed an online program at Arizona State University to earn my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Around that time, I met my future husband, and he was going to school in Omaha, NE. We married soon after and I moved to Omaha! Now I work at the Methodist Women’s Hospital in High Risk Obstetrics and Labor and Delivery.

What is the most motivating part of the work that you are doing right now?

I don’t feel like it is work at all! Welcoming new life is amazing—especially seeing parents’ reactions—and I have great people on my team. It’s fun to be around that excitement and joy. The good comes with the bad, though, and you have to help mothers through a loss or being on bedrest in the hospital for a long period of time. You have to do everything you can to lift their spirits. It’s definitely not easy during those draining situations. For the most part it all balances out, though, and it makes it worthwhile to go to work each day.

What is it about who you are that makes you able to comfort people during these incredibly emotional times?

I don’t think it’s something you develop; it’s something you are born with. My mom and dad always taught me to put myself in other people’s shoes. I have to remember that even though I have witnessed birth 101 times, these patients have not. For many people, it’s their first baby and it’s so important to be excited with them and happy with them. Really, it comes back to being kind, compassionate, and understanding.

As you reflect on your life so far, how has your Lakota identity influenced your choices?

As a Lakota, family ties are the most important thing to you. There have been obstacles in my way and times when I really had to reflect—like when I was changing my career from physical therapy to nursing. I was drawn back home to do that because that is where I had the support of my family. Home on the reservation is where I found what I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. I had to be brave to take steps into a whole new career.

Another important [Lakota] value is humility. I want others to see what I’ve accomplished as an example and a source of encouragement, not as boasting. I want to say, “I’ve met my goals, and you can do it too!” 

What is your advice for a young person living on the reservation now?

My advice is to self reflect and set goals. Also, along the way it’s going to be scary—but don’t be scared. It won’t be an easy road, but it’s kind of like running a marathon. I actually just finished a half marathon last weekend and I’m training for another one right now! You might be on an uphill rise and that’s when things get hard and your muscles start giving out, but you just have to keep in mind the end goal. The feeling that you get when you cross that finish line is amazing. I got the same feeling when I got my diploma in the mail from Arizona State University. I thought, “I can’t believe I just got my Bachelor’s in Nursing, while I was working!” I felt so much joy that it made me want to cry!

Is Red Cloud still a part of your life, and how has it made you ready for your future?

I go back to visit Red Cloud often to see teachers and students. I love to watch how the school is developing and seeing how students overcome their challenges and go on to successes. Nakina Mills, the director of student advancement and alumni support, is doing amazing things. She makes the prospect of going to college exciting. Students are going places they never thought they would have gone.

Red Cloud showed me that it is possible to put yourself into a situation that you are not comfortable with. My time at Red Cloud convinced me that my goals were reachable, I just had to challenge myself to go get them. That’s what makes life fun! Staying in your comfort zone is not fun at all. You have to be vulnerable enough to let yourself go out there.


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Photo: Courtesy Kristin Weston
last updated: July 10, 2017