Amber Curtis, Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Health Services director of nursing, enjoys telling stories about seeing her job reflected in the community. Knowing her patients on a deeper level and her dedication led to her nomination as one of the Great 100 Nurses in Oklahoma.
Great 100 Nurses Foundation selects honorees throughout Oklahoma “based on their concern for humanity, their contributions to the profession of nursing and their mentoring of others.” The organization is all about honoring the nurses who make health care experiences great.
Curtis’ background and current job description meet those criteria and her commitment to patients surpasses them. Before working for CPN, she began nursing school in Utah and moved to Oklahoma with her husband, where she graduated from Connors State College in Warner.
Curtis spent 12 years of her professional career as a labor and delivery nurse.
“Some of my babies that I helped deliver have had babies,” Curtis said. “It’s just kind of neat to run into those people in the community.”
Before working in a clinical setting at Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Curtis worked in hospitals. She said one of the main differences between the two is getting to know your patients personally.
“We were giving flu shots out at the grocery store. I came back and then went to my staff meeting and I had three pieces of candy in my hand. I laid it out on the table, and I said, ‘Who did I see at the grocery store?’” she said. “They were able to tell me the three patients that I ran into at the grocery store because they are notorious for spearmint candy, the butterscotch disc and the Sugar Daddy lollipop that I got.”
She has worked at the tribe’s clinic for four years and has seen health services expand. As director of nursing, Curtis oversees staffing and scheduling for both CPN clinics as well as nursing practices with provider coverage.
Curtis takes on additional challenges by working as an sexual assault nurse examiner on a per diem basis for Project Safe. The nonprofit offers free services to sexual and domestic assault victims in Pottawatomie and Lincoln Counties. Curtis was nominated for the award by Carolyn Parks, a colleague at Project Safe and fellow SANE nurse.
“She’s like, ‘You are always doing something!’ So, I think that’s kind of what inspired her to nominate me,” Curtis said. “It’s just odd to be recognized for something; I don’t know, that seems like just the thing that you do every day.”
The September awards ceremony was at Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Curtis said she was surprised by the number of Indian Health Services nurses receiving the honor. During the reception, she sat with several recipients from a Claremore clinic.
Curtis is also a mother, loves to sew and can be seen participating in Oklahoma Historical Society pre-1840s reenactments with her husband and watching her youngest daughter’s cello concerts. Her oldest daughter is following in her mother’s footsteps and is now attending nursing school. For Curtis, that’s what it all comes back to.
“I’ve always been kind of the caregiver, take care of people person. That’s what happens when you’re one of nine kids and especially when you’re in the older group,” she said. “I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to be a nurse.”
Great 100 Nurses also honors 100 nurses in Louisiana and 100 in Arkansas each year.