Audrey Bercier

DSCN1899 Audrey Bercier, Turtle Mountain Chippewa, is a PA at the Quentin Burdick Memorial Healthcare Facility. She loves taking care of her own people. When the article below was published, she was a PA student.

Preparing to Give More

Audrey Bercier, Turtle Mountain Chippewa, is a PA student based at the Quentin Burdick Memorial Healthcare Facility on her reservation. She was a nurse at this Indian Health Service (IHS) facility before entering the University of North Dakota (UND) PA Program. Bercier’s preceptor is Dr. Richard Larson, Turtle Mountain Chippewa, who was recognized in 2006 as IHS Physician of the Year.

Bercier says, “As a PA student I’m doing some of the same things that I did as a nurse, but now I’m doing a lot more. Now I’m examining patients and prescribing medication, but I’m still educating patients. I’m big on education. I firmly believe that education empowers patients.”

Bercier is happy in her new role. “I feel overwhelming pride from the community and the staff at the hospital. When I do something, like suture up a cut, my old nursing colleagues give me a pat on the back. They are very supportive. The physicians know I’m a hard worker.”

Bercier describes her classmates as highly motivated. “I think they feel the same kind of calling that I do,” she says. “When we graduate, we want to go back to our homes in small towns or rural areas and help our people. Like me, they have a passion for their people.”

Journey

“I was always interested in science, particularly biology and medicine,” says Bercier. "I felt that nursing would be a good career because it would give me a lot of interaction with patients.” Bercier is respectful of nursing and enjoyed her work as a nurse, but she wanted to give even more to her people. “I choose the UND PA Program, partly because they were focusing on nurses who wanted to become PAs. The program has a lot of “hands on.” The curriculum is built on your nursing knowledge.”

Bercier has received a great deal of support from her family. “When I’m on campus for the didactic courses, my husband, Chris, is a single parent. He does that without complaint. I practice some of my skills on my four-year-old son, Tucker. He’s a perfect example of a normal physical exam.

“My parents are really proud and happy that I decided to further my education. Education has always been important in our family. We always had to do our homework before doing other things. We had to do our best.”

Bercier’s grandparents, Patricia and Raymond Belgarde, are part of the group of Elders that contributed to the content of the PA curriculum on the care of the elderly. They are also serving as “standardized patients” in the evaluation of PA students. “My grandparents are obviously very supportive. I think part of their motivation in helping the program is that I’m in the program.”

Advice

Bercier can quickly list the things a potential PA may want to do. "Volunteer at a hospital. Check out the different professions and roles. When you’re in high school, take a lot of science and math. Prepare yourself for college so it’s not a big shock. Always keep your goals in mind. Try not to get distracted. Be prepared to be a student for the rest of your life."
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This article was originally published in the Winter 2007 issue of Winds of Change.

Update 2008

1/25/08, Bercier wrote: "I graduated in May of 2007. At that tine I was also inducted into the PA National Honor Society - Phi Alpha. I have been employed at the Quentin N. Burdick Memorial Indian Health Facility in Belcourt, North Dakota since July of 2007. I primarily have a very busy outpatient practice but plan to start going into some outpatient surgical procedures in the future. I totally enjoy my job and love taking care of my own people on my own reservation - Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. I also love working along side the same great people I worked with as a nurse."