Nellie 'Nel' Benally was born and raised in the Ganado/Greasewood area. She is the eldest of 10 children, brought up under her maternal grandmother's and her parents' strong cultural influence. She started elementary school at Greasewood, at the age of 11 and graduated from high school in Phoenix.
Benally received her associate of science degree in nursing at University of Albuquerque and 19 years later, obtained her bachelor of science in nursing at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
She started work at Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation in the early '80s. Benally has worked her way up in the emergency room to a nurse manager position. She currently is a house supervisor of the Tuba City Hospital.
Benally attributes all her positive qualities to two significant people in her life, her grandmother and her father.
"I believe that no matter what, anyone can attain what he or she wants to be in life," she said. "This takes a lot of personal commitment, conviction, positive self image, a willingness to take risks to get ahead in life and a strong determined mind. You are never poor, you can be poor and deprived materialistically, but always have abundance of richness with your intellectual power that you can exercise to maximize yourself to whatever you want to be in life."
Benally will be retiring soon after 43 years of professional nursing. She said she believes, because she is a native person fluent in the Navajo language, she comes closer to meeting her native patients' health needs. Benally pointed out that this is a very important relationship when it comes to caring for patients because this give the patient a closer understanding about health care issues. She stated that through her unique nursing profession she could utilize her education, knowledge and technical skills to assist her native people at an optimal level here on native country.
"Helping my Native American people elevating their standard of living and health gives me personal satisfaction and gratification as a longtime veteran of the Indian Health Service mission and vision," Benally said.
Take that first step
Anyone interested in becoming a medical professional such as a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, X-ray technician or medical lab technologist, please contact Lt. Stephen D. Navarro at 928-283-2710 or Lt. Shannon Newland at 928-283-2598.
(US Public Health Service Lt. Stephen D. Navarro is a nurse recruiter at Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation.)