The Award of Excellence in Nursing celebrates the dedication, initiative and excellence of nurses employed by First Nations communities, Health Canada and Inuit communities who work in partnership to improve the health of Canada's Aboriginal peoples. It is presented every year during National Nursing Week and nurses are nominated for this award by their peers, to recognize the contribution of nurses to First Nations and Inuit communities.
Three registered nurses who work in First Nations and Inuit communities are being recognized during National Nursing Week for their dedication and commitment.
A graduate of the Broadgreen Hospital School of Nursing in Liverpool, England, Sandra began her nursing career as a cadet nurse in 1964. She continued her education with her diploma in midwifery from Billinge Maternity Hospital in Lancashire. After emigrating to Canada with her husband and three sons in 1972, she attended Centennial College in Toronto and graduated with her Canadian certification. Sandra spent 32 years of her career at St Mary's Hospital in Kitchener, 16 years in Labour and Delivery, and 16 years in the Emergency Department, during which time she also taught obstetrics at Conestoga College School of Nursing.
In 2005 after retiring from St Mary's, Sandra realized how much she missed nursing, and embarked on an adventure to the North, spending 1 year in Kashechewan. She immediately loved the First Nations people with their quick sense of humour and honesty. She later moved to Kitchenuhmaykoosib, or Big Trout Lake, where she has worked for the last 10 years.
As a strong and passionate advocate for her community, Sandra has developed healthy lifestyle programs over the years. She participates in many community events and is the coordinator of the pre-natal program. One of her greatest joys is to see several of the babies she has delivered grow into fine young people.
Joyce has been actively practicing nursing for over 40 years. Initially she worked as a staff nurse in a Tertiary level NICU in Calgary. Her adventurous spirit has led her to volunteer on a number of medical mission trips to Central America and to Brazil. In 1992 Joyce ventured out west of Calgary and found employment working for the Stoney First Nations Health services, where she has been working for the past 24 years.
With her strong leadership skills in the position of Home Care Coordinator, she was instrumental in the development of a comprehensive Home Care program. Joyce also earned her CDE (Canadian Diabetes Educator) credentials and spearheaded a Community Wellness program with an emphasis on addressing ways to decrease the effects of diabetes. Along with Diabetes Management clinics, Foot clinics, Walking Groups, she also organized and ran summer camps for kids.
Joyce is an exemplary role model in her belief of “Team Work”. She is eager to help others; to educate; to mentor; and support. Early in her career at Stoney Health Services she was given the nick name “Wha mnuska” by her First Nations colleagues, which in the Stoney dialect means busy ant. Her relentless hard work and caring attitude enables her to touch the lives of her clients and colleagues alike, and ultimately she has gained their trust and their respect.
After receiving her nursing diploma from the Prince Edward Island School of Nursing in 1977, followed by a BScN from Dalhousie University in 1997, Florence Wood completed the Critical Care Nursing Program through the Queen Elizabeth II Health Science centre in 1999. Prior to working as a Community Health Nurse, and later, Supervisor of Health Programs, at Pond Inlet, Florence had worked primarily in Labor and Delivery and critical care at various hospitals in Atlantic Canada. In 2012 she worked in Pangnirtung as acting Director of Health Programs for North Baffin, and returned to Pond Inlet until retiring in February 2016.
Florence was instrumental in the implementation of many health-related programs, such as the Canadian Prenatal Nutrition Program, school breakfast programs and numerous after school programs helping youth and adults make healthy lifestyle choices. As a member of the Nursing Recruitment and Retention Committee, Florence promoted Nunavut as a place for nurses to have an interesting and desirable career. From this committee a nurse practitioner pilot project was initiated that resulted in the creation of numerous Nurse Practitioner positions in Nunavut.
Through her experiences, Florence has developed a great respect for the Inuit culture and way of life, which emphasizes family values as well as their respect for the land, based on their unique knowledge of the environment. As a strong advocate of family-centered care with respect for traditional values, Florence believes in engaging individuals to be active participants in their care and giving them the knowledge and empowerment that enables them to make informed, healthy choices.
A graduate of the University of Alberta’s Baccalaureate of Science in Nursing program (June 2000), Donalda delivers care to community members with integrity and compassion and has strong, respectful relations with Band program leads and community Elders. Fluent in Cree, she communicates effectively with her clients and actively participates in community events. Her calm demeanor, common sense approach and sense of humour quickly endear her to staff members and engender trust among those she leads. She has actively mentored several nursing students from the University of Alberta and is a respected role model. Her commitment to lifelong learning is evidenced in her pending graduation from Yorkville University’s Masters of Arts in Counseling Psychology.
Donalda has worked as Nurse in Charge at Paul First Nation since March 2012. Prior to that she worked as a community health nurse in Saddle Lake First Nation, served as Nurse in Charge at Frog Lake Morningsky Health & Wellness Society and was Nurse in Charge for Kehewin Health Services.
Elizabeth Henderson has worked with the Beausoleil First Nation, effectively managing its home community care service since 2005. As an exemplary role model, Beth is well-respected among her peers, staff, senior management and the leadership and members of the community. She joined the Beausoleil Family Health Centre as a Community Health Nurse, assumed the role of Home Care Nurse and subsequently was promoted to the role of Case Manager/Coordinator managing the center's Circle of Care program. She actively takes on frontline nursing activities to support her staff and recently assumed a senior management role in the absence of the Health Director, assuming new challenges with enthusiasm and a high standard of professionalism.
One nominee said, "Beth puts her heart and soul into promoting health and wellbeing in the Beausoleil First Nation community and always goes above and beyond." Her vision, innovation and commitment to growing and expanding nursing services in the community was instrumental in the development of a seniors center, recently expanded to accommodate growing demand, personal support worker services and a nursing team comprised of 5 full-time and 2 part-time nurses who oversee a range of programs including Aging at Home, Foot care, Palliative Care, Diabetes Education, walk-in services and a variety of health education in-services.
Larry graduated from nursing in 1991, following a career as Company manger in the arts realm, working with companies like the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Canadian Opera Company. He has worked as a nurse and nurse practitioner with First Nations and Inuit communities throughout Northern Ontario, the Yukon, and since 2005 in the Beaufort Delta region of the Northwest Territories. Initially he worked in both Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk, but since 2007 his home has been in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT. He currently serves as primary nurse for clients with diabetes and chronic kidney disease (CKD), liaising with health professionals in Yellowknife, Inuvik and Edmonton and teaching clients, one-on-one how to manage their symptoms. One of his greatest strengths is his passion for nursing and primary health care. He is also one of the most recognized nurses in the community, actively participating in community functions and appreciated by many.
Growing up in Flin Flon, Manitoba Alison developed a sincere respect and appreciation for the plight of First Nations. In 1984 she graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing degree from the University of Manitoba and continues to expand her knowledge in nursing. She says accurate history taking and physical assessments are key to her nursing success, especially being located in a remote and isolated area.
Alison has worked as a Community Health Nurse (CHN) in South Indian Lake Nursing Station in northern Manitoba for the past 15 years. It's where she met and "fell in love with the area, staff and community members", as well as her husband George. Recently Alison and George relocated to Winnipeg; however, she continues to nurse in South Indian Lake on a part-time basis. Alison is an avid camper and boater who loves to fish and read novels by foreign authors.
Alison has had an adventurous and extraordinary nursing career. Soon after graduating she worked with Doctors without Borders, UNICEF and CUSO and practised nursing in several countries, including Sudan, Somalia, Angola, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Brazil. The turmoil and devastation of war served to harden her resolve to provide quality healthcare to those in need. She took particular pride in training local staff to provide healthcare services to their people long after she left the country.
Alison says letting people know they are not alone, that someone cares and that she is there to listen has been central to her success in a nursing career that has spanned 30 years.
Lianne graduated from the Northern Nursing Program in Yellowknife with her diploma in nursing in 2003. After working in various nursing positions, Lianne then took the opportunity to pursue her degree in Nursing from the University of Alberta, which she completed in 2012. To Lianne family is everything and to that end, she returned home post-graduation to her home community of Behchoko, NWT to a Community Health Nursing (CHN) position at the local health centre. She is the only person in her region to have completed a degree in nursing, which is viewed as quite an achievement. In particular, the Elders are very proud of her accomplishments especially since Lianne is so strong in her Dene traditions, language (Tlicho) and culture, as well as her ability to bring knowledge of western medicine.
Lianne says returning to her home community to practice nursing has offered both rewards and challenges as there can be high expectations when one returns to their home community after a long absence. Lianne is currently the acting Nurse in Charge (NIC).
Lianne, in her spare time, loves to read and go for long walks. It has been said about Lianne that she is "strong like two people" in that she has an abundance of determination and exhibits a high degree of independence. Combined, these characteristics make her a good community role model and enable her to embrace change and to be uniquely different. Lianne is a respected leader in her community and hopes that along the way she is able to "make a difference".
Rachel successfully obtained her RN Diploma from a hospital-based program at the Basingstoke District General Hospital in England in 1985. She then trained to become a Midwife graduating in 1987. Rachel, hearing many interesting things about Labrador, NFLD, decided to make the trek across the ocean to Canada in 1989. While she enjoyed her "new home", she decided to move back to England to complete her Masters in Midwifery in 1997 at the University of Wales. Since returning to Canada, Rachel has worked in a variety of remote and isolated First Nations and Inuit Communities. Rachel thrives on autonomous practice as a Community Health Nurse (CHN) and since 2005 she has been the Nurse in Charge (NIC) in Aklavik, NWT.
Being a true life-long learner, Rachel is currently enrolled in the Nurse Practitioner Program in Yellowknife. When she graduates in 2015, she will return to her home in Aklavik to continue to provide excellent nursing services to her adopted community. It has been noted that Rachel is a great role model and mentor to students, staff and community members. She believes that being a mentor to a student or a colleague "is a given". She strongly believes that it is important to nurture and support those around you and, in fact, it is your duty to do so.
Rachel loves to play the piano and recorder. She is also an avid reader and collects Canadian stamps. A hobby she inherited from her father. Rachel would like everyone to know that she has, and continues to, value her time in the north and that she has collected a wealth of information from its people especially the Elders. She encourages everyone to "go north", noting it has been an experience of a lifetime for her!