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St. Joe’s nurses are dedicated to providing reliable, quality care for our patients, and in some cases, their passion can take them beyond the borders of our catchment area.
Meet Susan Short, Sally Jakabowski and Carmela Sorbara - three nurses who have travelled to Northern Canada to do work placements. During Nursing Week they shared their experiences with their St. Joe’s colleagues describing in detail the working conditions, specific problems facing First Nations people and the real need for additional nurses in Canada’s North.
The theme to all three of these stories are similar: treatment centres were not like regular hospitals. In some instances, rooms in the treatment centres were used for several purposes – treating patients, storage and everything else that these tiny centres needed to provide. Carmela described a time when she was treating a patient and was interrupted because a nurse needed access to the supply cupboard. “It was not unusual for other people to walk into your room during an examination,” said Carmela. “Buildings were small and space was tight, but we made the most of the situation.”
Rationing was another daily aspect of the job these nurses had to cope with so they could stretch their resources as wisely as possible. The nurses said the lack of resources was often their biggest challenge. “All supplies were flown in and we didn’t have oxygen pipes in the walls,” said Carmela. “Once you finished your oxygen, you would have to wait until more was shipped to you.”
Unlike a hospital inundated with doctors, each nurse described their job as highly autonomous. “You had to call the doctor (by phone) but for the most part, the nurses dealt with everything,” said Sue. In some rare instances there was a doctor on site, allowing nurses to consult with them directly.
Sally shared a difficult story about her first working experience in Nunavut where she answered a call from a man who was contemplating suicide. She didn’t have a lot of experience dealing directly with patients who were in crisis and was mostly accustomed to directing them to a psychiatrist or connecting them with other mental health supports.
“Oftentimes, (people) simply need someone to listen to them,” she said. By listening to her patient, she calmed him down and was able to discuss his problems and more importantly work with him to develop multiple coping strategies for the future.
As each nurse spoke, it became more apparent how much the First Nations needs more nurses in their communities and how much value is placed on the health care services they provide. “It is important for nurses to become involved (in the community),” said Sue. “By being involved, you gain the respect of the people you’re treating.”
This experience allowed the nurses to use their skills to give back to other communities, extend their knowledge outside the Health Centre and then bring back the lessons learned to share with colleagues inside the organization. It’s challenging but rewarding work that has clearly left lasting impressions with these three St. Joe’s nurses.