Support Nursing Students working in Northern Canada
Queen’s School of Nursing graduate Shalisa Barton was transformed by her experience working in the north in her fourth year of studies. Shalisa is an Indigenous woman who is interested in incorporating more humanity into her role as a nurse. When she was invited to participate in Operation Remote Immunity (ORI) (add hyperlink), an initiative whereby residents, medical and nursing students would travel to remote Indigenous communities to deliver COVID-19 vaccines, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore that concept.
“I went into nursing because I wanted to work with people and support them through these very vulnerable moments in their lives” says Shalisa. “I loved my experience with these remote communities because healthcare there is very person-centric. We didn’t have slotted appointments, nor was there a set amount of time that you had to spend with each patient. This allowed us to develop very therapeutic relationships with the individuals coming into the clinic. We talked through their concerns, talked about their lives and their families, and made sure that they knew we were there to support them regardless of whether or not they decided to get the vaccine.”
Led by ORNGE, a Canadian non-profit air ambulance service, ORI began in early February 2021 and supported 31 communities from the James Bay Coast all the way to the border of Manitoba. Queen’s University was one of three post-secondary institutions involved in the initiative, sending four teams made up of healthcare professionals and learners to administer vaccines.
In addition to its impact on remote communities in northern Ontario, ORI also acted as a transformative educational experience for the learners who were involved. The initiative offered interdisciplinary teams of learners the opportunity to practice in an environment that is vastly different from the one they are used to. For some of these learners, their experiences with ORI have not only shaped the way that they think about healthcare but have encouraged them to pursue careers in rural or remote settings.
For Shalisa, her experience with ORI has helped to make her dream of a career in Indigenous health a reality; she recently secured a position with Weeneebayko General Hospital in Moose Factory and began practicing as a nurse following her graduation last spring. It seems the benefits of this service-learning experience will be far-reaching indeed.
Support students like Shalisa when you contribute to the Northern Canada Nursing Study Award. This award is given students in their fourth year of the Bachelor of Nursing Science program wishing to broaden their studies through a practicum placement, with preference given to a placement in northern Canada.