My journey began in the fall of 1989 when I entered the nursing program at John Abbott College in Ste. Anne De Bellevue. I was young and unprepared to commit 100 per cent. So I made a choice to discontinue my studies. A couple of years passed and I returned a little maturer. But it was not until I overcame some personal factors that stood in my way of achieving my goal that I could concentrate and give my full potential. I graduated in the winter of 1995 and wrote the licensing exam on January 22, 1996. A month later I received my license to practice as a registered nurse. Almost three years have passed since then.

Perhaps it is because I am still a “new” nurse, I still believe that I can make a difference in patient care. There is a gap between the education that I received and the reality of practice. My advice to new Cree nurses is to remain open-minded to
different perspectives and to carefully observe the energy of more experienced nurses. Fortunately, I have met with nurses who “coach” me in ways to maintain my idealism and vision while I am acquiring the skill and perspectives that I need to become effective in the system.

Meanwhile, what I love the most about nursing is it provides meaningful work and challenges one’s capabilities. However, the chronic understaffing, frequent shift changes and weekend work can be exhausting and create tension at work and home. This is when I question if the emotional rewards are worth more than my family? I know I can be replaced at work. So I do not feel guilty about occasionally refusing to work overtime.

Because I care about my career too, I continue to set new goals and envision my career in nursing going further. Naturally, it also means returning to the south and attending university in a year or two. I
would like to see a new health-care delivery system in Chisasibi, but before we can do that, we need to redefine what is health.

Keeping healthy is not something new to the Cree people. Our previous way of life was about eating sensibly, keeping active and taking care of our emotional health. In fact this is the Cree definition of health.

Our leaders speak of our children being our future leaders. The time to build these leaders is now. A child who is encouraged to ask questions and whose questions are answered may be our first Cree doctor. I believe that as a parent and your child’s first teacher, you are the most important person in your child’s life.

Since I started in Chisasibi in September 1996, I have met many healers, doctors and nurses who taught me a lot of important lessons, but the most important one was about the healing power of caring, which my patients have taught me. In this atmosphere of changes, we need to keep pace individually and professionally. As a nurse, I enjoy helping people who want to be involved in managing their own health.