Having just graduated from Queen’s University with a degree in science and nursing this past spring at the age of 26, Mistissini’s Desiree Petawabano’s academic career is nowhere near over and she couldn’t be happier.

Petawabano has already worked in the hospital in Chisasibi for two years. But she loves to challenge herself and so the plan is to keep up the academic work while working in the field in the south.

In 2010, at the age of 22, she graduated from Heritage College with a nursing DEC, and then went on to obtain her Quebec RN license in Fall 2011 and her Ontario RN license with the College of Nurses Ontario in Fall 2012. Now, she has just started studying for her Critical Care Certificate, which is a post-graduate course at Algonquin College.

“My short-term goal is to complete the critical care specialty certificate in Ottawa. My interest after completing this certificate is to apply to the critical care unit at the Ottawa Heart Institute or working in related acute care settings, such as a step-down unit, postanesthesia care unit (PACU), or an emergency department,” said Petawabano.

Her long-term plan is to obtain a master’s degree in nursing with primary health care (adults) or clinical specialist entry.

With this kind of training, Petawabano would be able to work as an administrator, a teacher or a researcher.

Nursing appealed to Petawabano because she has a keen interest in science, particularly microbiology, and felt she has the right personality for the field.

“I am really caring – and that goes well with nursing. I saw myself as a person working with people, having good interpersonal skills, such as communication and caring. I picked my career choice because I want to make a difference in people’s lives and nursing allows me to do that,” said Petawabano.

Petawabano’s goal is to return home as a nurse. She credits support from the Cree School Board and her family for making this possible. Working at the Chisasibi hospital helped her realize the impact she could have.

“When I work with the elderly, I am always reminded of why I went into nursing. Because I can communicate with them in Cree, right away this lifts them up and you can start to see a smile on their faces. When I work with elderly people I feel like I am making a difference in their lives,” said Petawabano.

While nursing is a very demanding profession with long hours, Petawabano says it’s a field with opportunities to branch out into many different careers. At this point, with a bachelor’s degree, she could actually teach nursing to college students.

“The message I would give to future nursing students is if you like to work with people, if you like to challenge yourself, and if you like to work in a stimulating, diverse and interactive environment, then nursing is a way to go,” said Petawabano.