The Cree students who are part of the English-language Nursing Program that is offered in Chibougamau started their internships in Montreal. The students were greeted by members of the Jewish General and St. Mary’s hospitals with a special event headlined by Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Isheroff.

The event took place Nov. 9 at the Jewish General Hospital and was emceed by Carole Tremblay, the Pedagogical Advisor of the Centre d’études collégiales à Chibougamau (CÉCC).

Iserhoff said how proud he was of the students knowing the hardships they had gone through to take the program. He stressed the importance of trained medical personal in the Cree communities. “Believe in yourselves and you will succeed in graduating.”

Iserhoff went on to mention the other guests, some of whom were nurses who were looking forward to working with the Cree students and learning about their culture. Solange Piché from the Cree Health Board stressed how important the Cree nurses would be in their respective communities. She talked about how they would be dealing with everything from childcare to the Elders and from diabetes prevention to emergency care.

“Hands-on care is the most important thing you can learn,” said Piché. “The goal of this event is to help our students reach their goal. You choose a profession that makes a difference in your community and, more importantly, in our society.”

Jane Chambers-Evans from the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) has a long history working with the CHB. “When we were contacted by the CÉCC to head up this project we were excited to be working with the Cree Health Board as well as other First Nation health services. We are happy to be helping build the clinical part of this program.”

Chambers-Evans echoed the importance of nurses in Aboriginal communities and stressed that nurses must balance the technical as well as the nurturing aspects of the position and that it was a big job to be a professional nurse.

Agnes and Sandra are two of the Cree students taking the program. Sandra who worked at Chissaibi hospital as a receptionist got the nursing bug watching the staff work. She wanted to be a part of the team of doctors and nurses that worked on patients rather than staying on the sidelines.

When Agnes had her children she had a nurse who took care of her and made her feel safe and important. This personal experience has motivated Agnes to want to be a nurse and provide the same degree of care she received.

“It’s so important to have nurses who share the same culture. It’s our culture and language which will help provide better care in the end,” said Agnes.

“Especially for the Crees because our language is so different and isn’t easily translated,” added Sandra. “With us working as nurses, we will be able to find out what patients need much faster.”

The two went on to say how important it was to have members of the community helping each other in their language. Bringing solid experience to communities that are short staffed and being role models to their respective communities. “It’s going to help build respect in the community, it will go a long way if we speak their language to them,” said Sandra.