Working as a nurse in a remote or isolated community

Find information on career development and work-life balance for nurses who are the main health care providers for these areas, allowing for a level of autonomy that is uncommon as compared to urban or hospital settings.

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Where nurses work

Nurses work in First Nations communities south of 60 degrees latitude in rural, remote or isolated communities. With more than 600 First Nations communities across Canada, there are 79 nursing stations and over 195 health centres serving these communities. Nurses are often the communities' main point of contact with the health care system. In about half of these primary health care centres, registered nurses are employed by the Government of Canada. In other communities, nurses are employed by band councils, which have responsibility for health care services through a transfer agreement.

Regional offices within the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) employ hundreds of nurses across Canada. The Clinical and Client Care Program within the Primary Health Care Systems Division of FNIHB develops standards, policies and guidelines and leads national initiatives, while regional offices provide various services and supports and manage staff and activities within nursing stations on reserve.

Multidisciplinary teams

Nurses work in nursing stations of 2 to 9 nurses as part of a multidisciplinary team that includes:

Doctors and specialists are available on site from 2 to 12 days per month. When a doctor or nurse practitioner is not available on site, nurses can consult them by telephone.

Services offered

Clients of all ages present with medical conditions that range from minor scrapes and bruises to serious trauma. In addition to primary care, nurses deliver public health programs, including:

Primary care

As there is limited access to hospitals and doctors, nurses in remote communities often provide care that requires advanced knowledge, skills and clinical judgment and a holistic approach to care for clients requiring treatment for routine, acute and emergency health problems, focusing on:

  • health promotion
  • disease prevention
  • illness management
  • clinical assessment

Community health nursing

Nurses working in First Nations communities are responsible for planning and implementing culturally appropriate health programs.

In these nursing positions, you will be challenged and tested to improve and enhance your skill set.

Clinical practical guidelines

The following documents provide assessment resources and clinical practice guidelines for nurses working in First Nations communities:

Learning and career development

Nurse development program

Through the nurse development program, learning plans are individually tailored to identify and develop required competencies to work in primary care settings.

Program development is handled in a step-by-step process. This will help ensure that you are fully prepared to work independently and meet the needs of the community.

In-class orientation

Learning usually begins with an in-class general orientation to better prepare you to work independently in your role.

Field orientation

Following the in-class orientation, you will receive a field orientation where you will work directly with a preceptor. It is at this time that a learning plan will be developed. The length of time you will spend working with a preceptor will depend on your learning needs.

The goal of the learning plan is to identify knowledge, skills and abilities that need to be strengthened. The learning plan will outline specific steps to successfully develop those competencies to progress from novice to expert.

Experiential learning

A strong cultural identity has become an important part of individual and community wellbeing. Communities across the country are proud to share their cultural and traditional activities.

Nurses are encouraged to attend and participate in various community events, cultural and traditional activities to broaden their knowledge, understanding and appreciation of Indigenous cultures.

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