What inspired me to become a nurse in a First Nations community

Why Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) nurses love their jobs and what inspired them to apply.

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Meet our nurses

Meet ISC nurses and learn why they love working in First Nations communities.

Transcript for video: Meet Indigenous Services Canada nurses

Jessica Zwaagstra: My name is Jessica Zwaagstra. I am the nurse in charge here in the Mishkeegogamang Nursing Clinic.

Text on screen: Jessica Zwaagstra, Nurse in Charge, Indigenous Services Canada

My name is Kenn Aseron. I'm a public health nurse here at Mish.

Text on screen: Kenn Aseron, Public Health Nurse, Indigenous Services Canada

Lana Angeconeb: My name is Lana Angeconeb. I am a community health nurse with ISC.

I'm a Mohawk from Six Nations Reserve and I'm Turtle Clan. So, working in First Nations communities has always meant everything to me.

Text on screen: Lana Angeconeb, Community Health Nurse, Indigenous Services Canada

Lana Angeconeb: I love nursing in First Nations communities because it is exciting. I love the people, working with the people, seeing people, and each community is unique and has its own specialness about it. 

Jessica Zwaagstra: My favorite part about working in First Nations community is freedom of schedule, freedom of finance, and being part of something bigger than myself.

Kenn Aseron: I get to see the progress of my work, and I get to see the results of my work, which is not always true when you're working in an acute care setting in the South.

Lana Angeconeb: There's so much to learn. Every day I'm learning something about the culture, about the communities that I'm working in and living in.

Jessica Zwaagstra: I wanted to be able to do a little bit more than what I was doing in the hospital and I just sort of took a chance on it a little bit and I loved it.

Kenn Aseron: When we work in the hospital setting, you see them once and then you don't see them again. Whereas when you work in a First Nations community, you get to know the patients because you're calling them back in for follow ups.

Lana Angeconeb: You get to know families, you get to know babies, you get to see them grow up in the different stages—and that's really nice.

Jessica Zwaagstra: I think on the emotional side of things you get to do, it's taxing, it's hard, it's stressful. But then at the same time, you get to build a community. You get to have a family with the people you work with.

Kenn Aseron: I continue to do this job on a daily basis, and I keep coming back because I find that it's nice to be able to see results and I like seeing that my work is making a difference here.

Lana Angeconeb: As an Indigenous person, it really means a lot to me to be working here. I've always wanted to serve our people, and I'm so proud to say that my whole career has been nursing in First Nations, Indigenous communities.

Jessica Zwaagstra: I've been here for a couple of years. I've spent a lot of time learning about the families, connecting with the families, being involved in events. And so, for me, when I come here, it feels like home.

Text on screen: Come nurse with us in First Nations communities!

Text on screen: Canada wordmark

Read about their experiences

Kristen Chodoriwsky
Community Health Nurse, Webequie, Ontario

Kristen Chodoriwsky standing on the side of a road in a northern community.
Kristen Chodoriwsky, Community Health Nurse, Webequie, Ontario.

I knew that I wanted to work for ISC since graduating from nursing school in early 2017.

Some of the biggest highlights for me would be the relationships you get to build with the people of the community you serve, as well as your coworkers. It's incredibly special to complete a brand new baby's first ever well-baby visit, and then follow up with the child as they get older. It's very rewarding, especially when this small child and their caregiver remember you! Having earned your community's trust, and having your patients ask for you by name, is something I cherish about my experience with ISC.

And there is always a sense of camaraderie amongst the nurses. You truly understand the importance of having each other's back.

The schedule also allows for a full work-life balance. When you're home, you're home. I have been able to do things with my life that a traditional nursing shiftwork schedule would never allow for.

There are tons of opportunities for growth and promotions. There is never a dull moment and every day is different. Working for ISC as a nurse offers RNs opportunities to broaden your knowledge and skills that you would never receive while working in a hospital setting in the south.

This area of nursing is truly a hidden gem. Every chance I get I try to encourage other nurses not currently working for ISC to give it a try, because it is truly special and unique.

Melissa Turk-Fayle
Registered Practical Nurse, Kashechewan Cree First Nation, Ontario

Melissa Turk-Fayle boarding a plane on her nursing journey.
Melissa Turk-Fayle, Registered Practical Nurse, Kashechewan Cree First Nation, Ontario.

I saw a posting and I knew that was my sign to apply. I took a leap of faith and I am so happy I did!

When I arrived in community, I was warmly welcomed by the clinic staff. I was supported and continue to be supported. Working alongside nurses who come from a different skill sets makes for an incredible team. Everyone works together and there is teamwork like I have never seen.

My favorite part about nursing in the north is the diversity of patients. You see infants to the elderly with a wide variety of health conditions. Developing relationships and seeing the difference you can make in the lives of community members is so rewarding.

I have never worked in an environment where I felt like I was an important piece of the puzzle until I joined ISC. I see something different every day and my knowledge base has expanded exponentially. If your lifestyle can accommodate this kind of work, give it a try. For me, it was the best career move I have ever made.

Morgan Courtney
Community Health Nurse, Fort Hope, Ontario

Morgan Courtney enjoying the scenery of the North.
Morgan Courtney, Community Health Nurse, Fort Hope, Ontario.

I live in Newfoundland and I always knew I wanted to experience nursing elsewhere. Working with ISC has given me the chance to work in a one-of-a-kind environment while still getting to go home on my time off.

I have learned so much about our First Nations in my short time with ISC. Take every opportunity to engage in the community! One of my favorite experiences was when a community member took us nurses canoeing and fishing. Absolutely beautiful.

Virginia Wavey
Registered Nurse, Garden Hill First Nation, Manitoba

Virginia Wavey.
Virginia Wavey, Registered Nurse, Garden Hill First Nation, Manitoba.

My favorite part of my nursing career is providing a space for healing for our clients that is based on respectful, nurturing environments and leaving them in a good way once they exit my exam room.

The approach I use is based on my cultural values that I grew up with in my community. It has been a rewarding career and, as an Indigenous nurse, I have accomplished my goals to give back to community which is part of my value system.

My path was not easy, but I persevered through all systems in our colonial history to impact positive change for communities. I come from a long line of Indigenous healers, and this is my role in my work. At the age of 52, I carry many teachings based on respect towards collectively rebuilding relationships at this level.

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