Awards of Excellence in Nursing

The Award of Excellence in Nursing celebrates the dedication, initiative and excellence of nurses employed by First Nations communities, Indigenous Services Canada and Inuit communities who work in partnership to improve the health of Indigenous peoples in Canada. It is presented every year during National Nursing Week and nurses are nominated for this award by their peers to recognize the contribution of nurses to First Nations and Inuit communities.

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2022 Annual Award of Excellence in Nursing: call for nominations

Past award winners

2022: Award recipients

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Awards of Excellence in Nursing 2022

This year’s recipients…

Hannah Gray, RN

Community health nurse in Sandy Lake First Nation, Ontario

Hannah loves Sandy Lake, and has created a culture of integrity and learning in the nursing station.

Sandy Lake see her as a partner and have appreciated her support and guidance with the pandemic.

Hannah is grateful to the community of Sandy Lake, the Health Centre staff and nurses. She hopes this award highlights the strength of the community and team around her.

Alexa Bisaillon, RN

Health Services Manager in Gwa’sala-'Nakwaxda’xw First Nation, British Colombia

Alexa is a passionate advocate for decolonized, trauma-informed healthcare and the right to self-determination as a cornerstone of Indigenous health.

Alexa feels intensely privileged to be able to provide care and dedicates this award to the community.

Elizabeth Oguntuase, NP

Supervisor of Health Programs & Nurse Practitioner in Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut

Elizabeth’s nursing practice has been centered around life-long learning, keeping current, mentoring others and striving for excellence.

Throughout her nursing journey, Elizabeth has learned from some excellent nurses, support workers, and others in healthcare.

Lee Ann Sock, RN

Home & Community Care Program Nurse Manager in Elsipogtog First Nation, New Brunswick

Lee Ann loves her community and has been fulfilling her lifelong goal of providing nursing care to her people for the past 27 years.

Lee Ann is grateful to be recognized and chosen for this award and would like to dedicate it in the memory her sister, mentor and nursing role model, Margaret Levy.

Alexa Bisaillon

Alexa Bisaillon

Alexa Bisaillon is a passionate advocate for decolonized, trauma-informed healthcare and the right to self-determination, as a cornerstone of Indigenous health.

Born in Montreal, Quebec, Alexa completed their nursing diploma at Dawson College before pursuing both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing at McGill University. They worked in internal medicine and hematology, before turning their skills toward community-based health, psychiatry and harm reduction.

In 2017, Alexa spent time as a frontline nurse serving the unhoused population in Calgary, Alberta. They then moved to remote Alexis Creek, British Columbia to work in community health for the Tl’etinqox-t’in people. After moving to Port Hardy on the northern tip of Vancouver Island to work in mental health and harm reduction, Alexa was offered a nursing position at the Gwa’sala-'Nakwaxda’xw First Nations community-based health clinic.

As the COVID pandemic hit Vancouver Island, Alexa was the only nurse working full-time in the community of 750 people. They led service delivery and pandemic response while developing a managed alcohol and harm reduction program.

When not at community events, gardening, travelling or adventuring outdoors, Alexa volunteers in animal rescue. They feel intensely privileged to be able to provide care and dedicate this award to the community.

Lee Ann Sock

Lee Ann Sock

Lee Ann Sock had always dreamed of becoming a nurse like her beloved older sister. For the past 27 years, Lee Ann has been fulfilling her lifelong goal of providing nursing care to her people. As a proud Migmag from Elsipogtog First Nation, New Brunswick, Lee Ann loves her community fiercely.

After graduating in 1995 from the University of New Brunswick with a Bachelor of Nursing, Lee Ann has worked in various nursing roles. She has journeyed from working as the Elsipogtog Health & Wellness Centre’s Community Health Nurse, to their Home & Community Care Program Nurse, and is now their Home & Community Care Program Nurse Manager and Maternal & Child Health Program Manager.

In 2020, she took on the role of the COVID-19 Pandemic Coordinator. With her exceptional leadership, Lee Ann has played an integral part of ensuring the community’s safety and wellbeing throughout the pandemic.

Lee Ann passionately strives to provide and advocate for high quality nursing care for First Nation People. She is honoured to support mothers who are bringing new life to this world, and to also care for Elders when they are ready to continue their journey to the spirit world.

Lee Ann is a community role model and is strongly supported by her loving husband of 28 years, 3 daughters and 4, soon to be 5, grandchildren. She is grateful to be recognized and chosen for this award and would like to dedicate it in the memory her sister, mentor and nursing role model, Margaret Levy.

Hannah Gray

Hannah Gray

Since 2019, Hannah Gray has worked in Sandy Lake where her love of the north has deepened, she has met amazing colleagues and friends, and has connected with the community through feasts and time together.

After completing her Bachelors of Science in Nursing at the University of Ottawa, Hannah started her career in the city’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, taking pride in caring for some of the hospital’s smallest patients. It was in the NiCU that she strengthened her assessment and communication skills. Upon discovering her love of supporting nurses through education, Hannah has taught nursing in both the Bachelors program and practical nursing program.

Hannah loves Sandy Lake, and has created a culture of integrity and learning in the nursing station, while prioritizing good humour and peer support. Sandy Lake sees her as a partner and has appreciated her support and guidance with the pandemic. She works alongside the community to support their initiatives and partnerships. The nurses who work in Sandy Lake continually return thanks to the positive atmosphere around the clinic.

When not in the north, Hannah enjoys being home with her husband and new puppy. She enjoys canoeing, eating good ice cream and travelling the world.

Hannah is grateful to the community of Sandy Lake, the Health Centre staff and nurses. She also thanks her friends and family for their support while she is away from home. She hopes this award highlights the strength of the community and team around her.

Elizabeth Oguntuase

Elizabeth Oguntuase

Elizabeth Oguntuase’s nursing practice has been centered around life-long learning, keeping current, mentoring others and striving for excellence.

Elizabeth currently works at the community health centre in Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut, as a Supervisor of Health Programs & Nurse Practitioner (NP). After completing undergraduate studies and working in a variety of clinical settings, she returned to school and completed a Master of Nursing - Nurse Practitioner degree.

Elizabeth’s journey to northern nursing started during her undergraduate studies when she chose to go to northern Saskatchewan for her public health nursing practicum. She returned from La Ronge and Air Ronge, Saskatchewan, with a new perspective on nursing in Indigenous communities. She was greatly inspired by the skill of the public health nurses in the north, and was motivated by their commitment to their work and to the communities they served. The experience left a lasting impression and helped shape her nursing philosophy and the course of her career.

Elizabeth has served communities in Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Ontario, and Nunavut over her career. She has worked in rehabilitation, long-term care, emergency, labour & delivery, management, advanced community nursing, as well as a visiting nurse with Victoria Order of Nurses. Along this journey, she learned from some excellent nurses, support workers, and others in healthcare. Their inspiration is instrumental in her being considered for this award.

Elizabeth feels honoured and privileged to provide healthcare in a setting that fosters cultural fluency and intelligence.

2021: Award recipients

Jennifer Lister

Jennifer Lister

With her children raised and a decades-old career in a declining industry ended, Jennifer Lister decided to act on her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse. At the age of 50, it may have seemed liked an unrealistic career change for many, but for Jennifer, she knew community nursing was her true path. Within months of graduating in 2013, Jennifer accepted a community health nurse role with the Mushuau Innu First Nation in the remote, isolated community of Natuashish on the north coast of Labrador.

Jennifer currently works as a public health nurse serving a population of over 1,100 community members living in Natuashish. Jennifer provides healthcare services for all ages of community members, ranging from pre-natal patients to the care of community Elders. There are many competing priorities in the community and the COVID-19 pandemic has added to the list.

Travel and access to the community of Natuashish presents many challenges with longer stays up north. With no roads to the north coast, the community can be accessed by air on a year-round basis and, depending on the weather, by coastal ocean vessel for about 5 months each year.

But despite these challenges, Jennifer highlights that the People of the Barrens are beautiful and resilient, and their lands are stark and stunning. Jennifer has always been a fan of winter activities and the opportunities for snowshoeing and cross country skiing can be an everyday event in Natuashish for those who have the free time.

Jennifer's position in the community features partnerships with the regional health authority, other Indigenous communities, governments and health secretariats. If the community is short on resources, Jennifer can be heard saying, "Let's do our best with what we have to work with."

Jennifer sincerely hopes this award will help to give the community recognition, illuminate the needs of the people and inspire some additional intrepid souls to head north!

Video: Jennifer Lister

Krystel Cyra Kho

Krystel Cyra Kho

Krystel Cyra Kho comes from a family of nurses, beginning with her aunt who had over 50 years of service in the profession. Although she originally wanted to be a lawyer, Krystel developed a passion for nursing after caring for her sick aunt who passed away from cancer. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, passed the licensure examination and became a registered nurse in the Philippines. Although she was raised and studied in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, she practiced as a registered nurse in the remote island community of Samar.

Krystel immigrated to Toronto, Ontario, where she was able to balance her work and studies to become an internationally trained nurse. She successfully challenged the licensure examination through the College of Nurses of Ontario to become a registered nurse in Canada. In 2012, she started her career in northern nursing, working as a Licensed Practical Nurse and Acting Manager at the Continuing Care Centre in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut. After passing an exam in March 2014, Krystel became a member of both the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario and Registered Nurses Association of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Following this, she was hired as Supervisor of Home and Community Care in Taloyoak, Nunavut. In 2018, she worked as Community Health Nurse and then as Supervisor of Health Programs at the Kugluktuk Health Centre in Nunavut.

Krystel is often invited to participate in activities on the land to learn more about Inuit culture, such as hunting and fishing. She builds effective relationships with those she interacts with in Nunavut. Even while on sick leave, Krystel is known to take calls to help with emergencies and provide guidance to staff. Her supervisory expertise, relationship with Indigenous peoples and ability to adapt to the needs of her patients have created a strong trust with the community and her colleagues.

For Krystel, nursing is more than a profession: it is a gift and passion. Her reward is in the service of others, for the smiles on faces she sees and in supporting those around her in both the good times and bad.

Chantelle Hughes-Kreutzer

Chantelle Hughes-Kreutzer

Before completing a degree in nursing, Chantelle Hughes-Kreutzer graduated from the University of Alberta (Campus Saint-Jean) with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in political and social sciences. She spent time working on issues-based campaigns and community building. At the start of her nursing career, Chantelle worked in the emergency department and in public health. It was a chance meeting with an Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) nurse during a flu clinic that introduced her to the possibility of working and providing assistance to Indigenous communities.

Based in Fox Lake, Alberta, Chantelle's current position with ISC involves nursing in both acute and public health settings in remote First Nations communities. Chantelle partners with communities, families and new parents to build on their strengths when navigating their health journeys. She is an advocate for respectful, culturally-appropriate healthcare services.

Chantelle also responds to public health emergencies. For example, when a community experienced a communicable disease outbreak in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, she partnered with the community health staff and the ISC nursing team to provide education and encourage residents to get vaccinated.

In her spare time, Chantelle volunteers as a teen mentor with the Youth in Care program through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada. She is also a facilitator with a peer support group for at-risk youth. She enjoys gardening, reading, hiking and travelling.

Chantelle is grateful to her partner, family, co-workers and community members for their support and mentoring. She dedicates this award to them.

2020: Award recipients

2019: Award recipients

2018: Award recipients

2017: Award recipients

2016: Award recipients

2015: Award recipients

2014: Award recipients

2013: Award recipients

2012: Award recipients

2011: Award recipients

2010: Award recipients

2009: Award recipients

2008: Award recipients

2007: Award recipients

2006: Award recipients

2005: Award recipients

2004: Award recipients

2003: Award recipients

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