Award 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. With the exception of National Indigenous History Month 2023, 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.

Call for nominations

2023 Annual Award of Excellence in Nursing

Past award winners

2023: Award recipients

Peggy Florack

Peggy Florack

Peggy Florack is passionate and steadfast in improving health access and health services within Indigenous populations. With over 15 years of primary care nurse practitioner experience in providing direct care while showcasing leadership in urban health centres across Ottawa, Peggy has acquired unique skills and expertise that she has brought with her to the north. After joining Indigenous Services Canada in 2019, Peggy has been working full-time as a nurse practitioner in the community of Sandy Lake First Nation. Peggy’s diverse nursing career spans fields in research, mentorship and clinical practice in ambulatory and tertiary care settings.

In partnership with the local health authority and band leadership, Peggy created a robust primary care clinic in Sandy Lake from the ground-up. This clinic follows a nurse practitioner-led model of care, supports interprofessional collaboration between physicians, registered nurses, registered practical nurses and paramedics, and streamlines health services in the areas of chronic disease management, wound care and cancer screening. The primary care clinic has helped close many gaps in the model of care currently employed by many remote nursing stations.

Peggy’s dedicated involvement in the Sandy Lake community has improved health-seeking behaviour and dignified access to care through a regular health service provider, which effectively works toward building individual capacity and self-determination among Indigenous Peoples.

Peggy enjoys spending time with her family and friends, as well as cooking, sewing and traveling. Peggy also loves participating in many outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing and exploring waterways to new and fun camp sites.

Suzette MacLeod

Suzette MacLeod

Suzette MacLeod’s love for nursing is evident in her commitment in providing compassionate care within the community. Suzette, a dedicated registered nurse, has devoted most of her career to improving the lives of those in the Mi'kmaw community of Millbrook First Nation, Nova Scotia.

In 1995, Suzette graduated with a diploma from the Aberdeen Hospital School of Nursing. She has worked in the United States, gaining valuable experience in areas such as medical-surgical care and obstetrics and gynaecology in Kansas and Maine. After settling in Truro, Nova Scotia, Suzette worked in the community hospital for several years in medicine, surgery, pediatrics and maternity, as well as worked for the Victoria Order of Nurses in community care, learning new skills in wound care, palliative care, foot care and home care. With almost 2 decades as the home care nurse in Millbrook First Nation, Suzette’s expertise in these areas has made a significant impact on the health and well-being of many community members.

In addition to her position in Millbrook, she currently works part-time at a long-term care facility. Throughout her career, Suzette has been advocating for her patients' needs and improving their health outcomes. She strives to provide patient-centered care with cultural competence, effective communication, patient advocacy and health promotion. Her willingness to go above and beyond has touched the lives of many community members, earning her the love and gratitude of those she has cared for. Suzette has become a tremendous asset to the nursing profession and to the Mi'kmaw community of Millbrook First Nation.

Suzette has a son and daughter, who are both attending university. She is a proud breast cancer survivor. Suzette loves reading, jogging, and her 2 cats.

Sarah Zimmerling

Sarah Zimmerling

Sarah Zimmerling has always been drawn to caring for others. Born and raised in Otter Lake, Quebec, Sarah has worked in the field of nursing for the past 15 years. In 2007, Sarah graduated with honors from Heritage College with a diploma in nursing. After graduation, Sarah moved to Montreal, Quebec, where she began working at the emergency department at Jewish General Hospital. After 2 years, Sarah decided she needed a different challenge and began a new, exciting adventure on the Hudson Bay Coast in Nunavik, Quebec.

Sarah arrived to the Inuulitsivik Health Centre in Puvirnituq, Quebec, as a care unit nurse in November 2010. She also worked as a medevac nurse and occasionally acted as the assistant head nurse and medevac coordinator. In 2017, Sarah became the liaison nurse based in the village of Puvirnituq, where she helped coordinate patient and follow-up care from other villages and Montreal. She also helped develop and implement the Tele Sante system for all patients on the Hudson Bay Coast.

Last year, Sarah left the liaison position to successfully complete her extended role nursing course to become a dispensary nurse, followed by becoming the assistant head nurse at the CLSC (centre local de services communautaires) for the Inuulitsivik Health Centre in Puvirnituq. After 12 years at the Inuulitsivik Health Centre, Sarah continues to find ways to improve and build on nursing skills for the populations she cares for.

Sarah would like to give a huge thank you to her family for their continued support while she’s been away working in Puvirnituq. A heartfelt thank you to Sarah Beaulne, Director General of the Inuulitsivik Health Centre, for the nomination for this award, and to all of Puvirnituqmuit for their acceptance of her in the community, as well as their ongoing love and support.

2022: Award recipients

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

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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