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 last year's awards being held during National Indigenous History Month, 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

2024 Annual Award of Excellence in Nursing

Past award winners

2024: Award recipients

Lindsay Iron

Lindsay Iron

At age 24, Lindsay Iron graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, driven by a single goal: to return home to the North and serve her people.

Lindsay is a mother of 4 beautiful children and an incredibly proud member of the Canoe Lake Cree First Nation, Treaty 10 in northern Saskatchewan. She believes being Indigenous and achieving extraordinary accomplishments in life is absolutely possible. Success means getting from point A to point B, facing adversity and numerous disadvantages, all while breaking down barriers and fighting to break the cycles of intergenerational trauma.

Lindsay was a mother by age 15 with a second child by age 19. She attended the First Nations University of Canada's Nursing Education Program of Saskatchewan in Prince Albert, where she balanced the responsibilities of motherhood and education. At the time downtown Prince Albert was not the safest place to live. However, she eventually bought herself a used car, and moved out of the city's roughest area.

After completing her nursing degree, she pursued advanced practice certifications, gained hospital experience, then began work in the North.

Since 2012, Lindsay has been dedicated to serving First Nations communities in northern Saskatchewan, particularly her home tribal council. Her commitment is not just a job, but a source of pride in working for her tribal council's communities and a testament to her love for her people. Lindsay's altruism and dedication is a powerful example for young Indigenous nurses, encouraging success in delivering exceptional community service.

Lindsay currently works as a communicable disease nurse specialist, and her program has made a significant impact by testing a total of 1179 people for HIV and syphilis amongst 8 First Nations communities over the last fiscal year, a substantial increase from the previous year's 1042. Through community engagement and by attending numerous community events, this achievement has contributed to destigmatizing sexually transmitted blood borne infections (STBBI) testing by normalizing public screening events. Lindsay's work is an undertaking to increase sexual health accessibility within remote locations and enhance healthier futures for northern communities. Introducing harm reduction services, initiating laboratory services where they did not previously exist, advocating for Opioid Antagonist Therapy programs, initiating healthy liver days and promoting sexual education events are a few other accomplishments Lindsay has achieved since joining the Meadow Lake Tribal Council nursing supervisory team.

Lindsay is currently attending the Collaborative Nurse Practitioner Program through Saskatchewan Polytechnic and University of Regina for her Masters in Nurse Practitioner degree. After a well-deserved rest and break from school, Lindsay is determined to achieve her ultimate goal of obtaining her PhD. Her journey this far, hopefully, serves as assurance for young Indigenous nurses to know they can overcome adversity and achieve their dreams, as she firmly believes that Indigenous women can do anything they set their heart and mind to.

Joe Grafe

Joe Grafe

Joe Grafe has been shaped by his relationships and experiences working as a nurse in northern Manitoba.

Joe's career as a community health nurse started by serving the Swampy Cree people of Shamattawa First Nation. During this pandemic, he took on a more flexible role, acting as a nurse-in-charge sent to various communities to coordinate the response of new outbreaks. He helped set up isolation sites with community pandemic committees, visited isolating patients, advocated for therapists to call isolating community members and spent long hours going door-to-door collecting household swabs for contact tracing. While in Manto Sipi Cree Nation, he helped organize the mass vaccine clinics supported by the Canadian Armed Forces. As the official pandemic response started to wind down, Joe realized he was missing the "community" in community health nurse.

In 2021, Joe was offered the position of nurse-in-charge at the Oxford House Nursing Station. Like many northern nurses, Joe struggled with burnout from short staffing caused by healthcare practitioner shortages, all while working in a unique, remote, high-stress, low-resource, 24/7 on-call environment. Despite these challenges, he credits the successes in Bunibonibee Cree Nation (BCN) to a Two-Eyed Seeing approach, listening to community leadership and their priorities. These include responding to the opioid crisis with naloxone training and collaborating on a local Sublocade® program with Quest Health, supporting community-based palliative care with BCN Home and Community Care, answering community questions and concerns live on the radio, and working with Jordan's Principle to improve pediatric primary and preventative care within the community. Joe was recently accepted to the Nurse Practitioner program, where he'll earn a Master in Nursing degree and hopes to serve Bunibonibee for many years to come.

Joe understands that part of working for Indigenous Services Canada means being an active participant in Canada's response to generational trauma and the severe health disparities faced by Indigenous Peoples. In recognizing that these challenges are never faced alone, he accepts this award on behalf of his mentors, colleagues, fellow nurse-in-charge Vanessa Passi, and many other deserving nurses who share these values in northern Manitoba. Joe offers a heartfelt thank you everyone who has inspired him and made the Oxford House Nursing Station feel like a second home. Ekosi.

Anke Krug

Anke Krug

While working in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at BC Children's Hospital, Anke Krug overheard a conversation that would change her path in nursing—a conversation about becoming a medevac nurse in the Baffin region. Although passionate about the care she provided for her pediatric patients and families, Anke felt that there was something more for her to do and left for the field of flight nursing. While being a medevac nurse was different and challenging, she learned that community nursing was even more so. Anke leapt at the new challenge and never looked back.

Since 2007, Anke has worked in various northern communities in Ontario, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Learning from experiences and from her colleagues over the years, she started to see the possibilities in northern nursing. In 2016, she was sent to Kimmirut for the first time and, with the support of the front line staff, decided to take an indeterminate position as the Supervisor of Health Programs with the Government of Nunavut. Using a team approach with the motto "control the chaos," Kimmirut has established sound and up-to-date public health programs, and a cart system that allows for easy accessibility to life saving equipment along with attached specific pathways. These same systems are currently being adopted within all of the health centres in Nunavut.

Youth hold a special place in Anke's heart. Anke worked with outside resources to establish funding to create the Kimmirut Youth Need's Assessment Portfolio. The findings in this portfolio were necessary to apply and obtain additional funding for youth programs. With the assistance of the Indigenous Kids Network along with Anke's support letters, initiatives were developed for the Qaqqalik food program and winter gear project, and beds, dressers, mattresses and bedding were pulled together for community youth. Anke is also working on a bicycle project for children.

Anke believes the positive impact of all these initiatives is overwhelming and notes that these projects have particularly affected education and health outcomes. She is currently working on a unique 2-year pilot for a mental health youth outreach project for Kimmirut. This work continues to inspire Anke to further her dreams of a camp for Inuit youth and young adults to address concerns and challenges regarding mental wellness.

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

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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