Nurses going north: Providing healthcare support in Nunavut

Topics: Nunavut, Community Health
Laura Ellis | September 23, 2022

A Nunavut landscape with flowers and homes on a hillside.After being a nurse for 48 years, Jane Fox of Vancouver Island, was looking for a change as she transitioned to different opportunities for the end of her career.

“Humanitarian work hasn't just been on my mind since I onboarded with the Red Cross. Humanitarian work has been on my mind for a long time.”

Having worked in Indigenous healthcare for 20 years, Jane brought her experience to a recent Canadian Red Cross deployment to Iqaluit, Nunavut. For two weeks in July, she worked in the rapid access clinic of a busy hospital that serves the 16,000 people who live in the region.

Jane had nothing but praise for the local team she worked with, as well the individuals who came in as patients.

“The clinic staff are amazing. They have people coming in and out all the time and (the staff) are always orienting and re-orienting everyone. They are incredibly gracious,” she said. “The people in Iqaluit ... just have a different energy. It’s a smaller (community), it feels like everybody sort of knows everybody.”

A departure from her upbringing on the West Coast, Jane found the exposure to the Inuit culture to be one of the most memorable parts of her deployment. In Nunavut, 86 per cent of the population are Inuit and 65 per cent of Nunavut residents speak Inuktitut.

“Learning the culture was really interesting,” Jane said. “The gathering of food, (maintaining practices) to fish and hunt. Just about everybody speaks Inuktitut, the hospital has translators, and they were needed pretty regularly with elders.”

When asked what drew her to this kind of work, Jane reflected on the fact that working with the Canadian Red Cross served as a great opportunity for the end of her career.

“I'm getting close to retiring and I don’t need to work full time. (This work) serves people that need the help, and it serves me too.”

Jane’s deployment is part of an ongoing response from the Canadian Red Cross, at the request of the government of Nunavut, to provide nurses to bolster existing medical teams in various communities across the territory.
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