The International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday, and National Nursing Week are all taking place during a pandemic.
As a week recognizing nurses across the country begins, we asked nurses in the North to reflect on what Covid-19 is teaching them about their profession.
“Healthcare professionals and those on the front line, you tend to take your own health for granted,” said Jennifer Pearce, president of the Registered Nurses Association of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
“You don’t think about the fire, you don’t put on [your protective clothing] before you run in, you just run.”
It shouldn’t be this way, Pearce said. Nurses and other healthcare workers should be able to go to work without fear of not coming home.
She believes the Covid-19 pandemic is a chance to revalue the services provided by those in the healthcare system.
To date, the NWT has had only five cases of Covid-19, all of which have recovered. In Nunavut, where Pearce is based, the lone reported case subsequently turned out to be a false positive.
Although avoiding the worst of the virus so far, Pearce said northern healthcare workers are doing a remarkable job of staying prepared.
“You sit back and think to yourself, ‘Holy smokes! If you were ever brought to a challenge, the challenge is here,’” Pearce said.
Superheroes of healthcare
It’s a challenge for newly graduated nurses, too.
Tracey Foster-DeBaie and Bovina Beaudoin are both graduating from Aurora College with a Bachelor of Science in nursing. Foster-DeBaie has a placement in Bechchokò while Beaudoin is placed at Yellowknife’s Stanton Territorial Hospital.
It’s a strange time to be entering the workforce, they said.
“[Having] that moral responsibility to serve the public, and just keep furthering our amazing healthcare profession, gives me the drive to keep going,” said Foster-DeBaie.
Watching the outpouring of support for healthcare workers is humbling for DeBaie and Beaudoin.
It has even led Beaudoin to tears.
“I am beyond proud of my profession,” she said. “I love my job. I love what I do.”
A Banksy image, posted by the artist to Instagram, shows a boy with a nurse superhero doll.
Even Banksy, the anonymous British street artist, has thanked nurses for their work on the pandemic front line.
A new mural near a hospital in Southampton, Britain, depicts a young boy with a nurse doll dressed as a superhero.
Beaudoin and Foster-DeBaie said that appreciation must extend to the maintenance workers, kitchen staff, and registration workers who ensure medical facilities can keep providing care.
“I mean, thank you for recognizing us nurses, but please do recognize there are a lot of people who make a health institution run,” Beaudoin said, “whether that be public health, a community health centre, or Stanton Hospital.”
This week, the Registered Nurses Association will celebrate northern nurses with an online vigil for healthcare workers lost to Covid-19.
The campaign launches at 7pm MT on Monday.
Kevin Grinsted, president of the union local representing NWT government employees at Stanton Territorial Hospital, said the vigil would remember thousands of healthcare workers who have passed from the virus around the world
“It’s important just to take a look at the humanity of it and understand that the whole world is affected,” Grinsted said.
The campaign encourages people to share a picture of themselves with the hashtags #RememberHealthHeroes and #NorthernStrong.
Grinsted hopes people will recognize those who have been lost long after the campaign’s launch.
“This is a long event, [and] it’s going to be with us for a couple of years,” he said. “And healthcare workers are still coming to work.”