6 First Nations nurses talk about why they got into nursing



Every year on April 10, British Columbia marks Indigenous Nurses Day. Now in its third year, FNHA is honouring nurses who weave Indigenous wisdom and cultural safety into their nursing practice.​​​

​​​With over 40 First Nation and Metis nurses across the organization, the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) is honoured to recognize Indigenous Nurses Day and the work its teams do to provide culturally safe services for First Nations across the province.

Every year on April 10, British Columbia recognizes Indigenous Nurses Day – this year with a proclamation that the FNHA contributed to. With Indigenous Nurses Day now in its third year, the FNHA is honouring nurses who weave Indigenous wisdom and cultural safety into their nursing practice.

“Indigenous Nurses Day is not only an opportunity to celebrate Indigenous nurses but acknowledge the work they do in helping make access to health care safer for First Nations people," said Monica McAlduff, FNHA Chief Nursing Officer. “As a nurse myself, I see the impact Indigenous nurses have on improving patient care and transforming First Nations Peoples overall experience within the health care system."

“The culturally safe care provided by First Nation and Indigenous nurses not only helps improve health outcomes and quality of care, but contributes to the elimination of health disparities and barriers that First Nations communities face," said Richard Jock, FNHA CEO. “I would like to thank all of the First Nation and Indigenous nurses for everything they do."   

This year, the FNHA spoke with six nurses from across the province about why they got into nursing, and how important culture is in their practice, here are their responses:

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Shannon Burnett,​ Misipawistik Cree Nation, Rural and Remote (Kwadacha Nation)​​

Why did you get into nursing? 

I come from a family of nurses and health care professionals. My mom was nurse in charge in our home community and it was a huge kick in this direction just watching her interact with our community members. Seeing the respect and the importance of her job definitely left a lasting impact on me.

What role does culture play in your work?

I'm related to a lot of very intelligent health care workers – I have doctors and nurses in charge, nurse practitioners in my family – and I see them live the path and there's no shame in this anymore.  We live our way, we breathe light into our practices. Every single day in my nursing practice, I am 100 per cent culturally competent.​

Sarah McElroy, Sau​lteau First Nation, Virtual Doctor of the Day

Why did you get into nursing?  

I've always been an empathetic person and naturally drawn to being a life-long learner, I come from a small northern rural community and nurses were often the only health care provider we were able to see. I remember from a very young age wanting to become a nurse from those interactions.

What role does culture play in your work?

I apply Two-Eyed Seeing in my practice and understand culture as an important part of my client's wellness journey. We're able to connect clients with cultural supports and many are willing to share their knowledge and wisdom, which helps me re-connect with my culture and language as well.​


Telleighla Geis, Tahltan Nation, Communities between Lytton and Lillooet

Why did you get into nursing?

I really wanted to involve myself in Indigenous communities, better their health care and be an inspiration for younger Indigenous people that wanted to get post-secondary education. But I also wanted to help combat the systemic racism. Being an advocate for clients who may not know how the health care system works or that they have a right to be treated a certain way.

What role does culture play in your work?

It's everything, that's all I can say. The health care system is very westernized and I feel like FNHA, their priority is getting past that and looking at it from a more holistic and cultural perspective. Cultural safety, humility are big priorities for First Nations communities. And that's how you're going to gain their trust, being open to their culture.

Denelle Bonneau, Penticton Ind​​ian Band

Why did you get into nursing?

I've wanted to be a nurse since I was a little girl. As a nurse I am in a position that allows me to offer support through resources, knowledge or services which may help others reach their own personal health, wellness and healing goals – that is something that has affirmed my decision to continue practicing.

What role does culture play in your work?

As a First Nations person who I am and where I come from is with me every day. I have been blessed to have had, and continue to have, patients share cultural teachings and practices with me. So often in medical facilities there is no time for these very important conversations to take place.  

I work in my home First Nations community, and it is an honor to make space for those who are managing their own health journey by utilizing traditional medicines and/or cultural teachings.


Stacey Isaac, Lower Nicola India​n Band, Three Corners Health Services Society

Why did you get into nursing?

Of course I wanted to help people, but after I decided to go to university I wanted something that when I was done university, I had a job to go to and nursing is one of those professions. My sister was also a year ahead of me so I got to see what nursing really was, I feel like I made a good choice after all!

 What role does culture play in your work?

I was actually in the nursing station one night, looking for a job, and I happened to come across the one at Three Corners. It was great because it has that cultural piece and I think that's missing in acute care. Now I get to experience the culture as well as providing that cultural sensitive care for my clients.

Angie Wilkinson, Scia'new Firs​t Nation

Why did you get into nursing?

My dad gave me a DVD from Island Health back in 2010 about becoming an Indigenous nurse. He said the world needs more First Nations nurses and that was that. I began working towards becoming a nurse for a First Nations community.

What role does culture play in your work?

Culture reminds me to be truthful, break barriers and help guide and make our people feel comfortable asking and seeking care. In a roundabout way, the way I became a community nurse is cultural. I went to school with the help of my band to in turn come back and provide care to my community.​​

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