‘Every day is different’: First Nations nurses talk working in community



​Every year the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) recognizes National Nursing Week by honouring the tremendous impact our nurses have on First Nations patients and communities across BC by providing culturally safe, relevant care.

Almost in its 40th year, this year's National Nursing Week is aimed at drawing attention to the many contributions nurses have made and continue to make towards the well-being of Canadians by changing lives and shaping tomorrow.

Cultural safety and humility are essential foundations for nursing within the FNHA and any healthcare setting in BC that serves Indigenous people. Recognizing and respecting the cultural beliefs, practices and values of the people you're caring for is crucial for building trust and delivering effective healthcare.

Cultural safety goes beyond cultural competence; it involves creating an environment where people feel safe, respected and understood regardless of their background. Nurses who prioritize cultural safety understand the impacts of colonization, trauma and systemic inequalities Indigenous people face and actively work to address them by providing care that is inclusive, respectful and responsive.

Cultural humility complements cultural safety by emphasizing lifelong learning, self-reflection and openness to different perspectives. Nurses who practice cultural humility recognize that they don't have all the answers, they approach each interaction with humility, curiosity and a willingness to listen and learn from the people they serve.

For the Office of the Chief Nursing Officer executive, National Nursing Week presents a moment to reflect on and appreciate the invaluable contributions nurses make serving First Nations across BC.

On behalf of the FNHA, we extend our gratitude to the remarkable efforts of nurses who are positively influencing the health and well-being of our communities.

To kick off National Nursing Week, the FNHA spoke with six nurses from across the province about what their typical day might look like, here are their responses:

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Denelle Bonneau, Penticton Indian Band

You just never what is going to come through the health centre doors – some days may be filled with booked home visits, office or walk-in appointments for things like TB testing, homecare intake or reassessment, newborn assessment, immunizations or health and wellness check-in's. 

One of the most important parts of my job is “meeting the person where they are at," and to be literal, some days I do just that. Sometimes a home or health centre visit doesn't work so I'll meet people at a gas station or in a grocery store parking lot, wherever they need me to be.

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

I'm in clinic all day, but anything outside of clinic we're responsible for too in terms of emergencies and answering calls. Every day is different but if it's a well woman day for example you'd focus on specific things; like well women would be paps, birth control, etc. If it's a day there's a plane coming we're going to schedule a bunch of blood work to get it out on the plane – it's constantly revolving door to keep the stations running.

I really love the community members in Kwadacha I get to work with.​


Stacey Isaac, Lower Nicola Indian Band, Three Corners Health Services Society

I'm a community health nurse and one thing I really like about community health nursing is not everything's the same every day. I like the variety and a regular day might look like some immunizations, a home visit, education in one of the schools or a luncheon – but it's never the same.

I love being a nurse because I get the satisfaction of knowing that maybe every day I've helped somebody; even if it's just a hello and a smile.

Sarah McElroy, Saulteau First Nation, Virtual Doctor of the Day

As a primary care nurse for FNHA's Virtual Doctor of the Day, our nursing team helps fill in gaps in the health care system in a culturally safe way. We provide primary care to clients all over the province in a virtual setting – we serve many communities and regions.

I often get to bear witness to a lot of amazing moments and sad ones too, and I think of that as such an honour to be welcomed into client's lives at their most vulnerable.

Angie Wilkinson, Scia'new First Nation

My day is always different – whether its planned appointments or a flexible day, I'm available to the community as they need me. I'm everything from first responder to home care and community health provider, vaccination clinic administrator and cleaner.

I help plan and organize events like mammogram bus, eye and orthopedic clinics. I work for my people and my community. I bring knowledge and trust so people feel comfortable seeking medical care. 

Telleighla Geis, Tahltan Nation, Communities between Lytton and Lillooet

I'm currently the nurse in charge and travel to various health centers. When I visit centres I'm often there for support, if there are any immunizations that are pretty dire I would definitely help out but I also take more leadership tasks like scheduling nurses, filling out calendars and making sure everyone has what they need.

I feel lucky to be welcomed into people's cultures and communities.

Nursing Week Event

Nurses supporting Indigenous wellness: Changing lives & shaping tomorrow

Celebrate National Nursing Week with FNHA and the UBC Learning Circle later this month by participating in a Q&A session with our nursing leaders Learn more about the event here.

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