Celebrating National Nursing Week with Gary Housty, Acting Executive Director, Office of the Chief Nursing Office
Gary Housty's path to becoming a nurse started with his mother. Growing up in Haíɫzaqv First Nation in Bella Bella, British Columbia (BC), Gary would join his mother and twin sister at community events, such as Potlatches, community feasts and other community gatherings where he witnessed his mother supporting individuals and families often through significant events.
“My mom was a fierce advocate for our First Nations community," says Gary, whose traditional name is K̓vsḷsm̓ṇixv (One Wolf). “It's what inspired me to get into humanities work. My twin sister also works in humanities as a social worker, so our upbringing was important in determining our career paths.
“That, and the television show “ER" was hugely popular in the late 90s, which I think helped me decide on my nursing pathway. I was drawn to the hands on work and technical skills that nurses do."
Gary has worked in various nursing and health leadership positions for the past 22 years, and currently serves as Acting Executive Director for the Office of the Chief Nursing Officer (OCNO) with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), where he's worked since 2019. He started his nursing career as a specialized emergency room nurse in a busy trauma centre in the Lower Mainland.
“It's not only a very tough profession, especially for point-of-care nurses working in today's complex system of health care (e.g., COVID-19, toxic drug crisis, Indigenous racism and staffing shortages on a global level), but it is also one of the most rewarding professions to work in," says Gary. “Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and continuing to deal with ongoing issues like the toxic drug crisis is incredibly demanding. It gives each of us a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for what nurses do at all levels as well as those that serve BC First Nations communities."
For Gary, National Nursing Week is an opportunity to reflect upon and recognize the essential work nurses do to keep us healthy. “All of us at the FNHA raise our hands in thanks to the tremendous efforts of nurses who are making a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of our communities."
At the FNHA, Gary and the OCNO work collaboratively with the FNHA regional nursing leadership teams to develop and implement clinical services for BC First Nations with a focus on client experience. They act as the provincial arm supporting all FNHA and community-hired nurses through training and education.
“Our work at the OCNO starts with cultural safety and humility as its foundation," says Gary. “We know that nurses who provide culturally safe and inclusive health care to our communities achieve the highest level of health and wellness. Our team focuses on elevating the learning journeys for FNHA health care providers and other health organizations so they can provide culturally safe and trauma-informed care for First Nations in BC.
“We want to ensure we 'walk the talk' when it comes to cultural safety and humility for care delivery," says Gary. “Two initiatives the OCNO is currently working towards is the new Centre for Excellence as well elevating the new BC Cultural Safety and Humility Standard—the first of its kind in our country. This work has been accomplished by many working hands."
Gary says the Centre of Excellence will include space for a clinical simulation lab to onboard and train FNHA nurses on the latest medical equipment as well as dedicated space for staff onboarding, leadership training and cultural safety and humility learnings. “It is limitless with what we can offer health care providers and a journey we are currently undertaking with our new Director of Education and Professional Development."
In his personal time, Gary enjoys adventures with his wife and three young boys and is appreciative to be on the journey of fatherhood. “It's given me a renewed sense of family, love and community, and I'm grateful for the chance to pass on my mother's teaching to my own children."