The first class of graduates in the Nunavut nursing lab. Left to right: Allysha Tologanak, Claire Tookanachiak, Karyna Kolola, and Jo-elle Airut. Photo courtest of Nunavut Arctic CollegeKira Wronska Dorward, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Nunavut Arctic College (NAC) will be sending off 100 per cent of its first practical nursing class this spring.

That’s a celebration in itself for International Nurses Day, where the world witnessed primary care workers facing once-in-a-century challenges during the pandemic. This has resulted in a global healthcare crisis, and a shortage in the profession that Canada and Nunavut must combat through initiatives like the practical nursing program at Nunavut Arctic College (NAC).

Especially in Nunavut, this creates opportunities to tailor-make programs that are culturally appropriate. So, for this first-time delivered two-year program (three years with the pre-health stream, which helps Nunavummiut nursing hopefuls without the necessary academic credits bridge the gap) in Nunavut will see all four students “graduating this month and going on to be the first Inuit practical nurses,” says Esther Powell, program manager for the Rankin Inlet campus.

“It’s also a very Nunavut-specific curriculum,” she said. “They have two courses that were co-created by myself. We included Nunavut traditional knowledge into the nursing program, but we [also] took it further and had Elders come in and teach traditional ways to support Inuit tradition and terminology, and not make it only about the confines of nursing … with the history of colonization [in the territory], we want to include Inuit practice when it comes to NAC.”

The initial graduating class will have undertaken a course of study that not only includes the fundamentals of education in things like anatomy and physiology of the body, but has also been expanded to include Nunavut’s health history.

“[The practical nursing program at NAC] teaches the history of our health care system starting with the British North America Act and how it evolved from the first point of contact between Europeans and the Inuit,” says Powell.

“This was something that was taught very carefully. Our healthcare system is a foreign system coming out of Britain … I taught it carefully so we don’t further exploit Inuit with trauma [like] how the healthcare system was introduced to the Inuit population.”

Powell also helped co-design the courses by bringing in Inuit elders in to share their knowledge and experiences with the class. “

These special guests,” Powell explains, “are experienced with the health system before the creation of Nunavut … dating back to the NWT days and explaining how it evolved over time. The biggest take away [for the students] was [the Elders] experience and knowledge on traditions.”

Overall, Powell says the four practical nursing students greatly benefited from the transfer of knowledge from the older generation, “learning Inuit history that they did not know existed. When I was designing [those courses], I was looking at solely Inuit history — our health history and the need for traditional knowledge to be introduced into the nursing program.

“I’ve been an Inuk nurse up here for 17 years,” explains Powell. “So I have an idea of how our system works. That [personal] experience and knowledge was very helpful in helping design the program. My first language is also Inuk[titut], so that was very important for supporting students in the class room when we are using our Inuk language.”

By Kira Wronska Dorward, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 06, 2024 at 05:20

This item reprinted with permission from   Nunavut News   Iqaluit, Nunavut
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