Sarah Zimmerling accepts her Award of Excellence in Nursing alongside Inuit nurse Raymond Obed, from Nain. (Photo courtesy Sarah Zimmerling) Cedric Gallant

A Puvirnituq nurse is being lauded for her commitment to the profession.

Sarah Zimmerling, assistant head nurse at the community’s Inuulitsivik Health Centre, received the federal government’s Award of Excellence June 19 in Ottawa.

She is one of three nurses across Canada to be honoured with the award. Two others work in Sandy Lake First Nation, Ont., and Millbrook First Nation, N.S.

“The whole ceremony was very touching and emotional,” Zimmerling said in a video call during her shift at the hospital. “To know all these people were here just to honour us three.”

Her story in Nunavik started when her instructor at Jewish General Hospital in Montreal suddenly packed up and left. After a while, the two began chatting and emailing.

Turns out, said Zimmerling, “she was in a village named Umiujaq.”

The Heritage College and Seminary graduate expressed interest in going up to Nunavik as well, and her former instructor told her who to send her resume to.

Not long after that, Zimmerling was hired at the care unit in Puvirnituq and held that position for seven years before being named a liaison nurse.

But there was a learning curve to working in the North.

“We’re all in the profession of caring, and we all think that we’re going to arrive somewhere and we’re going to change the world,” she said.

“I was quickly put in my place, that I was not going to change the world. But I might be changing one small world at a time, one patient at a time.”

Zimmerling spent time during the COVID-19 pandemic working in elders’ homes during her time off. She also worked in archives, patient services and co-ordinating medical travel.

In November, after 12 years at the centre she was promoted to assistant head nurse and now calls Puvirnituq her second home.

Zimmerling credits her work as a nurse for teaching her to be patient and persevere through challenges.

“The days that are really tough,” she said. “Where after a really horrible experience together, the patient turns around and they say ‘Thank you,’ it … [makes it all] worth it.”

With humility, she credits the entire team at Inuulitsivik Health Centre for the award, especially the Inuit workers.

“They are the heart of the hospital, all the local employees, nothing would run without them,” she said.

When the hospital announced Zimmerling had won the award, she went to all the doors of the interpreters and drew on them, writing that superstars work there.

“None of us would be able to do our job without them,” she said.

By Cedric Gallant, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 26, 2023 at 11:02

This item reprinted with permission from   Nunatsiaq News   Iqaluit, Nunavut
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