Why did Pangnirtung lose its best nurse?

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How to explain this to my daughter?

On Dec. 27, our community lost a good nurse for the wrong reasons. All she wanted was to practice in a small Inuit community for more than a few years, learn to know her new community and enjoy her new northern life there. Unfortunately, her dreams were shattered by the organization that hired her and she decided to leave. Our community is Pangnirtung.

Now, my young daughter wants to know why her favorite nurse and friend left to go down south. She wants to know why a grown-up who shares the same dreams as her family had to leave. I do not want to lie to my daughter so I have to answer very tough questions.

“Ataata, does she like it here?”

She likes the people and she likes the community. She did not want to go but she had to. She did not want to stay long enough just to have her move paid. She did not want to hang on to a well-paid job just for the sake of it. She wanted to stay because she likes it here.

“Ataata, she was a good nurse, right?”

Yes, she was. She set up her office to make kids comfortable. She was dedicated and she always welcomed people by asking, “What can I do for you today,” with a smile. Some people were taking appointments asking to see her. She was involved when her mom was really sick a few months ago and she was also there when her dad needed to fly to Iqaluit for emergency treatments. She treated her patients with dignity because they are people, not numbers. And when she gave you your flu vaccine, it did not really hurt, you remember?

“Ataata, why is she leaving?”

How can I explain to her that some people were not nice with her? How can I tell her that her favorite nurse had to leave while the not-so-nice people are still here and still working? She is leaving because the people who hired her do not want to be fair to her and treat her with dignity.

“Ataata, did she do anything wrong?”

No. She was only trying to do her job but some people did not like to see her doing her job. She did not tell a patient that she did not have time to see him or her even if she was busy. She did not yell at her colleagues. She never illegally took controlled medication without prescription, never became addicted to such drugs, never showed up under the influence at work. She never took chances with the health of a patient. She never brought a dog into the health centre. She even took the extra time to ensure that her patients had follow-ups when it was needed. Maybe some people were afraid of her.

“Ataata, why would people be afraid of her?”

Maybe because she went to school longer than many other nurses. She wanted to be the best nurse she could be and some did not like that. She even trained other people in first aid skills and still, some people did not like that and did not want to pay her.

“Ataata, who is going to take care of us if we get sick?”

There are some other good nurses. We just did not meet all of them yet.

Why would I take the time to explain to my child things that concern adults? Why would I attempt to put in plain words for her the consequences of things like psychological harassment, racism, abuse of power, injustice, fear, favoritism, breach of contract and shattered dreams?

It is very simple: almost half of all Nunavummiut are still children or teenagers. They want to learn, grow, live their dreams and feel safe knowing that they can have good health care services if needed. When something bad is happening in their community, they ask questions and they deserve answers. Today’s actions shape the future, their future.

Something bad has happened in my daughter’s universe. The people responsible are not answering my daughter’s questions: I am, I have to. And the nurse who decided to leave because it was too much? She also answered some of my daughter’s questions face-to-face before she left.

My daughter’s favorite nurse did not do anything wrong and she had to leave; the people who acted inappropriately are still here, working and well paid as supervisors (and higher.)

The hardest thing for me was to watch my daughter in the airport terminal, her head on the window, watching her favorite nurse boarding the plane. She did not want to leave until the plane was gone and out of sight. I went back to start my snowmobile and looked at my daughter: she did not move.

When the plane was gone, she waited a moment and started to walk towards us slowly and silently, remembering her last hug given to her friend. She sat in the qamutiq and gave us the okay to leave.

“Ataata, when will I see her again?”

I wish that my name be withheld because I do not want any member of my family or myself be denied health care services because of what I wrote. If it happens anyway, I will let you know.

(Name withheld by request)

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