It's no surprise that isolated communities on the coast of Labrador would have trouble recruiting nursing professionals to their clinics. But an innovative program funded by the Nunatsiavut government may solve that problem.
Betty Jararuse of Makkovik and Janice Montague of North West River are both third-year nursing students at Western Regional School of Nursing. They joined their classmates this fall, after completing a three-year access program at College of the North Atlantic in Goose Bay. Their goal? To return to their communities to provide their fellow residents with the nursing care they need.
"At any time on the coast of Labrador, half the community health nursing positions are vacant," said Linda Norman-Robbins, director, Western Regional School of Nursing. "This program will allow people who call these communities home to return there to work in their own environment."
Ms. Jararuse saw the program as a chance she could not pass up.
"I've always wanted to be a nurse," she said. "I would watch the nurses doing their work in the clinic in Makkovik - I appreciated the way they took care of everybody. The program was the perfect opportunity to be close to home with students on the coast of Labrador with the same traditions and background as where I came from."
Ms. Montague echoes her sentiments. "When I was 13 or 14 I became interested in nursing - the mission plane would come in and I would always run down and see what was going on."Now with her family grown, Ms. Montague is ready to move on with her own career. "This opportunity arose - it was what I'd always wanted."
They arrived in Corner brook in August, and are living in Grenfell College's chalet apartments with the other four Labrador students from the access program.
"I felt we were well prepared - we're in the exact same place in our learning as the third years who have been at Western Regional School of Nursing all along," said Ms. Jararuse.
Ms. Monatgue added "it was overwhelming at first - going from a class of six to a class of 61, but we are becoming more familiar with everything now. There are lots of new faces."
The access program involved a few components which helped them make the transition. A "buddy" system allowed them to get to know another student in Corner Brook before arriving, and a videoconferencing aspect of the course connected them with one of the instructors on a regular basis.
"We got to know her and her style, so when we got here, we already knew her," said Ms. Jararuse. "I found that really good."
And there will be opportunity to practice their profession at home - the plan right now is to have the students return to their hometowns to meet the clinical requirements of the program in the fourth year.
Both Ms. Jararuse and Ms. Montague are looking forward to returning home to serve their communities.
"The people of Makkovik (and North West River) will be proud to have someone of their own background who is familiar with the people and the families," said Ms. Jararuse.
The access program is funded by the Nunatsiavut government, with support from the Association of Registered Nurses of Newfoundland and Labrador, the College of the North Atlantic, Memorial University/Grenfell College, the province's three schools of nursing and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
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