A Sachs Harbour woman is one of three nurses who received the annual award of excellence in nursing from Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Health Branch in Ottawa last week.
Marie McPherson, the nurse in charge at the Sachs Harbour Health Centre, was nominated for the award by the community, which she has been working in for the past 10 years.
“I feel very humbled,” McPherson said. “Just being nominated by my community was enough for me. It’s the great people here that make this place special…I never expected to win.”
She was officially handed a certificate of excellence plus a $2,500 bursary to be put towards career development training at a ceremony in Ottawa last Monday.
“The ceremony was so wonderful and very touching and so many important people were there – the deputy minister of health, the head of the CNA (Canadian Nurses Association). I’m retiring next year and I thought, wow, what a way to go out,” McPherson said.
The two other winners are Gail Nahmabin, who has worked as a community health nurse for the Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Ontario since 1995, and Joan Belanger, the nurse in charge at the Bearskin Lake First Nation Nursing Station, also in Ontario.
“Nurses provide a crucial service, delivering direct healthcare services in First Nations and Inuit communities,” federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said in a press release. “I am honoured to recognize Joan Belanger, Gail Nahmabin and Marie McPherson for improving the health of Aboriginal communities. Advanced knowledge, practical experience and unwavering compassion in the nursing field contribute greatly to the overall health of First Nations and Inuit.”
The release went on to detail how nurses in rural and remote communities play an important role as the only front line providers in areas where doctors are not always available.
“This comes with tremendous responsibility, and they often encounter unique and difficult challenges in delivering health care,” the release stated.
To honour this demanding undertaking, the Award of Excellence in Nursing was created in 2003, acknowledging the hard work, devotion and commitment of three nominated nurses in First Nations and Inuit communities.
McPherson, originally from Nova Scotia, has been a nurse since 1970 and moved to the North in 1997. Through the years, she made it a priority to continue to advance her education and knowledge, through such efforts as attending a six month outpost nursing program while working in Yellowknife. She also has extensive experience in coronary and intensive care from various positions across the country, as well as internationally.
According to the residents of Sachs Harbour, McPherson is “known for going above and beyond as she delivers excellent nursing care to her community.”
“She’s extremely knowledgeable, personable, funny and deeply committed to nursing in the North,” Andrea Donovan, a community health nurse in Sachs Harbour, told The Journal. “I’m so happy for her…I know she is very touched.”