Inuit patients in Nunavut's clinics and hospitals are used to
dealing with nurses through an interpreter. With the recent convocation
of Lily Amagoalik of Kimmirut and Asenath Idlout of Pond Inlet,
some will no longer have to.
week, Amagoalik and Idlout became the first nurses to graduate from
the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Iqaluit's Nunavut
Arctic College, offered in partnership with Dalhousie University.
The gym at Inuksuk High School was packed for the convocation ceremony,
where teachers, interpreters, hairdressers and carpenters were among
Education minister Ed Picco attended the ceremony to congratulate
the students. He interrupted a prepared speech to remind the audience
of the funding cuts that threatened Nunavut's first nursing program
in June of 1998, when Nunavut Human Resource Development Strategy
(NHRDS) voted to divert $1.2 million to other areas, despite widespread
support for the training of local nurses. The cuts left 11 students
in the lurch until the program resumed in 1999.
room erupted in cheers and whistles as Picco offered "a special
congratulations to Lily and Asenath. They make all of here in Nunavut
proud," he said.
flushed Idlout said she feels "privileged" to be one of
the first Inuit nurses to complete the program. As for her family,
"they're so proud it's hard to describe."
a bilingual Inuit nurse, Idlout could have her pick of jobs across
Nunavut, but after six years in Iqaluit, she hopes to return to
her native Pond Inlet.
addition to her degree, Idlout was awarded the Baffin Regional Medical
Staff Award for Professional Practice sponsored by Baffin medical
also hopes to go out to one of the communities, preferably Kimmirut,
where she lived for three years after graduating from high school
in Iqaluit. Amagoalik won the Clinical and Academic Achievement
award sponsored by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.
now, both nurses still must complete a three-week leadership course
that began this week, as well as their final practicum. Idlout will
finish her six-week on-the-job training at the Health Centre in
Pangnirtung. Amagoalik will work at the Baffin Regional Hospital.
will be ready to take up full-time jobs July 1.
beneath a ceiling sheathed in balloons, guest speaker Levinia Brown,
the territorial health and social services minister, said she credited
education for all of her professional achievements. She also offered
some words of advice to current students, saying, "Sometimes
learning seems too hard. It's then that we have to gather our strength,
change our perspective, and meet the challenge."
Tom Traves, president of Dalhousie University, traveled from Halifax
for the historic event. NTI president Paul Kaludjak also attended,
winning laughs with a speech about Nunavut "can-do".
Nevee Hanson, who received her Bachelor of Education degree from
McGill University, summed up the mood of the graduates who are conscious
of the expectations and responsibilities that come with their education.
"Our pride in our achievements is evidenced by the smiles on
our faces... but who's more excited: us or you out there?"