Indigenous nurse centres her career on community

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Year of the Nurse

When Jadelyn McKay grew up, there were two nursing positions in her home community of Tootinaowaziibeeng First Nation; a homecare nurse and a community health care nurse, coveted roles that were highly competitive and not available regularly. With the implementation of Jordan's Principle in 2016 — a child-first and needs-based principle that applies equally to all First Nations children on or off reserve — two additional nursing roles were created, one of which Jadelyn was recruited for.

"I didn't think this was ever going to be an opportunity for me, because before Jordan's Principle there was ever only two nursing positions in this community and I thought 'oh great I'll never have that opportunity until maybe this person retires,'" she said. Now Jadelyn works in the same place she grew up as a community nurse case manager for their Jordan’s Principle program.

"I help manage the caseload of our clients, children from zero to 18 years old. The role involves identifying their needs, doing assessments, reaching out to internal and external resources—like our rehabilitation centre, dietary counselling services, and behavioural services—to help our clients.

"It was always something I wanted to do, to come back and help Indigenous people in our community. It's something I have felt really passionate about all my life, trying to empower others and inspire people in my community to leave the reserve to learn, start careers, and come back and help our people."

Jadelyn graduated from Assiniboine Community College with a Practical Nursing Diploma in 2017 and has far exceeded even her own expectations in what she has experienced and achieved so far in her career.

"I really surprised myself. I was really impressed with my marks and how I retained everything because I was really scared it would be difficult. I'd been out of school for five years at that point, so it was daunting coming back to school,” she said. "I really enjoyed the connections I made with fellow students and how we became so close. We helped each other graduate."

Jadelyn worked at the Dauphin Regional Hospital on the medical floor and then honed her skills on the surgical ward in the first few years after graduation. Jadelyn's decision to accept the offer to be a community nurse case manager was not easy one, but she says it felt right.

"My boyfriend thought I wasn't a nurse anymore; he was worried about me taking this new job because he thought, 'you went to school, and you've made it so far, why are you going to give up on it?' I had to explain that just because you're not in the hospital setting, it doesn't mean you're not a nurse anymore."

"It's a different type of nursing," she said.

"In the beginning, it was really different, I was worried all the skills I had learned and went to school for I was going to forget, but that didn't happen."

And something she’s gained is a strengthened connection to her community. "I found as the months went by, I was becoming involved with the people I met and the community itself.

"I find it so rewarding to work in my own community. I feel like I'm home, and I'm so happy in my heart."

As with any job, there are tough days, but she says the good far outweigh the bad.

"When you see the success in the children you work with, it's amazing.

"The kids we work with have a lot of behavioural challenges. Some young children have never stepped foot in a school. We’ve worked closely with them and our therapists to get these children back to their developmental stages in a school environment. We are now seeing them thrive and loving school."

Working in her community, Jadelyn reflects on her time growing up and the positive changes that have been made as a result of Jordan’s Principle.

"I think back to when I was a child and going to school on the reserve here and what type of resources I had. I know there were things I needed as a child that I struggled with on the reserve and I'm so happy these children should never have to be without help and we can offer support,” she said.

"It's so different now to when I grew up here, and I'm so grateful the children today won't fall short on anything.”