National Nursing Week – Working in the Arctic

Nurse Minnie Akparook with patient. (Eye on the Arctic)
Nurse Minnie Akparook with patient. (Eye on the Arctic)
National Nursing Week kicks off in Canada on Monday, May 12 and runs until May 18.

In honour of the hundreds of nurses working in Canada’s remote northern regions, we bring you one of Eye on the Arctic’s most popular feature interviews, a video- profile of Minnie Akparook, one of the few Inuk nurses working in the Inuit self-governing region of Nunavik in northern Quebec.

Nurses are on the frontlines of health care in Canada’s remote Arctic regions. Often working in isolated nursing stations, these health care professionals are part nurse, part emergency room doctor, part counsellor, part social worker and part mid-wife.

Most positions are filled by nurses from southern Canada who may not be familiar with local aboriginal languages or culture. This leads to high turnover and positions remaining vacant for long periods.

Many locals crave a stable work force staffed by aboriginal health care workers that understand northern culture and can deliver health services in local languages.

But despite this great need, there are still only a handful of such nurses practising in the Canadian Arctic. The road is often not easy for them. But once they begin working, they are able to bridge the cultural divide between southern medicine and holistic aboriginal culture.

To find out more, Eye on the Arctic sat down with Minnie Akparook in 2011 to talk about the obstacles she overcame to start her career and the health challenges facing Canada’s Inuit population today:

Related stories from around the Arctic:

Canada: Bridging the Divide (VIDEO), Eye on the Arctic

Finland:  Finland struggles to deal with diabetes explosion, Yle News

Greenland: Researchers must be honest with Arctic peoples about food contaminants: doctor, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Why such high suicide rates in Arctic Russia? Deutsche Welle’s Ice-Blogger

Sweden: The Sami Health Paradox (VIDEO), Radio Sweden

United States:  Inuit Circumpolar Council discussing food security in Arctic, Alaska Public Radio Network

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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