International nursing students gather in Saskatchewan to talk northern health care

Besides Canadians, nursing students came to Saskatoon from Russia, Iceland, Finland and Norway. (Courtesy Heather Exner-Pirot)
Besides Canadians, nursing students came to Saskatoon from Russia, Iceland, Finland and Norway. (Courtesy Heather Exner-Pirot)
A conference exploring the challenges of northern nursing wrapped up in the Canadian city of Saskatoon on Friday, after giving students from around the circumpolar world a crash course on the challenges and opportunities of working in remote communities.

The Innovative Learning Institute for Circumpolar Health was organized through the University of the Arctic, a network of educational institutions from around the North.

Nursing students from Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Russia, Finland and Norway gathered in Saskatoon, located in the western Canadian province of Saskatchewan, from August 2 – August 12.

“We’re very happy to be supporting these northern nursing students, really supporting capacity for the community in the community,”said Heather Exner-Pirot, Strategist for Outreach and Indigenous Engagement at the College of Nursing at the University of Saskatchewan, and one of the conference organizers.

“They’re all looking forward to going back and practising and will take the lessons they learned from each other back with them.”

Feature Interview

To find out more about northern nursing and the role some northern communities are playing in improving health in their own communities, Eye on the Arctic spoke with Heather Exner-Pirot:

The exchange between students on nursing in their respective northern regions was an important part of the conference, say organizers. (Courtesy Heather Exner-Pirot)
The exchange between students on nursing in their respective northern regions was an important part of the conference, say organizers. (Courtesy Heather Exner-Pirot)
Advice from communities in northern Saskatchewan

Nursing is the backbone of the health system in most of the world’s remote northern regions, which often lack facilities, specialists and infrastructure.

During the conference,  students did everything from attending lectures to travelling to some of Saskatchewan’s isolated communities to hear from northern residents first-hand about the health challenges and successes they’ve had.

Some of those communities even offered a little bit of advice.

“Never go in thinking as a nurse you’re going to fix somebody, but you’re there to help somebody six themselves,” Exner-Pirot said about one community’s advice to the students.

For more information on northern nursing, click HERE

The 2017 institute will be held in Norway.

Inside Arctic Nursing

Eye on the Arctic’s 2011 conversation with Canadian nurse Minnie Akparook about the obstacles she overcame to start her career and the health challenges facing Canada’s Inuit population today:

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Telehealth in the Arctic – Unfulfilled potential, Blog by Heather Exner-Pirot

Finland: Study finds lower cancer rates among indigenous Sámi, YLE News

Norway: Nordic diet a heart-smart alternative, Radio Sweden

Russia:  Reindeer herders evacuated from anthrax zone in Russian Arctic, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden:  The Sami Health Paradox, Radio Sweden

United States:  Alaska Villages without running water or health aides: Federal officials hear about challenges, Alaska Dispatch News

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

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 an 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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