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Congratulations Tracy Daigneault RN(NP) for Award of Excellence in Nursing!

Congratulations Tracy Daigneault RN(NP) for Award of Excellence in Nursing!

On May 16, 2011, at a ceremony in Ottawa, Tracy Daigneault a primary care nurse practitioner in Birch Narrows, Saskatchewan was one of three exceptional nurses who were recognized for their contribution to nursing in Canadian First Nation and Inuit communities.

 Established in 2003, the Award of Excellence in Nursing was developed by Health Canada to identify and recognize the work done by exceptional nurses in their communities. Each year, nurses working in First Nation and Inuit communities are nominated by their peers and fellow community members and three are selected to receive this designation. In addition to receiving a statuette, Tracy received a bursary for career development training.


“The 2011 First Nations and Inuit Health Branch National Award of Excellence in Nursing represents Health Canada’s sincere appreciation for the efforts of these three nurses. Their relentless hard work and unique ability to care for others have been recognized by their peers and community members and are acknowledged at today’s ceremony,” said Health Canada’s Deputy Minister, Glenda Yeates.

Registered nurses employed in First Nation and Inuit communities encounter unique and difficult challenges in delivering health care. They are often the only front line providers for those receiving medical care in remote and isolated communities where doctors are often not present. Currently, a total of approximately 1200 nurses are employed in First Nation and Inuit communities across Canada with approximately 50% employed by Health Canada, and 50% band-employed.

Tracy began working in a First Nation community in 1998 when her husband, an RCMP officer, was posted to a northern Saskatchewan community.

“What kept me coming back is the community spirit, the people and the lifestyle,” says Daigneault. “I love nursing in a First Nation community. Getting to know the community as a people makes my work more fulfilling.”

Daigneault characterizes her work as multidimensional.

“In a given week, my work may include assessing a prenatal patient and helping her through her delivery, suturing a boy who hurt himself, immunizing babies, referring diabetes patients to an ophthalmologist for vision care, visiting elders in their homes, and doing cook outs on the fire with the community,” she says.

In addition to providing health care, Daigneault has to keep up with paperwork required for continued Health Canada funding, and make sure she has the necessary equipment to do her job—like a working generator.

“The main challenge of working in the North is the isolation,” says Daigneault.

With isolation comes lack of easy access medical supplies and medicines—there’s no pharmacy in the community—and access to nutritious, affordable food.

“A real problem is accessing specialist care,” says Daigneault. “Patients have to travel 650 km to Saskatoon to see a specialist. We also have a hard time getting specialists to come to the community for care we can’t provide, such as speech therapists.”

Despite these challenges, Daigneault considers the community home.

Speaking of her relationship with the community, she says: “It’s a two-way street. The community gives me the emotional and social support I need to do my job.”

From providing her childcare, bringing her moose meat, fish, blueberries and fresh bread, and phoning to check-in when she’s out of town, or to wish her a merry Christmas, Daigneault is an accepted member of the community.

According to Daigneault, working with First Nations requires an open mind, flexibility and compassion.

“It’s important to be accepting of other cultures, and ways doing things. And most of all, to have a good heart—that goes for everyone working in a First Nation community, be they a nurse, teacher or police officer. Respect is a two-way street. The community treats me like gold. That’s why I keep going back,” she says.

And she plans to stay. Daigneault and her husband are building a summer cabin near the community.