When Melissa Moores returned from her nursing community placement on Labrador’s north coast, she could hardly wait to speak with the program’s co-ordinator.
“There’s just no other experience like it in nursing school,” said Ms. Moores about her time in the close-knit Nunatsiavut community of Hopedale. “It’s something that helped me grow as a nursing student and I would love to tell other nursing students about it.”
‘One of many incentives’
Every year, about 5-10 fourth-year bachelor of science in nursing students from Memorial’s three nursing sites travel to six-week community placements in Labrador.
Kelli Durdle, who co-ordinates the clinical placements at the Faculty of Nursing, starts gathering up requests about 4-6 months in advance. She says she would love to see an increase in the numbers.
“Many of our Labrador communities offer free accommodations for our nursing students, which are in close proximity of, or connected to, the nursing clinics themselves,” said Mrs. Durdle. “This is one of the many incentives students have when requesting a placement there.”
Ms. Moores was inspired to go to Labrador by a friend and fellow nursing student who was in Natuashish last year.
She’s always considered herself adventurous and wanted to try something new. But it was also her first time living away from home in Pouch Cove, N.L.
“I was nervous at first, I thought I would feel really lonely because of the isolation, the short days and living on my own,” she said of the community of 600 people.
But with accommodations located in the back of the Hopedale Community Clinic where she worked, and where other locum and travel nurses stay, she was never in the space alone.
And if ever she felt lonely, all she needed to do was walk down the hall.
Cheryl Winters, a regional nurse and Ms. Moores’ preceptor, grew up in Hopedale and studied at Western Regional School of Nursing in Corner Brook.
She helped introduce Ms. Moores to the community, bringing her to visit local schools and government offices. It turned out to be a great way to meet Hopedale residents.
“It’s just a beautiful community.”
Another way she became a familiar face to the community members was by learning how to make a pair of slippers at a Monday night sewing class.
“A lot of travel nurses will go,” said Ms. Moores. “It was just two houses from the clinic. One of the personal care attendants showed me how to make a pair of slippers made of moose hide, felt and rabbit fur around the ankle. I was so proud of them, and I’m wearing them now at home.”
The process of making the hand-crafted slippers helped her in many other ways, she says.
“It was a really nice experience to get out into the community and meet people,” she said. “I don’t think I would have survived if I hadn’t.”
Maximized her time
An outdoors enthusiast, Ms. Moores took every opportunity to explore Hopedale by going for walks and meeting friendly residents along the way.
She says it was also interesting for her to see another side of nursing.
The clinic where she worked is appointment-based and led by regional nurses who prescribe medications, order tests and have a different role than what Ms. Moores experienced in other clinical settings.
“The nurses would make decisions based on what needed to be done, and every six weeks a doctor would fly from Goose Bay. In case of emergencies, we’d consult with Goose Bay if we needed a doctor.”
She was quick to applaud the personal care assistants who work in the clinic as receptionists, do bloodwork, take vital signs and provide a wealth of information about the community, along with the maintenance crew who keep the clinic clean and running smoothly.
Wanting to make the most of her time in Labrador, Ms. Moores also asked to be included on weekend emergency calls whenever possible.
Responding to emergencies is also part of the clinic’s role.
On every occasion she was impressed by the strong sense of community in Hopedale, with neighbours helping neighbours, pitching in to do laundry, wash dishes and other household chores as needed.
“It was so good to see that. People are so nice. It’s just a beautiful community.”
Now back in St. John’s and on the final clinical placement of her undergraduate program, Ms. Moores says she “really love” the experience, and time in Hopedale.
“It really sparked my interest in travel and other cultures,” she said. “I think it will inform my practice. If I begin in an urban setting, I can use this experience to care for Indigenous patients, and patients from isolated communities.”