Health Canada

Health Canada

May 16, 2008 10:51 ET

Minister of Health Congratulates First Nations Nurses in 2008 National Award of Excellence in Nursing Ceremony

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 16, 2008) - Today, the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Health, congratulated two nurses for receiving the National Award of Excellence in Nursing for First Nations and Inuit communities. An important component of National Nursing Week, the ceremony took place at the Government Conference Centre in Ottawa.

"Awards of Excellence in Nursing celebrate the high level of dedication and initiative demonstrated by nurses working in First Nations communities," said Minister Clement. "I am very pleased to recognize the contribution of Joyce Ritchie of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta and Elaine Conacher of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, on the occasion of the 6th Annual Award of Excellence in Nursing ceremony. Their contribution to Aboriginal communities and to innovation in the nursing profession is outstanding."

"These nurses represent the partnership and commitment of all Canadians to ensure healthy Aboriginal communities," said the Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. "Nurses often represent the main point of health care on reserves and that dedication needs to be recognized."

Out of the more than 232,000 registered nurses in Canada, there are approximately 1,200 who work in First Nations and Inuit communities. The Award of Excellence was created to recognize nursing practice excellence in these communities and the key role nurses play in improving the health of Canada's Aboriginal peoples. Nurses are nominated for this honour by their peers, and each winner receives a $2,500 non-cash award to be used for their professional development, as well as a certificate and crystal sculpture.

"Nurses who work in these communities have tremendous responsibilities and are on the front line. We thank them for their exceptional hard work, and excellent devotion to the health concerns of residents in their communities. Much is asked of them, and these nurses represent the very best of culturally appropriate care for First Nations and Inuit," the Minister stated, congratulating the two recipients.

Refer to attached biographies of this year's awards recipients:

Joyce Ritchie - Rocky Mountain House, Alberta

The best two words to describe Joyce Ritchie are perhaps "sheer energy." Joyce works as a home care nurse at Kiska Wapton Bighorn First Nation, but also maintains a part time rotation at Rocky Mountain Hospital and Care Center. In addition to her regular duties, Joyce mentors three community health nurses who are new to the area. Her mentoring of First Nations staff has enabled them to achieve meaningful health care careers, with one such individual eventually becoming a health director.

Currently enrolled in a Post-RN Bachelor of Science in Nursing program (University of Alberta) Joyce continues to develop her training. She has also maintained a specialty certificate in emergency and critical care nursing and is building skills to better monitor diabetic clients' blood sugar levels in the community. Recently, using best practice standards, she made a decision that helped save two clients with diabetes from lower-limb amputations.

Despite her busy work schedule, Joyce is active in the community. She helps out local health nurses with school programs and teaches CPR and First Aid. Last summer, she represented nurses at a community PowWow and rodeo, and in her spare time, maintained a fire fighter and Incident Command System (ICS 300) certification. Somehow Joyce finds time for hiking, backpacking, skiing and gardening. A worthy beneficiary of this award, Joyce is most decidedly the kind of person who is a blessing to any community.

Elaine Conacher - Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

Elaine Conacher is quick to laugh and not afraid of putting aside the agenda to listen to her clients. She is also valued for promoting a close and cohesive team atmosphere. Her coworkers say that she is 'always open to feedback and ideas from colleagues and she respectfully values others.' Elaine mentors many nursing students taking diabetes management programs through the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology and makes presentations regularly at the First Nations University of Canada nursing program.

Esteemed by her colleagues as a tireless health promoter, Elaine knows the value of people. She is constantly on the go in her current capacity as Supervisor of the Prince Albert Grand Council Diabetes Team, providing diabetes education to 12 First Nations communities in the Grand Council. The region Elaine covers takes up about half of the province of Saskatchewan, but she is committed to community health as a continuation of her previous work as a community health and home care nurse with the Muskoday First Nation.

Exemplifying the practice of continuing education, Elaine constantly updates her knowledge of diabetes and its treatment, participates in seminars and committees, and has attended the Canadian Diabetes Association conference since 2001. It is hard to imagine, but Elaine still has time to help out on the family farm, relax a bit at her Candle Lake cabin, and pursue golf, curling and fishing. Truly a dedicated person, Elaine deserves this reward for her diligent efforts with First Nations people, and is a definite asset to both her community and Health Canada.

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Contact Information

  • Health Canada
    Paul Spendlove
    Media Relations Officer
    Office of the Honourable Tony Clement
    Minister of Health
    Laryssa Waler