Covid-19 has had a tremendous impact on Sapatie Stokes’ learning and her chosen career as a nurse.
The threat of the virus brought her home to Iqaluit from Rankin Inlet to complete her community health nursing practicum. She now expects to write her final exam to earn her registered nursing designation in the fall. That would have happened in late June, if Covid-19 hadn’t intervened.
And, she confessed, the risks associated with the coronavirus shook her up.
“To be 100 per cent honest and truthful, I am still terrified because health-care workers are like the high-risk group to contract Covid,” she said.
She fears the potential to pass the virus on to her son. She also decided to quit smoking three months ago to reduce the risk of serious complications if she’s ever diagnosed with Covid-19.
“It was really scary but I also have a lot of respect for people who continue to nurse the front lines and take care of people with Covid because I think that takes a lot of courage and bravery,” she said. “Nurses are awesome.”
Her great-grandmother was a nurse in Ottawa and her grandmother was an licensed practical nurse. Stokes also wanted to enter a profession where she could help people.
“It’s about respect. When the care is respected and done in a certain way, there’s a lot of respect,” she said.
Able to speak basic Inuktitut, Stokes acknowledged that the language barrier is a crucial factor in properly diagnosing patients who are better versed in the Inuit language and putting them at ease in a clinical setting.
The four-year bachelor of science in Arctic nursing program – offered through Nunavut Arctic College and Dalhousie University in Halifax – expanded the way she thinks about nurses, who she once imagined as having a narrow scope.
“I always pictured a nurse with the scrubs, the stethoscope, the one that’s at the hospital, the one you see when you’re sick,” she said. “But there’s a nurse for everything, like community health nursing, public health nursing, nurse educators… nursing at schools, nursing in your office, even policy-making.”
Because her critical thinking and practical skills are where she excels, she’s having difficulty narrowing down a specialty that she’d like to pursue. She has a passion for Inuit health and history as well as mental health nursing, including trauma and addictions. Working at the future trauma and addictions centre that will be built in Iqaluit is a possibility, she noted, adding that it would entail a return to school for even more learning first.
For the time being, she winding down the Arctic nursing program and maintaining a balanced perspective, despite the pandemic interrupting her timetable.
“Sometimes it’s upsetting knowing that I could be done (with school) right now and I could be starting my summer break but, at the same time, I’m glad knowing everyone is safe and we’re taking steps to protect Nunavummiut (from Covid-19), so it’s awesome,” she said.