Standing Together in a Time of Uncertainty
by Tania Dick, RN, MN
My first President’s update comes at a time when our province is in a great deal of turmoil, which makes sitting down to gather my thoughts, emotions, and reflections a struggle - my nursing self wants to constantly be doing something to help. As nurses we need to almost be a CTAS 1 before we’re still, which is why we’re constantly voted the most trusted profession; because we will not stop until the work is done - and for the most part at all costs. Yet taking a moment to reflect on some of my thoughts and emotions from the last few weeks, and consider my hopes for days to come, is important as I start my Presidency of the ARNBC.
First and foremost, let me share a bit about myself. I am a proud First Nations woman from the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw people of Kingcome Inlet and I have been nursing for 14 years, I acquired my MN degree at UBC in the Nurse Practitioner program in 2010, and this will be my fifth year on the ARNBC Board of Directors. I am humbled, honoured, and privileged to assume the role of President for the Association of Registered Nurses of BC (2017-2019). As my Grandma would always say “Ola’kalan mu’la”. This in my language translates as ‘I am really grateful’.
As I move into my presidency, there are two significant issues that are weighing heavily on my mind, and I know on the minds of most British Columbians. We have two ongoing crises occurring in the province, each heartbreaking in its own way - the ongoing wildfires and the opioid crisis.
I know the hearts and prayers of all nurses are with those that have been displaced or otherwise effected by the wildfires and evacuations in our province, and I find myself remembering being in a similar situation in 2010 when my parents, family and loved ones experienced flooding that forced an evacuation of our entire village and displaced everyone for months. I remember the fear, uncertainty, and complete bewilderment of landing by helicopter in another community with only the clothes on our back. Although we were surrounded by safety, and were well cared for with open homes, open arms, and open hearts by another community, I will never forget the look in the eyes of my loved ones, and the energy in the air and in our hearts knowing we had lost everything - it was catastrophic and the memory of that is something I carry with me to this day.
Those memories are fresh on my mind today and make me wish I could be in seven different places at once, volunteering to help ease the unknown, the uncertainty, and fears for those communities being evacuated. It also reminds me of the nurses who work and live in those areas and what they are going through as they work to evacuate the acute care, MLC residents, and assisted living clients from Williams Lake and other communities. Nurses across B.C. have been working hard to ensure evacuated British Columbians are safe, comfortable and have their daily medications and equipment. I am bursting with pride knowing B.C. nurses have gone above and beyond for those in need, even though many also have the same uncertainty, and may also be an evacuee. I hold my hands up to the nurses and other health professionals in impacted areas during this difficult time.
At the same time, we continue to face a devastating public health crisis as more and more British Columbians suffer from overdose or death due to the opioid crisis, something which has impacted ARNBC and myself quite deeply. In December 2016, ARNBC, along with our colleagues in the BC Coalition of Nursing Associations, hosted an opioid crisis forum to bring to light some of the challenges our nursing colleagues are facing. Some of our provincial leaders and nursing leaders spent time in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side (DTES), meeting locals and some of the nurses who work with them.
I had the absolute privilege of shadowing an amazing nurse, and we stopped in and had lunch at the Vancouver Area of Drug Users (VANDU). Here I met Tracey Morrison who was president of the Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society (WAHRS). I was inspired by the work she had done, was doing, and wanted to do. After hearing about her day to day tasks, her hopes and dreams, I felt like I needed to triple the work I was doing as an advocate. In the very short time I spent with her, she made me want to be better, to think bigger, to do more. My world changed over a floppy piece of pizza and a Diet Coke with this incredible woman.
Like so many within this community, we were devastated to learn last week that Tracey had passed away. In an email earlier this week, the nurse who introduced me to Tracey shared her thoughts, which reflect what so many of us have been thinking - “I’m having a rough week. so many losses of people I know lately but Tracey definitely the closest one. I feel like you rarely get to meet someone with that kind of spark. I'm glad you got to meet each other. I feel like I am learning what it really means to live through a crisis; it's not like anything I've ever done before, even after 20 years working in the DTES”.
The opioid crisis continues to take lives in our province, and each loss of life takes its toll on the hearts and minds of everyone who works within and around this community. ARNBC will continue to be inspired by the work of Tracey, and so many like her, and will work even harder to influence change that will save the lives of those we have come to care deeply for, while helping to protect and resource all of the healthcare professionals working on the front lines of this crisis in communities across B.C.
These two significant health emergencies are now in the hands of our freshly minted Premier, John Horgan, and the team he has put together. ARNBC was proud to see long-time friend Judy Darcy, appointed to the new position of Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. We look forward to working closely with her on numerous issues, but most urgently on the opioid crisis. With Judy and our new Minister of Health, Adrian Dix at the helm, I have great hopes that our provincial nursing organizations and our new government can work together for a safe and healthy British Columbia.
Lastly, I am excited to welcome Valerie St. John as the new Executive Director of ARNBC. Her expertise, experience, and passion for our profession will help us strengthen the voice of nursing through policy and action. Many thanks to our Interim ED, Andrea Burton, and our incredible ARNBC Staff and Board who have been instrumental in seeing us through the past six months. I am extremely proud of the work we are doing as an Association, and look forward to meeting many of you over the next two years, hearing your stories and learning from you. Working together, we can make the profession, and British Columbians, healthier than ever.
ABOUT TANIA DICK
Tania Dick hails from the Dzawada'enuxw First Nations of Kingcome Inlet and has been a Registered Nurse in British Columbia for 12 years. Her entire career has been spent in rural and remote nursing, specializing in Emergency and Aboriginal health. She attained her Master of Nursing degree in the Nurse Practitioner program at UBC in 2010. She currently works full time as a general duty nurse in her Father's rural village of Alert Bay, BC. Tania became president of ARNBC in June 2017 and has been on the ARNBC Board since 2012.
Tania, Please feel reassured that members of ARNBC along with many others are here in Kamloops responding to the complex needs of wild fire evacuees, particularly those from numerous First Nations communities in the BC Interior. We have volunteered, worked along side our stakeholders in health, and are walking with those who have suffered much loss and displacement. FNHA/Secwepmec Health Caucus team responded immediately to ensure the culturally significant needs of evacuees were addressed along with the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs. It has been a multidisciplinary approach with Indigenous mental health professionals, Social workers, Psychologist, cultural spiritual advisers/Elders, Aboriginal Patient Navigators, paraprofessional and lay First Nations coming together during this provincial State of Emergency. Ceremonies are frequent and performed daily. T'Kemlups de Secwepemc people of the Secwepemc territory have generously donated their Powwow grounds and arbor where evacuees camp, where there is food, clothing and accommodation for pets as well. There are movies along with adult and child and youth activities for everyone. Though it is a difficult time, communities like Kamloops, Fort MacMurray, Edmonton, AB, Fire Fighters from Nova Scotia, and international assistance from Australia are also in the area. Hoping this eases your concerns knowing many resources have responded.
Congratulations Tania on your new role! You are a great example for our tiny places. Regards,
Tania your words come at a great time, as the nursing family has lots to be proud of and lots of work to do building bridges. You remind us that we are stronger together and have some tough work to do. I recently lost a friend who was in their 20's to Fentanyl and one of my team members had their families home burn down in 100 Mile. All of us are connected to these events and it is really is humbling to see such a human call to action. I am so proud that you are leading us through these times.