Compassion in Amachewespimawinihk

Leslie Brooks, RN, who has practised in Stanley Mission for eight years, thrives on daily contact with patients, families and co-workers. "It sounds cliche, but it's a choice I made which centred around my desire to help people." Mark Tarry, RN, mirrors her sentiments. Mark has been in Stanley Mission since August ot last year.

Compassion in AmachewespimawinihkA typical day at the Stanley Mission Health Centre begins with a nurses' meeting to discuss the events of the previous evening and to plan for the day. Stanley Mission has a predominantly Cree population. "The nurses assess, diagnose and treat an average of about fifty clients daily," Mark explains. Clients with more complicated concerns are seen by the doctor who comes in from LaRonge twice a week. In emergency situations, the nurses discuss a client with the doctor on call at the LaRonge Health Centre and a treatment/care plan is developed. The client may be transferred by taxi or ambulance to La Rouge for further care."

Daily practice is guided by "Clinical Practice Guidelines for Nurses in Primary Care," developed by the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Health Canada. Nurses in Stanley Mission prescribe medications from a set formulary. They also take a home study pharmacy certification course to ensure competency.

Mark, one of only nine male nurses in his graduating class is a product of Weldon, Saskatchewan and spent three years in LaLoche practising in the fourteen bed hospital. He then completed a thirteen week Northern Clinical Program at McMaster University in Hamilton. I enjoyed LaLoche. There was a lot of autonomy, but outpost nursing seemed like the next step for me." Mark spent four years in Wollaston Lake at the Outpost Clinic responding to the health needs of a primarily Dene population then took on 'an office job' in Prince Albert supervising community health nurses in the primary care role.

Leslie had friends working in the north but was content working as a general duty nurse at both St. Paul's Hospital and the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. Her "life circumstances changed," as Leslie puts it, when a close friend died and her perspective on what she wanted to do with nursing changed. Born in Hudson Bay, Leslie spent much of her life in North Battleford. Leslie was a CNA for four years before completing her requirements to become a registered nurse. Leslie completed her Northern Nursing Clinical Training Program at Dalhousie as a requirement to work in an outpost clinic. Leslie explains "Registered nurses get a different respect from the physicians. We're their eyes and ears."

The Health Centre is an on call five nurse station. It is open to the public from 8 to 5 Monday to Friday and a nurse is on call at all other times. The on call part of Mark and Leslie's work can be gruelling. "It is unusual for the on call nurse to get a full night's sleep," Leslie explains. "For example," she continues, "we have been getting several calls related to anxiety attacks because of the events of September 11 and the anthrax scare." Mark adds that "because nurses are away training right now there are currently only three registered nurses practising in the clinic which increases the stress level and


The Health Centre nurse performs minor lab tests and serves as a pharmacy dispensary. Nurses also provide community health services including the chronic and elderly care program, well child/immunization program, school health program, womens' wellness program and the communicable disease control program.

Despite the long hours and being short staffed, Leslie and Mark are passionate about their work. Leslie concluded "to get up every day and love your job - a lot of people can't say that. It's the most rewarding job you can have as a nurse. You need to understand and respect the people you work with. You have to have compassion."


Stanley Mission was established in 1851. Six years earlier, the Hudson's Bay Company, which controlled Rupert's Land granted permission to the Missionary Society to establish a mission in the English River District (Churchill). The site selected was on a point of land first called Church Mission Point, which later was known as Stanley Mission. Stanley Mission is located on the Churchill River about 50 air miles northeast of La Ronge, Saskatchewan in the Pre-Cambrian shield. This community was a major fur trade centre in centuries past, and many still practice the traditional lifesyle of trapping, hunting and fishing.

The name Amachewespimawinihk comes from the Cree language and is translated as "the place where hunters shot their arrows up the cliffs". Oral history tells us that in the days before the church, hunters would shoot arrows up the cliffs on Mountain Lake from their canoes. If the arrows went over the top, then they would have a good hunting season. If the arrows failed to go over the top of the cliffs, they would have an