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Fly-in nursing stint offers life-changing opportunity

If you’re looking for adventure and a chance to make a difference, GodsLake Narrows in northern Manitoba could be the place for you.

If you’re looking for adventure and a chance to make a difference, Gods Lake Narrows in northern Manitoba could be the place for you.

Just ask the dynamic nursing duo of Cheryl and Mike Dove. Shortly after finishing their education at McMaster University in Hamilton and getting married, they spent almost five years in this First Nations community of some 1,600 located about 550 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

Their stint in this isolated fly-in community was a once in a lifetime experience the couple wouldn’t trade in for the world.

They reaped tremendous rewards. On the professional side, they provided important primary care, including prescribing drugs, applying casts on broken bones and actually diagnosing patients. “That was a big part of the experience that most nurses never get the chance to do,” says Cheryl

And since their nursing station didn’t have an ultrasound, let alone other standard diagnostic bells and whistles, “you get a really strong foundation for your basic assessment skills,” says Cheryl. They also had an opportunity to deliver a few babies when a mom didn’t get a chance to fly out to the closest hospital.

It wasn’t all on their shoulders though; Cheryl and Mike and the other nurses stationed in the community regularly consulted with physicians over the phone and in person. Doctors fly into the community for short stays.

On the personal side, perhaps the biggest reward was the daily interaction with patients. They got to know the local residents and eventually became an important part of the support system in the community.

And what better place than the icy north for two outdoor lovers like Cheryl and Mike to hone their snowmobile skills? Mike also became a huge fishing and hunting fan.

Despite these rewards, nursing in a remote community has its share of challenges – the cold, the isolation, the long working hours, and the high rates of alcohol-related trauma, to name a few. “During one of first few weeks we were there, there was a particularly severe stabbing,” says Cheryl. “It was definitely eye opening and a huge learning curve.”

Today, Cheryl and Mike live in Huntsville, Ont. with their 19-month-old daughter, Jenna. They’re both nurses in the emergency department of the Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, wrapping up a nurse practitioner program through Laurentian University in Sudbury. They plan to open a nurse practitioner-led clinic with two other practitioners in the fall.

But they can’t get Gods Lake Narrows out of their system. Mike is up there now doing a two-week fill-in stint, reconnecting with friends, and probably fitting in the odd hunting excursion.

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