For nurses like Danielle Latulippe-Larmand, 47, helping the sick goes beyond physical and mental health — it’s about transforming entire communities for the better.
“For me nursing was always about helping people. You want to be able to change communities to make things better for people,” Latulippe-Larmand said.
Latulippe-Larmand works at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, helping patients often struggling to regain control of their own lives. Having now worked for more than 25 years throughout the field of psychiatric nursing, Latulippe-Larmand feels a profound sense of duty to help the mentally ill — people she believes are the most marginalized within society.
“A lot of people are uncomfortable around people who are mentally ill. At the end of the day these people are just like me and you, they were just unfortunate enough to get an illness. The stigma is getting better but it’s still there,” she said.
Negative perceptions about working with the mentally ill persist even within the nursing field itself, Latulippe-Larmand says, making it harder to bring new nurses into fields like psychiatric nursing.
“A lot of nursing students when they get out of university are told, ‘Don’t go into psych yet,’ so we face a stigma even among our colleagues,” Latulippe-Larmand said.
The continual nursing shortage in Canada forces nurses to work longer hours and deal with more patients, something Latulippe-Larmand says is definitely putting pressure on the entire health system.
Latulippe-Larmand was just 20 when she graduated with a nursing degree in Quebec. She quickly moved to Toronto in 1982 to find work since nursing jobs were scarce in Quebec while Toronto was in the throes of an enormous nurse shortage.
She refers to all of her patients as her “clients” and, contrary perhaps to popular beliefs about nursing, Latulippe-Larmand’s work goes far beyond the hospital ward — she spends a large amount of time doing advocacy for her clients, including helping them find and keep a roof over their heads, get into schools or training programs or even manage their day-to-day affairs. When clients pass away, Latulippe-Larmand is often the only person left to make funeral arrangements or finalize affairs.
“It’s about making sure these people have rights and improving the quality of their lives. These people have feelings, they have lives. Yes they’re sick but they are people,” Latulippe-Larmand said.