Tutkoyaktuk’s top nurse has a simple request for anyone who wants to show their appreciation to nurses during National Nurses Week.

“The best thing you can give us for nurses week is to go get your Covid-19 shot,” said nurse-in-charge Helena Cole. “That would be a great gift to us, if you want to give one.

“It is very important for people to get their Covid-19 shot, because it is so easily transmissible.”

Cole spoke to Inuvik Drum about how the pandemic has affected nursing throughout the territory.

With few cases of Covid-19 in the Beaufort Delta and none to date in Tuktoyaktuk, much of the work has involved screening and sanitation.

“We have to protect ourselves and the community with our personal protective equipment. We’re always diligent with infectious disease, but it’s certainly been heightened since the Covid-19 pandemic started.”


Other issues nurses across the NWT and the world have been dealing with are more systematic, as many are retiring or on the verge of retirement. Finding a suitable number of replacements could take years, said Cole.

While she noted there is no serious shortage of nurses in the Beaufort Delta, she said the health centre could always use some more help.

“There is always a shortage of nurses,” she said. “We’re not always short here in Tuk, but there can be periods of time when we’re short, but not generally. But it’s a global issue.”

Cole is not alone in asking people to smarten up and get the vaccine. Tuktoyaktuk Mayor Erwin Elias recently penned a letter to the community calling for the hamlet to push for herd immunity as soon as possible.

In the May 7 message posted to the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk’s Facebook page, Elias noted he has fielded numerous calls from residents asking when the community will open up and return to normal.

“The Hamlet can open up when we get to herd immunity,” he wrote. “Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of the community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected — not just those who are immune.

“With the cooperation of our residents we can go back to having dances, feasts, baseball tournaments, card nights, funerals, the list can go on! All we need is for 235 adults in the community to get the vaccine to reach herd immunity!”

Though she could not confirm the number, Cole echoed Elias’ message, noting all nurses in the NWT had been vaccinated without incident and strongly encouraged anyone who hasn’t begun the process to get on it.

Cole thanked the people of Tuktoyaktuk for their patience with the health care system during the last year and expressed her staff’s gratitude to the community, noting there was nowhere else she would rather be.

“We feel very fortunate to be able to be in the North and able to receive our Covid-19 shot as early as we have, because I know people in the south are still waiting to get booked,” she said. “We truly enjoy working in the North. Many of us are from the south and we feel honoured to be able to work up here, to work with Indigenous peoples.

“We learn something new every day and it is such a pleasure to work here.”

Eric Bowling

Your source for all things happening in the Beaufort Delta. Eric jumped at the chance to write for the Inuvik Drum after cutting his teeth in Alberta. He enjoys long walks, loud music and strong coffee....

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