Three members of the Silverio family have made a mark within Yellowknife’s health care community as registered nurses devoted to the profession for more than a decade.

Rommel, Vivian and Eric all came to the North in 1997 in their early 20s from the Philippines, and the trio wound up working as registered nurses.

In Eric’s case – an intensive care unit senior staff member since 2006 – he married Sandra, who now works as a territorial specialist nurse.

“With any profession you have to do it for the right reasons, regardless of what it is,” Vivian said. “My youngest brother says to always remember that nursing can be a blessing. It is a blessing because not everyone can care for the sick.”

Although all three had been trained in nursing in the Philippines before immigrating to Canada, all did courses at Aurora College – Vivian to get a refresher as a foreign nurse and Eric and Rommel to attain registered nursing certification.

In January, Vivian became the nurse in charge of the Frame Lake Community Health Care Centre. It’s a supervisory role that has her overseeing front-line staff at the clinic. Up to that point, and since 2008, she had been working in Stanton’s pediatric unit.

Rommel became nurse in charge at the Yellowknife Primary Health Centre downtown last September – making the brother and sister proud to both be managing clinics.

“I just want to make a difference,” Vivian said when asked why the family has been so involved in working in the profession. “When I came and joined primary care, I didn’t do it to change what was working but to improve the system and help the front-liners.

“If you can improve the process, then being in leadership is the only way to do that and that is my commitment.”

There have been challenges, particularly with staffing, she admits.

“The challenges are sometimes staff going without breaks and staff with children because child care is one of the main issues,” she said. “But that is not unique and it is all over the place where we do see shortages.”

Closely associated with those challenges is burnout, she added.

“There is always going to be burnout anywhere but from a management position, we have to look at what we can do to mitigate it,” she said, noting it’s important to be as understanding as possible. “Burnout will always be there and we have to support the staff the best we can.”

The nurse in charge roles isn’t the only common leadership roles the siblings have achieved.

In April, Vivian was acclaimed as president-elect of the Northwest Territories Registered Nurses Association. She’s expected to assume the president’s role in 2023.

Rommel was president from 2017 to 2019.

Also a sitting city councillor, Rommel made a rare member’s statement at Monday’s council meeting to mark National Nursing Week and International Nurses Day on May 12.

He said he was “thrilled and honoured” to be part of the profession in Yellowknife and noted that the pandemic has highlighted the critical role of nurses in the community.

“Nurses are the centre of our Canadian health care system,” he said. “Nurses are the smiling faces who welcome us at the hospital. They are the common voices helping us through our toughest days and they are the ones helping to care for our parents, family members and loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Union of Northern Workers

Others who work in the field have spoken about the challenges of the profession.

Josée-Anne Spirito, regional vice-president for Somba K’e with the Union of Norther Workers’ executive, agreed that union members in nursing do it as a passion despite the recent obstacles.

“The past month has been a difficult time for our nurses and health-care staff as they put in long days, extra hours, and are working under a lot of pressure,” Spirito said. “Many have been redeployed to cover any service gaps, and those types of transitions can be challenging.”

She added that the additional work has meant union members have experienced “COVID fatigue” and are missing families and loved ones.

“Despite the challenges of the recent outbreak, we’ve had a year to prepare for this type of scenario and we were ready for it,” she said. “It has been stressful, and our members have put in a lot of overtime, but everyone has stepped up to keep our communities safe.”

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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