Iqaluit nurse self-publishes guide to northern nursing
“Working in the North, it’s so much better"
Milton Grace has been on the receiving end of a few panicked calls in middle of the night to be sure, but when asked to think of the most memorable experience as a travelling northern nurse, he remembers the gunshot wound in Peawanuck.
Peawanuck First Nation is located on the northwestern corner of James Bay. He was at home when the health centre called to say a man had been shot and needed urgent attention.
It turned out that a couple of men had been out hunting moose, got separated and then one guy shot the other, by accident.
The bullet entered the man’s back below the scapula, puncturing the lung. Grace knew because he could hear a sucking noise coming from the wound.
“I thought, oh my god, I cannot believe this is happening,” said Grace, who closed the opening in the skin temporarily while awaiting a medevac. “Luckily it was not high calibre. I gave those two guys a good talking to.”
Grace, originally from Jamaica but raised in Toronto, was at Iqaluit’s Francophone Centre May 25 to launch his new book, A Registered Nurse’s Guide to Live and Work in Canada’s North and Arctic Communities.
Recruited at a nursing job fair by the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Health Canada, he spent 10 years travelling around the three territories and northern First Nations patching up lacerations, setting broken bones, prescribing medicines and delivering babies.
Grace has been working as a nurse at the Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit for the past two years while he wrote the book.
The inmates call him Dr. Evil because he refuses to give out pills, even Tylenol, unless they’re necessary. “So I’m evil, in a good way,” he said in a lilting Caribbean accent, before dissolving into laughter.
A healthy-living vegan, (he brought his own homemade vegan muffins to the book launch), Milton is a strong advocate for illness prevention and health promotion.
Much of what ails us is diet — or lifestyle-related, he said. “Food is medicine and medicine is food.”
His self-published book is only 67 pages long and contains numerous photos of him, on the job and off duty, in various communities — the cover features Grace standing in front of the Igloolik Research Station.
In between the charming pictures are anecdotes and practical work and homelife advice for nurses heading to remote northern communities on topics such as cooking, shopping, banking and accommodations.
A little earnest at times, the book nonetheless gives nurses a good idea of what it would be like to be in charge of a health centre at the end of the trap line, or North of 60.
“Working in the North, it’s so much better. You’re using more skills you’ve been trained with, you have to read X-rays and apply casts to broken limbs. You have to do advanced assessments,” he said, eyes wide.
“It’s just night and day. You’re like a family physician working in the North,” he said, then added, “only for less pay!”