National Nursing Week

May 2014

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C M Y K 2 WINNIPEG FREE PRESS - SATuRDAY, MAY 10, 2014 NURSING WEEK NATIONAL Knowing more than one language is not a job requirement of northern nursing, but it's clear that learning Cree has made registered nurse Mawussi Kassegne a better caregiver. Kassegne is the nurse in charge of the Health Canada nursing station in God's River (Manto Sipi) Cree Nation. He has worked on remote Manitoba nursing sta- tions since 2006, and has been learning Cree since then. The path Kassegne took to learning Cree has been a long and winding one. Throughout his life, he has learned new languages for fun and to advance in his career. "I was born and raised in Togo, in West Africa, and the official language of Togo is French," he explains. "At home, I mostly spoke Ewe with my family, which is a common language there. I went to university in Togo, studied to be a lab technician, and worked in that profession for many years. When I moved to Canada at the age of 32, I stud- ied nursing in French at the university of Montreal. Around that time, I had a lot of friends and co-workers who spoke Italian and Spanish, so I started to learn those languages a bit. I also learned some Haitian Creole because I had many friends from Haiti." After his nursing studies were completed, Kassegne worked in different hospi- tals in Montreal, where he was exposed to both English and French. He first heard about opportunities to work for Health Canada through a physician who thought Kassegne would enjoy the independence and versatility of working in northern Manitoba. "My first posting was in Split Lake (Tataskweyak) Cree Nation. I worked in Eng- lish, and it was sometimes challenging, but I had good support from my col- leagues and some excellent mentors. But since everyone in the community also spoke Cree, I thought I should try to learn a bit of Cree." When Kassegne discovered there wasn't a local Cree language classroom course available, he took it upon himself to purchase three books on how to learn Cree, and was also given a book by a helpful community member. "People in the community noticed I had an interest in learning Cree, so they were willing to help me learn new words. Learning Cree helped me improve my communication with my clients and develop stronger relationships." Kassegne has been working in God's River for the past two years. He sees an average of 20 clients a day, and has found it's mostly older adults who enjoy com- municating with him in Cree. "I'm certainly not fluent. However, I'm able to ask people basic things, like how old they are, or if they have pain. I usually start by asking them, 'How are you?' in Cree. I also know the Cree words for some medical terms. It's helped me to improve the care I provide to them." Although God's River might seem very different from the African village where he was born, Kassegne says there are actually many similarities. "Walking or sitting on the beach by the lake is very peaceful, energizing and spiritual, just like my village in Togo. There are only dirt roads here, and the dust in the summertime also reminds me of home," he says. "I also find that everyone here pulls together when there is an emergency. In Africa, your neighbour is your brother. It's like that here too." For information about working as a nurse for Health Canada, call 1-866-RN- NORTH or email (Karen Christiuk is a Health Canada communications advisor.) Speaking my Language Registered nurse Mawussi Kassegne has learned to speak Cree to better communicate with patients. Learning Cree helped northern nurse connect with patients By Karen Christiuk – For the Free Press INCELEBRATIONOF NATIONALNURSINGWEEK, theCLPNMwouldliketorecognize theCLPNMwouldliketorecognize thededicationandcontribution thededicationandcontribution LPNsmaketothehealthand LPNsmaketothehealthand wellnessofallManitobans. wellnessofallManitobans. TheCLPNMistheregulatorybodythatgovernsthepracticeofstudentpracticalnurses,graduatepracticalnurses,andlicensedpracticalnursesinManitoba.

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