A member of a local First
Nations group has been designated as a leader in the field of nursing.
Raised about an hour north
of Whistler on the N’Quatqua First Nation reserve, Dion Thervarge began working
with a local public health nurse at the age of 19, after a family member
committed suicide. The death inspired Thervarge to work in mental health, in
hopes of learning more about himself and his people.
Thervarge was one of 14
nurses from across Canada selected to receive an award from the Canadian Nurses
Association (CNA) for their contribution to the Canadian health care system.
The CNA Nurse to Know
Centennial Achievement Award was given out by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and
Health Minister Tony Clement at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto on
“There are 270,000
registered nurses in Canada today. These vital individuals are fulfilling
roles, not only on the front line of health care, but also in research,
advocacy, innovation, health policy development and education,” Prime Minister
“CNA’s nurses are setting
national standards for our public health care system, increasing patient
safety, enabling technology, and ultimately improving access for all Canadians
to get the care they need at the right time, in the right place. Our nurses are
collaborators and leaders who have made a tremendous difference in the lives of
Over the years, Thervarge
has worked in acute psychiatry, as a community health nurse, and spent five
years as a mental health nurse at the Squamish Nation Healing and Wellness
Centre in North Vancouver.
The centre is funded by the
Aboriginal Healing Foundation to address residential school healing issues,
with programs like smudging and praying ceremonies, and sweat lodges.
Thervarge’s patients at the
centre faced issues of drug and alcohol abuse, family violence, fetal alcohol
spectrum disorder, and social problems. Thervarge’s own parents attended
residential schools, which helped him to understand the trauma many patients
During his time working at
the centre, Thervarge learned traditional aboriginal healing arts, and has
written about these methods in best practices papers for the Aboriginal Healing
“It’s really important when
helping people that we heal ourselves,” Thervarge said in a press release. “As
leaders, we can only raise people up as far as we’ve gone.”
Thervarge is currently
working as program manager for Healing Our Spirits, B.C.’s Aboriginal HIV/AIDS
Society, Injury Prevention Program, funded by Health Canada’s First Nations and
Inuit Health Branch. He works with First Nations health practitioners to
mobilize communities to think critically about injuries and how to integrate
prevention into existing programs.
He plans to return to
clinical nursing practice this year to refresh and expand his psychiatric