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Local man recognized for achievements in nursing

N’Quataqua First Nations member receives award from Prime Minister



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 February 1.

“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 Harper said..

“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 all Canadians.”

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 experienced.

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 Foundation.

“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 nursing skills.