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Making it official

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, December 2, 2009

RANKIN INLET - Nunavut's midwifery program celebrated a historic first this past month, courtesy of two Rankin Inlet residents.

NNSL photo/graphic

Midwives Rachel Jones, Catherine (Cas) Connelly and Chris Siksik of Rankin Inlet, from left, all passed their Canadian Midwifery Registration Exam recently. - Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

When Catherine (Cas) Connelly and Rachel Jones passed the Canadian Midwifery Registration Exam (CMRE), they became the first Inuit women to write and pass a national licensing exam.

They are also poised to become the first Inuit midwives licensed under Nunavut's new Midwivery Act.

New Zealand's Chris Siksik, who currently works in Rankin, also passed the exam.

Both Connelly and Jones completed a three-year diploma program in midwifery at Nunavut Arctic College's (NAC) Kivalliq campus in Rankin, and are currently employed at the Rankin Inlet Birthing Centre.

They also hold a certificate in maternity care.

Connelly, 22, said she always wanted to be employed in health care, especially an area dealing with pregnancy.

She said her experiences while having her own two children pointed her in the direction of midwifery.

"I had my first child in Winnipeg with obstetricians, then I had my son in Rankin with midwives," said Connelly.

"I was fascinated by how they did things here and decided midwifery was something I'd really like to do.

"I heard about the program in Rankin the year I was graduating from high school and it just kind of all came together from there."

Connelly said having the course available through NAC in Rankin made the process a lot easier for her.

She said there was a lot more to the program than she ever imagined.

"I thought a midwife was just someone who goes in and catches babies, but there's a lot more to it than that.

"My next step is to start the degree program with Laurentian University this coming January through distance education.

"They're letting me do it at my own pace because I work full time, so I could have it done in a year or it could take a little longer.

"Words can't describe what it's like working with women preparing to have their baby, and I would recommend midwifery as a career choice to girls in high school."

Jones, 33, hasn't decided if she's going to pursue her midwifery degree.

She said her year as a maternity-care worker before entering the midwifery program gave her a good idea of what to expect on the job.

"Everybody knows just about everybody else in Rankin, but you still develop relationships when you work so closely with expectant moms," said Jones.

"You also get to meet people for the first time while working here, especially women from other communities who come to Rankin to have their babies.

"I find it very hard to fall asleep when I know somebody's in early labour because I feel like they're going to call any minute.

"But, once you're there for the delivery, you just do your job because midwives are calm during births."

Jones said she enjoyed taking her midwifery program through NAC.

She said she found the cultural aspects of the program to be very valuable.

"During a couple of our courses, Annie Netser came and spoke to us.

"She was a traditional Inuit midwife and I found her talks to be very beneficial.

"She was very knowledgable and gave us a lot of information, which helped incorporate traditional knowledge into our program

"Annie has since passed on, but she left that knowledge with us."

Siksik has been a midwife since 1972 and is working in Rankin for the fourth time in her career.

She has always been able to practice in Rankin with her New Zealand registration, but took the national exam because of midwifery finally being legislated in Nunavut.

"I'm sure I could have been grandparented in, but, with the girls writing their exams, I felt it was something I should do," said Siksik.

"I first came to Rankin in 1969 as a nurse, and decided to do my midwifery because I knew I could get work here as a nurse-midwife.

"Now most of the workers are solely midwives, so there's a little bit of a difference."

Siksik said NAC is doing an amazing job with the midwifery program.

She said the college has built a quality program that allows its graduates to be recognized anywhere in Canada.

"The college has done a lot to ensure the graduates work within their culture after graduating.

"Cas and Rachel bring something to the table that I don't have, and that's their understanding of the clientele they're dealing with.

"I'm never going to really have that cultural understanding because it's not my culture.

"And having that understanding is so important to the job we do here."

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