In honour of Black History Month, February, 2021, the Ingram School of Nursing (ISoN), McGill University, Montreal, Canada, celebrated some of the inspiring Black nurses, leaders, educators, researchers and students across the McGill Nursing Community.
One of those so celebrated was Vincentian Tenkarra Punnett, the following is an interview with Tenkarra to mark the occasion.
Why did you choose to become a nurse?
As a child, I was always fascinated with the body and how it worked. And growing up in a Caribbean household, I was taught the value of community and the importance of taking care of your neighbour. My love for physiology and the satisfaction I get from being in the midst of my community drew me to nursing as a profession.
What is your current role?
Nursing has given me many personally satisfying opportunities. Currently I work in three different nursing roles. I work at the Jewish General Hospital as an orthopedic nurse in the orthopedic day clinic where we see pre-operative, trauma-fracture and post-operative patients. In this role I can use my administrative ability in a manner that is not just confined to paperwork. I also work on the orthopedic unit as a bedside nurse. Most recently, because of the pandemic, I started telenursing. This helps me channel my passion for working intimately with the human body while still connecting with the people in my community.
What is your proudest achievement in nursing?
My proudest achievement in nursing is having the opportunity to teach for McGill as a nursing clinical instructor. As a nursing student at McGill, I never had a Black nursing professor or clinical instructor. I am a human of diverse origins (African, East Indian, European and Aboriginal to name a few) and I think this heritage gives me an ability to positively interact with individuals from various ethnic backgrounds. This was missing in my training as there were no role models with whom I could closely identify. In fact, I had to reach out to one of my colleagues to ask whether or not I was mistaken with my recollection of the McGill nursing faculty while we were at school. My colleague could not recall having any Black nursing lecturers or clinical instructors while pursuing their nursing studies at McGill.
Given that so many Blacks have been in the nursing profession for so many years, it begs the question as to why more of us have not reached the professional heights to be able to share our knowledge and expertise. This is why representation in healthcare is crucial, for how can our society avoid or eliminate incidences of discrimination in healthcare if our healthcare professionals are not taught in an inclusive environment?
It is encouraging that the Ingram School of Nursing at McGill University has made efforts for Black History Month to showcase the experiences and voices of black nurses in the McGill community. My hope for the future is that McGill employs more people of diverse backgrounds to teach the next generation of nurses. (Source: www.mcgill.ca/ISoN)