June's Nurse of the Month: Allison Wiens (she/her), RN BN MPH (c)

Growing up in a small farming community in Manitoba, Allison Wiens had experienced her formative years in a rural area. Taking opportunities to expand her understanding of different healthcare systems and structures, she took part in study trips to Cheng-du, China and completed her BN while living in the Yukon Territory of Canada.

Through her rural life, and the eye-opening experiences in other parts of the world, she saw healthcare and health services working for some people and not for others depending on social, economic, and environmental factors. This ignited her passion for social justice and advocacy in health care and grounded her nursing career and its focus.

“I got to see some neat stuff in the hospital in Whitehorse, they had some very amazing components of their health system,” says Allison. “There was a collaborative planning approach to include and amplify the needs of First Nations folks such as the hospital having readily accessible traditional foods that were sources from the community, and I remember thinking ‘Well, this is amazing! Some things seemed so simple.”

Since being in Winnipeg, Allison has worked in several different areas of care, the hospital and in ambulatory care at CancerCare Manitoba.

“While I was in the burn unit, I found that I felt really rooted with the head and neck program, I felt drawn to caring for people with cancer. Manitoba is pretty incredible and at the forefront of reconstructive surgery in oncology. We actually have some of the best physicians, surgeons and expert nurses doing reconstructive work right here in Manitoba,” she says.

Allison attributes her career success to her ongoing education, training, and personal growth, as well as the support she has received from fellow nurses.

“I kept following what I felt called to do, where I felt rooted. I asked myself, ‘What am I passionate about?’” says Allison. “Working with other nurses and having their encouragement and support, I moved around to roles that increasingly focused on addressing health inequity.”

Along with constantly learning and developing her skills, Allison emphasizes the importance of being an advocate for people and communities, which is a message she now shares with other nurses.

“It’s a huge component of nursing. That doesn't mean it has to be loud, not every voice needs to be loud. It’s being committed and honouring the people in front of you as humans. What can you do to support them, to uphold and respect who they are as a person? Not the tasks of the day but who are they are” says Allison. “If nurses are looking to be stronger advocates, find a space where advocacy exists. If it's at the front line, maybe it's an individual or the team that you work with. As a nurse in administration or education, prioritizing equity and advocacy, and striving for social justice. These are all intertwined and can move toward a more person and community-centred space with equitable health outcomes.”

“Make it meaningful. With organizations like ARNM, there is a voice there to join in. We can amplify voices of those who face unfair and unjust differences in health throughout all the work that we're doing. I truly believe we will start to see those inequities that exist in our health system reduced. I think nurses have a lot of power. They really do have a lot of power to make change and so lean into the space that you're in.” says Allison.

One of the key messages Allison passes along to her colleagues is the value of being an advocate, and the power nurses have to make a difference in patients' lives. She encourages nurses to reflect on their own position and bias, how they can provide person-centred care and how they advocate for folks in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, and how the voices and needs of the community can be amplified to enhance equitable care.