Student joins vaccination effort


Megan Fraser started a three-month nursing practicum with the Cowichan Tribes’ Ts’ewulhtun Health Centre on January 12 and worked her first drive-through vaccination clinic the very next day. Fraser, born and raised within the Cowichan Valley, has faced challenges before. True to form, she saw the beauty in this historic learning opportunity.

“The people and staff at Cowichan Tribes were warm and welcoming,” she says of BC’s largest First Nation community, home to one of the first vaccine clinics of this kind. “We were sorting out the logistical pieces, purchasing supplies, organizing equipment, securing sandbags so our tents wouldn’t blow away,” she says. Cowichan Tribes installed and equipped 10 such shelters to serve as vaccine-injection sites.

Hundreds of people came through on each clinic day, arriving by car, bus or on foot. “It was a very quick way to jump into a real nursing experience—with both feet,” says Fraser.

Fraser was supported by supervisor Amber McAdam, pandemic response logistical lead and a UVic nursing alum, as well as Leanne Kelly, an alumna who has worked for Cowichan Tribes for 25 years and is now an Assistant Teaching Professor leading nursing courses with a First Nations focus.

Fraser explains, “From my first day, I was mindful of being a stranger at the vaccination clinic and sensitive to the community’s experience.”

This was not her first time working within a First Nations community. About seven years ago, Fraser and her young family relocated to a remote northern hamlet in the Northwest Territories. She enrolled in Nursing at Aurora College and later completed a practicum with a community-health nurse in Deline, a remote community 500 km north of Yellowknife.

“The North lends itself to certain circumstances we don’t have here, such as gaining an expanded scope of practice from working in a remote location,” she says.

“Everything comes in and goes out by plane, which means you have strict time frames to follow. You develop an understanding around the necessity of resources and how to use them wisely. Plus, the doctor doesn’t come back in for three weeks, so you must prepare for that. It’s a different way of practising.”

Her grandfather, a noted family doctor in the Lake Cowichan region, previously worked in the North as a physician, as did her great grandfather. Her mother, grandmother and great grandmother were also RNs.

Yet her greatest influence was her sister, who died in 2019 after a 14-year battle with a rare form of cancer. “She went through a lot,” says Fraser, adding that quality of life becomes a very real consideration when you are advocating for someone you love.

“I forged some pretty strong values on the care people deserve because of my experience caring for my sister who was also a daughter, a wife and a mother.”