Former TRU student recounts time as aid worker

Patrice Gordon talks about working as a Red Cross delegate in conflict zones

Gordon attending a patient in the Field Hospital in Nepal in 2015 after the earthquake (Submitted).

On Thursday, Jan. 18, TRU nursing alumnus Patrice Gordon shared her stories about working in disaster and conflict zones such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Sierra Leone with a diverse group of over 100 students, faculty, staff and community members in TRU’s House of Learning.

“There were nursing students, there were retired doctors, people from all walks of life were there and I think it was a wonderful opportunity for people to look outside of their immediate world,” Gordon said.

Gordon said that although she has a nursing degree from TRU, that’s not where her journey as a medical professional started.

“When I started nursing school in 1981, no one got a degree. To become a registered nurse you did either a two-and-a-half-year college-based program or you did a hospital-based program,” Gordon said. “I did the college-based program out of Selkirk College and became a registered nurse.”

After working as a registered nurse for 10 years, and a four-year stint in New Zealand as a pediatric critical care and emergency nurse, Gordon said she decided to go back to school to get a degree.

Gordon also went on to get her Masters in Nursing from Athabasca University and has worked in a variety of settings throughout her career. She has worked everywhere from an emergency room at the Castlegar and District Hospital to the Ebola Treatment Centre in Kenema, Sierra Leone to Nepal after the 2015 earthquake to working as a critical care and flight nurse in the Canadian Arctic.

Most recently in the fall of 2017, she worked in Bangladesh as part of the response to people fleeing violence in Myanmar. Gordon says she was drawn to this type of nursing work partially for adventure and partially for satisfying her curiosity.

“I’ve always been a very avid reader, so I’ve read a lot about different places and done a lot of recreational travel,” Gordon said. “I wanted to be able to take the skills that I have and to help in other places to try and even out the inequity.”

Gordon adds that one of the most rewarding aspects of working abroad is the constant reminder of generosity in the human spirit around the world. She says that her travels have also really taught her that everyone is the same.

“It doesn’t matter what country we’re from, what religion we have, what gender we are, what anything,” Gordon said. “We all have the same hopes and dreams, we have our own, they might be unique, but we all have hopes and dreams and fears and aspirations and general needs.”

Gordon’s biggest advice for students looking to get into a similar line of work is to be diverse in your studies and obtain a variety of skills.

“Some expertise in maternal child health, public health, international medicine, emergency, those areas are really important,” Gordon said.

For now, Gordon is continuing her work in the Chilcotin region of B.C. providing mobile medical care to remote communities in the west-central region of the province.