A Northern Alberta community is rallying to welcome an international registered nurse with hope it will encourage him to set down roots with his family.
Nigerian native Patrick Ojide stepped off a bus after a six-hour journey from Edmonton in late September and was immediately greeted by Perry Skrlik, a member of the Peace Regional Attraction and Retention committee.
“It was so nice meeting Perry,” reminisced Ojide, recalling his 6 a.m. arrival in Peace River, Alberta. “It was so helpful because you’re struggling to find your way, especially in a foreign place.”
Ojide, among thousands of internationally educated nurses being welcomed into Alberta to address nursing shortages, holds a contract specializing in mental health and addiction until 2025. There is potential for an extension through permanent residency.
Holly Handfield, RhPAP manager of community development and engagement and NW rural community consultant, collaborated alongside Alberta Health Services and the local attraction and retention committee to ensure Ojide’s positive introduction.
The early morning connection with Skrlik, a committee representative for the Village of Nampa, was just the start. He and fellow member Dan Boisvert, representing Northern Sunrise County, took Ojide under their wing, settled him into his new home and began a tour of the region.
Since his arrival, the committee and community have been a steadfast support system for Ojide. Boisvert and Skrlik facilitated a learner’s test for him, provided their vehicles for supervised driving practise, secured a laptop for online work courses, arranged long-term housing, and even lent Ojide an e-bike for transportation as a bridge toward purchasing his own vehicle.
“Patrick is so appreciative of our efforts ending every milestone, meeting and every call with huge thanks and praise,” said Boisvert. Every day one of them checks in to see if Ojide needs guidance on things that Canadians take for granted, such explaining the need for a furnace.
Ojide is excited to pay it forward one day and share his learnings with other health professionals who arrive under similar circumstances.
Peace River Mayor Elaine Manzer, chair of the committee, emphasizes the importance of personal connections in both welcoming and retention efforts.
“Our community may not be able to supply a large amount of financial support, however, as a committee, we do have volunteers who can make the personal connections with the new nurses to alleviate some of their feelings of being totally on their own,” she said.
“That emotional support can be worth more than dollars to help long-term retention of staff.”
While Ojide eagerly awaits the arrival of his wife (who is also a registered nurse) and their four children, ranging from nine years to 18 months, he isn’t letting the wait deter him.
Discovering a public piano in the downtown just hours within his arrival, he immediately began playing and later received a guitar from Boisvert to further indulge in his musical passions.
Capturing his experiences through recordings on YouTube and live streaming, Ojide shares his newfound adventures, from exploring the ice rink in Grimshaw to cruising on the e-bike and embracing the charm of his new home.
“We were trying to find out what he was passionate about,” Boisvert expressed, highlighting Ojide’s enthusiasm for sharing his talents and exploring his surroundings.
In this close-knit community, the outpouring of support for Ojide exemplifies the power of unity and compassion, creating a nurturing environment for a nurse as he embraces a new chapter.