Kristen Belke, a registered nurse, was city born and raised.
So, what led her to live and work in Whitecourt, a rural community of 9,500 located 180 km. northwest of Edmonton?
The love of rural nursing, and the love of a man.
She grew up in St. Albert, enrolled in a rural nursing program in Westlock, and did her final practicum in Whitecourt.
That’s where she met a special someone.
Fast forward 15 years, today they have two children, a large dog and live on an acreage just outside Whitecourt. They share a love for the outdoors.
“We have an orchard,” started Belke. “We get bears in the yard. We have lakes nearby. I could walk to a creek and go fishing. I love it.”
They also enjoy snowmobiling and riding ATVs.
You’ll always have an opportunity to learn and change and grow [in rural nursing]. – Kristen Belke, RN
Since 2008, Belke has practised nursing at the Whitecourt Healthcare Centre. She works on a unit that includes emergency, acute care, endoscopy, operating room, and labour and delivery.
Over a period time, a nurse on this unit will work in all of those areas.
“I love it,” declared Belke. “I think about the variety. We never have a boring day.
You’ll always have an opportunity to learn and change and grow. And I think that’s what keeps us excited about our jobs.”
Recently, RhPAP followed Belke around for a day. She was working in Emergency.
It was a typical day, lots of patients who were experiencing cold or fever symptoms. None seemed life threatening at the time. But as you can imagine in Emergency, there is the occasional day when it can get crazy.
“The aspect I like about it is being the person who is calm in those situations, the person to say to this [patient] who is in a panic because they’re hurting, ‘you’re going to be okay. ‘We got you. Talking them through that chaos, I’d say that’s one of my favourite parts.”
We don’t expect you to come here having all the training. – Kristen Belke, RN
Fear is a big word for nurses who’ve never experienced rural practice.
The fear of having to work alone.
The fear of being put in a situation you’re not ready for.
Fear not, in Whitecourt, they’ve got your back.
“You don’t need to know it all coming out here. We have new grads that come out here, brand spanking new, and some of them haven’t done acute training. They’re buddied and if they’re nervous, we buddy them longer. We don’t expect you to come here having all the training and having all the education and knowing how to do all the things. We expect you to come being eager to learn.”
Belke encourages urban nurses to give rural practice a try.
“My sales pitch for coming to rural: vacation is granted, parking is free and taco salads cost $3.50,” she said laughing. “Cuz our cafeteria is great and literally, taco salads [are just] $3.50.”
To explore nursing opportunities in Whitecourt and other rural Alberta locations, go to: