Travelling the world may not be on our current agenda, but Rebecca Foreshew has certainly been on her fair share of global adventures over the years. As a BScN ’14 and MScN ’19 alumna of Laurentian University and a natural empath, Rebecca has taken her skills on the road with her to many countries and communities to help individuals in need of health care services or support.
Rebecca’s love for caring for others started long before attending her nursing classes at Laurentian. She grew up alongside her sister who has specialized needs, lives with Autism and Down Syndrome, and has recovered from cancer. This brought her even closer to her sister and her family, who had to push through all of the challenges together, which built her into a more understanding, empathetic, non-judgmental and compassionate person. “My sister has always been a huge influence on me,” says Rebecca. Her caring nature, on top of her personal experiences, guided her to the Nursing program and a career that would give her the opportunity to help others.
While working on her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN), Rebecca served as Class Representative on the Laurentian University Nursing Council (2010 – 2013) and later on as Vice President (2013 – 2014). She assisted with the planning of events for students in the Nursing program, as well as supported and represented those students.
Her ability to empathize with families managing specialized needs of a loved one lead her to dedicate some of her time to Best Buddies International as a support person and friend to an individual with an intellectual disability. She planned events with them on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. She also volunteered over a few summers as a Camp Counselor (2010 – 2012) and a Personal Support Worker (2013) at Camp Trillium, a specialized pediatric oncology camp that is near to her heart because she had attended the camp since she was 11 years old, with her sister.
After earning her BScN, she started working as a Registered Nurse (RN) at Health Sciences North in Sudbury, Ontario, mainly with the Respiratory Care Unit, and continued to care for patients there until 2019.
“As a nurse, I can’t take my job for granted,” says Rebecca. “People come to me in their most vulnerable times and they trust me to take them seriously and to make sure they are having a positive experience. It is an honour that people come to me, open up to me and trust me. It is important to show empathy and I am grateful that I have that responsibility. When I can see the result of helping save someone or supporting someone, I feel amazing.”
Rebecca has also completed four fly-in contracts as a Registered Nurse at the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority in the Northern Ontarian community of Attawapiskat First Nation. Access to the community is by plane or boat in the summer, with a road only being accessible in the winter. She mainly worked alongside other Registered Nurses and a Nurse Practitioner, with a doctor only being onsite once a month and available for phone consultation as needed. She would go for walks with co-workers in the community to have the opportunity to meet many local individuals and leaders. “They are amazing people,” says Rebecca. “There is a lot of poverty, health concerns and trauma relating back to the residential schools and isolation. They are very independent and interconnected in their community, and they need to keep in touch with their traditions and one another to heal together, and to pass on those traditions to current and future generations. It was an honour to have had the opportunity to be welcomed into their community.”
Supporting others runs through her blood and she just cannot help but fill her time with new opportunities to bring her kind smile and supportive spirit to others through humanitarian efforts. Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Kenya, Guatemala, and Nepal are among the other countries she has brought medical supplies and support to.
She first travelled to the Dominican Republic when she was 17, where she did something different every day; this included helping build a home, participating in collecting plastic items for income, visiting an orphanage and helping paint a hospital. Her next trip was to Nairobi, Kenya, as a Laurentian student, to do health assessments and assist the workers at Zawadi la Tumaini, a children’s home that provides education, healthy food and support to orphaned and abandoned children. Later that same year, she supported nurses with day-to-day tasks at an orthopedic hospital in Vietnam. In 2016, she brought her professional Nurse Practitioner experience to Guatemala, where she volunteered in a rural health clinic. A couple years later, in midst of working on her Master degree, she travelled to Kathmandu, Nepal to dedicate her time in the emergency room at a local community hospital.
All of Rebecca’s hard work and dedication paid off in 2019 when she earned her Master of Science in Nursing at Laurentian University, followed by her Nurse Practitioner Graduate Diploma. Prior to her graduation date, she secured a position as Lead Nurse Practitioner at the Norman Recollet Health Centre located in the Ojibway community of Wahnapitae First Nation. She serves as the primary care provider for the community, as well as the clinic lead, offering services relating to physical and mental health. She works closely with the indigenous community leaders and a cultural worker, who provide her with guidance in relation to traditional medicines and teachings that she can refer to along with her clinical guidelines. “They have been very open and welcoming,” says Rebecca. “The elders have taught me some Ojibwe words and we all get together on Tuesdays to share a traditional soup.”
Rebecca continues to work full time at the Norman Recollet Health Centre, as well as part time as a Primary Care Nurse Practitioner in the communities of Britt, Rosseau and Argyle, through the West Parry Sound Nurse Practitioner Lead Clinic. She is also currently growing her own family, with an upcoming wedding to her fiancé, Laurentian graduate Eric Spence (BBA, SPAD ’12), and a baby on the way. Hard work and a busy schedule are nothing new to Rebecca, which will certainly set her up for success in her new life experiences and endeavors.