Public Health nurse in it to effect change
It was while working as a public health nurse in northern Manitoba that Jayme MacLellan knew she was in the right field.
In January 2011, MacLellan – who had recently completed her studies for a Bachelor of Nursing from the University of New Brunswick – went to Thompson, Man. for her first public health job.
For nearly 20 months she worked in remote Indigenous communities four hours north of Thompson as a generalist public health nurse.
“When I did my placement in public health as a student I knew right away that it was a perfect fit,” she said.
While in Manitoba, MacLellan did everything from investigating communicable diseases to prenatal and postpartum follow-up with new moms and families, immunizations and community development work.
It’s that last item, however, that really appealed to her.
“It’s an interesting area in public health and I think that’s really what drew me to working in the public health field, is that there’s an interesting balance between providing one-to-one patient care, which is very fulfilling as a nurse,” she said
“But there’s another interesting component of public health around community development, partnership work and policy work that I was really interested in.”
Today MacLellan is based in New Glasgow where she works as a public health nurse with Public Health in Communicable Disease and Prevention Control (CDPC). She primarily responds to cases within Pictou County, but helps in neighbouring Colchester, East Hants, and Cumberland counties or as part of the larger provincial team as needed.
Part of her job entails following up with individual reports of communicable diseases. But the unit also plays a large role in the prevention, control and management of outbreaks in the province, which is work that is done on a daily basis. They collaborate closely with community partners to do this work together.
MacLellan points to last year’s measles outbreak as an example when Public Health units across Nova Scotia and community partners worked in concert to respond to and manage the outbreak and was a “great testament to how well we can pull together as a provincial team and to the incredible knowledge, leadership and skillsets of my fellow nurses and colleagues.”
As a CDPC public health nurse, she also supports the publicly-funded immunization programs in her area, and is a resource for other health care providers and the public around immunizations.
Not one to rest on her laurels, MacLellan, a native of River John, N.S., also served a two-year term as the Cobequid district councilor for the College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia that ended in June 2017.
Public health nurses focus much of their energy on examining the social determinants of health, trying to understand the factors in people’s lives that contribute to their health and the degree of health that they can experience.
In this regard, MacLellan takes much of what she learned in Manitoba years ago to her current work in New Glasgow in an ongoing effort to make a positive difference in the community.
“When you’re working in communities such as the ones I had experience living and working in, you see such dramatic differences in opportunities that people have and just the conditions of the environment that they live in, the support that they have,” she said.
“You see some of the inequities when it comes to those social determinants of health, and in public health you have the opportunity to effect change in those areas through partnerships and policy work.”