“Nursing is a form of love,” Abapi shares her journey to St. John’s

Abapi, a Nurse from Cameroon, will be relocating to work with Chancellor Park in Newfoundland and Labrador. Photo by Will O’Hare.

“You can’t sit down with me for more than a couple of minutes without me telling you that I’m a nurse,” says Abapi, calling from her home in Abuja, Nigeria. “Because when I let people know I’m a nurse, I’m indirectly letting them know I love, I care, and I have compassion, and whatever needs you have, you can share with me.”

“There’s no human being on earth that doesn’t need a nurse in their lifetime.”

For Abapi, nursing is more than a profession, it’s an intrinsic component of her identity – influencing everything from the way she talks to people on the street to how she derives meaning in her life.

Originally from Cameroon, Abapi fled after civil war and insecurity made it nearly impossible to do the work she loved. Militants took over the hospitals she worked at and harassed medical staff at their homes, and she worried about her future and the safety of her young niece.

So together, they made the long journey to Nigeria, where Abapi had hoped the stability would offer a fresh start for the two of them. Unfortunately, she says, “life in Nigeria is intimidating – it was very difficult to get a license to practice, and coming from Cameroon, I have to work for less pay than other nurses.”

“At some points, I even started selling fruit on the street to make ends meet.”

Despite the challenges, she still volunteered her skills to other people living in refugee situations, travelling around Nigeria to provide free healthcare in internally displaced and refugee camps.

While filing her own refugee status paperwork one day, she was chatting with an administrator in the office who had a runny nose. Offering some advice as a nurse, the administrator asked why she didn’t consider moving to a place like Canada, which needed caring nurses like Abapi.

“I had never thought that I could practice nursing abroad,” she says. “Leaving my refugee situation felt like an impossible task.”

Someone else in the office overheard, and recommended she look at TalentLift. Abapi says she assumed trying to immigrate to Canada would be prohibitively expensive, so she was surprised when she learnt that employers in Canada might be willing to sponsor her journey. She specifically zeroed in on Canada because, as she says, “I know that Canadians are really friendly, and they really respect nurses and appreciate what we do.”

After interviewing and conversations with her niece, who is now 15-years old, Abapi decided to take an offer from Chancellor Park, a long-term care facility in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Like many healthcare providers, and especially those based in the Maritimes, Chancellor Park had struggled to recruit staff locally.

That shortage of talented healthcare staff had led Chancellor Park to recruit staff multiple times through TalentLift. When Abapi arrives in the coming months, she’ll join several colleagues who have likewise left refugee settings to start a new life in St. John’s.

Through working with all ages and abilities as a general practice nurse, she developed a passion for elder care while caring for her own grandmother at the end of her life. She says the experience reinforced her view that being a nurse is as much about love and compassion as it is about medical care.

She’s looking forward to bringing that same zeal for building connections with Chancellor Park’s elderly residents. “I want to help make it one of the best senior’s homes in St John’s, and have all our patients recommend it.”

“I am so grateful for TalentLift for the inception of this idea to help refugees like me. My hope was lost for a while before TalentLift,” Abapi says.

“Thank you for seeing the potential in me.”

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