Growing up in Québec, Veronique Bazinet found herself in a very birth-positive environment. Her great-grandmother was a community midwife, and her mother and grandmother would travel to relatives’ homes to support new moms. So it’s no surprise that Veronique developed an interest in midwifery, pursuing a Bachelors of Science and Midwifery from the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières.
While in school, her preceptor spoke highly of the opportunities for midwives in the Northwest Territories. In 2015, Veronique and her husband headed north, where they fell in love with the community of Fort Smith.
“I moved here with my husband for a one-year contract, thinking it would be a short experience. But it’s been five years, we’ve bought a house, and now this is our home!”
Since her move, Veronique has had opportunities to travel to Yellowknife for interdisciplinary workshops in obstetrics, and to attend births as the primary attendant.
“It’s really nice to have the opportunity to travel to Yellowknife to work with my colleagues and share knowledge and experiences. We’re all a big team – I’m able to work closely with family doctors, obstetricians, nurses, the rehab team, and the community counsellors. In this way, we’re putting the client in the centre of this circle of care.”
Veronique says that the creation of the midwifery program was a labour of love - the entire midwifery team has worked hard to develop the program, with a focus on meeting the needs of the community while respecting culture and traditions. Compared to her midwifery experience in the south, the Northwest Territories allows for a wide scope of practice.
“As a midwife in the north, I have a very broad scope of practice and I feel that I can offer more continuity of care to clients, and a wider range of services. This is a really rewarding and fulfilling professional experience.”
The midwifery team collaborates with the Healthy Families Program in Fort Smith to create support groups for those expecting, new moms, and young families. Noticing that breastfeeding rates were in decline and in an effort to prevent post-partum depression, the two organizations came together to offer weekly meetings at the recreation centre, providing healthy snacks, play time for the children, and opportunities for assisted breast feeding and peer support. Occasionally, they will bring in colleagues from other services such as physiotherapy to address adjacent concerns. The program has had great feedback from the community and is continuously improving to meet the needs of the group.
Overall, Veronique believes that the midwifery program has had a positive impact on the community, and allows for a culturally safe and birth-positive environment.
“When birth is brought back to communities, the circle of life is felt – there is going to be death, and there is going to be birth. It’s important for women in these communities to be supported by family and loved ones. Overall it is a positive experience for families, but also for the health and balance of the community.”
For Veronique, one of the most rewarding aspects of being a midwife in a small community is the opportunity to build relationships with clients and their families.
“In the 5 years I’ve lived in Fort Smith, I’ve had the opportunity to support women in my community through their second or third pregnancy. When I attend community events or go grocery shopping, I often run into my clients and their children, and get to see them grow. That is one of the most rewarding and meaningful parts of being a midwife in a small community.”
Veronique is used to being present for happy family moments, but there are some client interactions that really have an impact on her. On New Year’s Day in 2017, Veronique was present for the birth of the first New Year’s baby born in the Northwest Territories, and says she and the rest of the team excitedly called the hospitals in Inuvik and Yellowknife in the early morning hours to share the news.On another occasion, she was on call during the Christmas season and during a home visit on the 25th a client invited her to stay for Christmas dinner in their home.
“People are so welcoming in Fort Smith, it’s a wonderful community. When you’re on call and wishing you were at home with your loved ones, those are really precious moments you share with your clients and their families.”
Beyond work, Veronique loves spending time outdoors skiing, hiking, and white-water canoeing on the Slave River. Recently, she took a trip to the Nahanni National Park Reserve and paddled down the Nahanni River with her husband.
“I’ve been able to visit some of the most amazing places in the Northwest Territories. This is a really wonderful place, and I feel so lucky to live on the land of the Dene people.”
Her advice for those thinking of moving to the north?
“Buy a warm jacket, and embrace it! The people are so welcoming, and you’re going to fall in love with the community, nature, and opportunities.”
Veronique’s plans for the future include further developing and advancing her skills, embracing the outdoor adventures the Northwest Territories has to offer, and continuing to support and improve the Midwifery Program.
“I love my job so much! Every day I feel excited to come to work and to be part of such a wonderful program and team.”