Although today their paths are aligned, the Van de Mosselaer brothers found their passion for nursing in different ways.
Adrian and Quinn Van de Mosselaer both recently completed their first year at UBCO’s school of nursing, in Kelowna.
The brothers are supporting one another in their educational journey — but they didn’t always plan it this way. Adrian was a professional hockey player while younger brother Quinn worked on completing his bachelor of science degree.
As members of the Secwepemc (Shuswap) nation through their mother, the brothers grew up with strong ties to their family, which they say has forged a strong identity and commitment to the community.
For Adrian, nursing came after he dedicated years towards hockey. He started his junior hockey career with the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings, from 2007-11 then moved on to play three years with the Ontario Reign in California from 2011-14.
Then, his interest in healing was sparked through observing first-hand sports medicine.
“When guys got hurt, I was curious about what was happening in the training room. I was curious on how they got put back together,” he said.
“I ended up suffering a head and neck injury and that made me re-evaluate what I was doing. How much of this could I really sustain?”
He had the idea to return to school germinating in the back of his mind, and in December 2019, his younger brother Quinn gave him some nursing textbooks as a Christmas gift.
The brothers’ paths are parallel this year, as both Adrian and Quinn turned their attention to the nursing program.
The brothers are both strongly empathetic — something instilled in them through family values of caring and connection.
They share fond memories of playing cards with grandparents, something Quinn says was reinforced through volunteering with Elders in long-term care facilities.
“I could see how much it meant to them,” he said. “You could see how it helped their wellbeing and their mental health, just having someone around to talk with them and visit with them. That sparked my interest in taking care of people.”
Younger brother Quinn says his motivation is rooted in the satisfaction of being a positive part of someone’s day. In his studies and practice, he says his interest lies in learning more about advances in medicine and approaches.
“I like getting to know how healthcare is changing and evolving to help people and ease their pain or their suffering,” he said.
‘Progressive to be inclusive’
Adrian recalls hearing about the guessing game that was the impetus for Mary-Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s investigation and the resulting In Plain Sight report.
“Unfortunately nurses were guessing blood alcohol levels when Indigenous patients would come in and, you know, to me that is really hard to hear,” he said.
“And it’s hard to know that that’s going on in a place that is supposed to be safe and a place where people can go without judgment. That fear of discrimination, I think, is what also holding back a lot of people from seeking health care, or assistance.”
Adrian says although there is still work to be done, he feels motivated to join the efforts. He says he’s also encouraged by the work being done on Indigenizing and decolonizing within his nursing program.
“For myself, joining these programs and going into nursing is really trying to ground myself — to come up with creative ways of rebuilding that trust or rebuilding that sense of faith,” he said.
“The school of nursing program is really bringing to light how nursing can be progressive to be inclusive.”
Adrian says there are a lot of discussions on bringing awareness, “that there is a lot of harm occurring, toward First Nations communities, and how do we develop programs, access, and just that trust — trying to rebuild that.”
For Adrian, there is strength in diversity — in his case, being Indigenous and male in a largely female profession.
Quinn says there are only about nine per cent male students in their nursing program. Adrian explains the fact he is a male nurse is secondary to the heart in his work.
“No matter where you come from or what’s occurred in your life, nursing is a place that needs everyone, and it needs a lot of different types of people from a wide array of experiences,” he said.
“Clients and patients have overall been really welcoming because they understand the intention of caring. So far, all my clients and patients have been really kind and sometimes going through hard things, but when you can hold someone’s hand and just look them in the eyes, I think that there’s a universal language that you can be a part of.”
Adrian says he has had positive experiences and encourages more Indigenous people to consider nursing, and to bring more traditional knowledge into the field with them.
“If you’re Indigenous, I think it’s a very welcoming place to be able to lean on some of your traditions or knowledge that’s been handed down from elders,” Adrian said.
“Or maybe this intuition within yourself that is just guiding you as a healer, to be able to help people. It’s a great way, as an Indigenous person to give back to the Indigenous community, through medicine.”
Quinn agrees, and says working with Indigenous communities and individuals brings him closer to his own sense of culture. He will be working with First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) in his co-op placement, in primary health and wellness.
“Going into the hospital, I feel that it brings me closer to patients or clients that are Indigenous and I feel that I can connect better with them, and maybe offer them a better sense of home when they’re in a stressful environment,” said Quinn.
Although the clinical component for the school year is complete, both brothers are still working in the hospital over the summer as patient porters. Adrian is also doing a work-study position with UBCO’s harm reduction team (HART).
The HART team works to increase access to harm reduction resources, he explains.
“What I love about it is we’re just trying to focus on people’s lives, and protecting those and really bringing our voices together so that we can raise awareness that no one feels left out of sight or left on their own,” he said. “So they have a place that they can safely build and heal.”
Both brothers say they have hopeful visions of the future of nursing, and embrace diversity as a strength in their work. It’s what they are bringing to their nursing program, and gives them encouragement to continue in this path.
“Just really grounding myself in the roots that it is possible that we can rebuild and we can actually come back stronger,” said Adrian.
“Part of that is recognizing the Indigenous people within healthcare and all walks of life that are working hard to do that. Because without them, I think it just wouldn’t be possible. So my hat’s off to everyone who is working hard to overcome these obstacles.”