Amber-Joy Gruben

Nursing in the North: Amber-Joy Gruben Lives her Childhood Dream

“Ever since I could remember, I've always wanted to work in the hospital, alongside the doctors and other nurses just helping people. I always thought they had a really cool job, making a difference,” Amber-Joy Gruben recalls. 

She is a registered nurse from Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories and she graduated from high school in Inuvik and attended Aurora College at University of Victoria in 2018. She moved home to be a community health nurse in Tuktoyaktuk after working on the Medicine Unit at Stanton Hospital in Yellowknife for three years. 

When the pandemic hit, she was a year into nursing. She was supposed to go to Mexico on vacation when her holidays were canceled and she was recalled to work. She worked on the COVID unit in Yellowknife and while they didn’t have much COVID in the area, it was busy. Thanks to their quality crew, they got through it together, supporting each other. 

Thinking about Indigenous youth considering leaving their home communities, she hopes they will find ways to gather support, too. “Take advantage of all the funding that's available to you, apply for scholarships. Don't be afraid to ask for help, because there's always help out there. Do your assignments and find a good crew to hang out with, a good support system to keep you in line and busy,” she advises. 

Having support through adversity is important. Gruben dealt with racist instructors and went through a number of appeals in her third year of nursing. Support letters from her classmates helped her succeed in her appeal, and the encouragement of a classmate who helped her review policies and procedures to try and find a solution. If that wasn’t successful, her friend was going to take things to the media. The courage and conviction means so much to Gruben. She faced racism and with a good support system and a determination to never give up, she got through it. 

Illustration by Shaikara David

When asked what advice she would give her younger self, she says, “I wish somebody told me to be prepared to be completely dedicated to school. In my program, anyway, we had a full course load/ I think we're doing six classes plus a clinical so you really had to be totally committed. Goodbye to everything for four years,” she recalls. Even though it was hard, she doesn’t regret it. “It was worth it. I’ve got a good job now and a good career and a good life. It all paid off in the end,” she concludes.

Now back in her home community, she has a good support system, too. With her family, her boyfriend, her next door neighbour, and her childhood friends, she’s able to lean on them when she needs to. Taking time for herself when she recognizes she’s getting burned out is something that helps her maintain her mental health and she’s learned not to forget to take care of herself.  

She keeps going because she’s inspired by her people and her community. “I want to do good for them, help them on their journey and make them happy. It's a good day when you go to work and it ends in a happy ending,” she smiles. When she was in Yellowknife, she did palliative care and she’s noticed a big difference now doing primary care at the clinic in her hometown. 

“Probably mostly what inspires me is trying to inspire the youth. If I could do it coming from Tuktoyaktuk, they could do it too,” she continues. Her words of wisdom for youth in her community are: Just keep going. Keep pushing. You can do it. Be confident in yourself and never give up. 

Inspiring youth is important to her because ever since she could remember, she’s always wanted to work with doctors and nurses in the hospital. She thought they had a really cool job, making a difference. Now a registered nurse, Amber-Joy Gruben is making a difference, too, and she hopes by telling her story she might be able to inspire youth to do the same.  

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
  • Province/Territory
    Northwest Territories
  • Date
    April 30, 2024
  • Post Secondary Institutions
    No PSI found.
  • Discussion Guide
    create to learn discuss

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