Leaving The North for Nursing: Ethan Zettler’s Story
“I always like helping people. It's something that I want to do,” Ethan Zettler shares. Zettler lives in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories and is getting ready to attend the University of New Brunswick as he pursues a career in nursing. He’s most interested in the medical evacuation side of nursing and would like practice in a medivac role, thinking it will be a fun and engaging way to help others.
His family is from the Baffin region of Nunavut, a place he loved to spend summers as a child. He moved around all over Canada during his childhood because of his dad’s work as a police officer, but the majority of his time was spent in Yellowknife. That’s where he considers home, where he has a lot of social connections with people he considers to be really nice.
There are a lot of nurses in his family who love what they do and he really wants to help people in his work. The program he’s pursuing was hard to get into because it’s a very competitive field, which meant he had to work hard in his senior year of high school, spending lots of time studying so he could get admitted into the program he wanted to qualify for. Now that he’s been accepted to his dream program, he definitely feels all the effort was worth it.
Going into his senior year, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to be, but he had an idea. He talked to his teachers who were very supportive and offered to help him if he needed it outside of school hours. That extra support gave him the boost he needed to get the good grades his application needed to be successful. “The teachers are always there to support you,” he smiles. Outside of academics, a teacher encouraged Zettler to try out for the Canada Games so he decided to go for it and see how he did. He made it in and qualified so he will be competing in the Niagara region in discus.
His teachers weren’t the only ones who helped him along the way, and he didn’t have to do it alone. “I'm surrounded by these people who are also young and innovative, like my oldest sister, who's my role model for this course stuff. I learned from her how to study hard, because she went through a similar thing that I did. It's good to have support in the family,” he explains. His sister is in biomedical engineering. The baby of the family, Zettler has two older sisters and an older brother. One of his sisters went to school to become a nurse but then found environmental science.
His advice to somebody who was thinking about leaving their community for the first time or learning abroad is encouraging. “It can be hard to be one that goes out, leaves your family and all that, but in the end, it'll be worth it, because you need to start your own life outside too. You need to be yourself and you can always come back to the community once you've done your studying. But I think it's important to get out and experience the world. Even though it could be hard at the start, you can always still get used to it. There's lots of things out there. You need to be out of your comfort zone to experience the most stuff,” he advises.
Zettler had options as to how to pursue his career choice, but he ultimately decided to leave home and go for it. “I'm really close with my family, too. It was a hard decision for me to move away when I could stay here and do a similar program. But I decided that I need to go out by myself, which I think it's important. And many people have told me how important it is to go out,” he explains.
He thinks the independence he will foster going away to school will help him in his twenties and beyond from the familiarity of doing things on his own and the independence he will find along the way. Zettler also knows there are resources available should he need them.
He has words of encouragement for Indigenous youth that he hopes will bring them comfort and hope. “During high school, I know it gets really stressful with the marks and all of that and trying to be perfect at everything, but you're not alone when you do it. You always have support from teachers and family members. If you feel alone, you can always reach out for help and get the support you need to advance in your life and your education,” he counsels.
Because of the help he got along the way, Ethan Zettler is taking his love of helping people to the field of nursing, and his athletic strengths to the field with discus. Representing his community at the Canada Games, and representing his family in the nursing career he’s seen his kin excel, he’s getting out of town to find himself and his independence. He might be going out on his own, but he knows with the resources available to him in his studies, he doesn’t have to go it alone. “There's always help for you if you look for it,” he says, and with a nursing degree, he’ll be that help for others down the road.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
February 2023 Update: Ethan has now transferred to the University of Calgary.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.