The Importance of Health Services in Remote Northern Communities

Remote Northern Communities: Definition and Overview

48% of Canada’s territory is encompassed in what we call Northern Canada, inhabited by 53% of Indigenous populations: Inuit, First Nations, and Métis. It includes Nunavut, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. 

Divided into two parts, this massive zone is named the Far North when it comes to the Arctic, which is populated by Inuit communities. Near North, on the other hand, consists of the sub-Arctic part of the country. Population density ranges up north from 0.02 per square kilometre to 0.08 compared to 4.2 for the entire Canadian territory; numbers that can be explained by extreme climate and geographic remoteness.

According to the study entitled Enhancing access to care in northern rural communities via telehealth in the International Journal of Circumpolar Health, northern communities also suffer from health disparities and inferior medical access, for which the costs double compared to the rest of Canada.

mountain landscape with fir trees

Challenges in Indigenous Health Care in Remote Northern Communities

The above-mentioned factors pose multiple challenges for the indigenous populations living in Northern communities when it comes to health care and regular medical follow-ups. Here are some of these:

Lack of Access to Health Care Facilities

When living spread out within vast natural lands or in remote villages, access to the facilities which dispense the appropriate medical care can sometimes be tricky. Not only do we need to consider transportation to and from appointments, but also accommodation, meal costs and lost wages this can also include.


Shortage of Health Care Providers

With higher education facilities mainly located in Southern Canada, health care providers aren’t generally living in the Near or Far North. This means that recruitment for nurses, doctors, aids, and all health personnel becomes a more complicated question. Staff can sometimes be sparse at times, and provider shortages have been known to happen.  


Limited Health Care Resources

Even when health care professionals are on-site, resources can be limited due to restocking, transportation, and weather conditions. When machines break, it simply takes longer to get them fix, and when storms arise, experts need to get creative with the limited resources they have on hand.


Importance of Cultural Sensitivity in Health Care Delivery

Regularly faced with racism and discrimination, indigenous populations are also confronted with poor communication with medical professionals who don’t speak the local language. Cultural sensitivity is therefore crucial to offering safe and efficient care to Indigenous Peoples as well as their families and communities.

girl wearing a beanie in winter

Importance of Health in Remote Northern Communities

Regarding this last point, it is important to highlight the significance of community engagement in health care delivery within these communities. When working up north, specialists are not only tending to mental and physical needs, but rather integrating a community and becoming part of the villages they are helping, while receiving in return.

When people are healthy, families thrive, neighborhoods flourish, and everyone wins. If these reasons aren’t enough, discover why else you should choose to work in the Far North today!

Opportunities for Nurses in Indigenous Health Care

The established challenges of nursing in remote and rural areas are far outweighed by the rewards of helping bridge the gap of health equity in Canada. If you understand the importance of cultural sensitivity in health care and demonstrate competence in nursing practice, as well as have a desire to promote positive relationships and a safe space, join our team and discover more about Northern nursing recruitment today!