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Wendy Skye completes dream nursing career

The Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre will be without another face that has graced its halls for decades after Wendy Skye worked her final day as a community health nurse Tuesday. Her retirement comes a week after long-serving executive director Susanne Horne finished her final day at the hospital a week ago. (Daniel J. Rowe, The Eastern Door)

After working her dream job for decades, community health nurse Wendy Skye hung up her badge for the final time Tuesday.

Since she was a young woman, she always wanted to be a nurse. 

“I thought they were the cat’s meow,” said Skye. “When I became one, I didn’t think that. It’s so much responsibility.”

Busy to the end, she spoke with The Eastern Door Monday, as she was wrapping up a child safety program that is working on solidifying standards for summer camps. She had a great last couple weeks at work, including a near-perfect last day at the clinic.

“My last day of clinic, I had three new babies,” she said.

She’s been a nurse for 45 years, and said she’s seen six generations of patients at times throughout her career. 

Skye spoke about becoming a nurse in the mid ’70s, and the serendipitous way she entered nursing school. 

Hint: it involves a frozen summer treat.

“It chose me. I didn’t choose it,” she said. 

Skye explained that when visiting Bishop’s University in Lennoxville with her friends, having not applied to the school, a clerk at the registrar’s office asked her what she was applying for.

“He said there’s a shelf with all different coloured pamphlets, go look at that,” said Skye. “I saw blue, and I love blue popsicles, so I took the blue.”

The blue form was for nursing, and the match was made. 

Wendy’s father, Russell Skye, found the Sherbrooke Hospital, and her studies began.

“I didn’t even know to be nervous,” she said. “Next thing you know, I’m in the door. It saved me a stamp from applying. It wouldn’t happen today.”

Nursing school then, like it is now, was no breeze.

“It was really, really hard,” she said. “I wanted to quit after about a week or two. My father said, ‘go ahead. Quit, but I’m not supporting no damn bums. I’ll tell you right now.’”

Wendy continued on, worked hard and after transferring to John Abbott College, completed the program. 

After a brief spell at Lakeshore hospital, she returned to Kahnawake and worked at the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre ever since. 

For Skye, there was one place she wanted to work.

“Baby clinic,” she said without missing a beat. “I love the baby clinic. I used to run to the other side to see the public health nurse and talk to her and see the babies. I loved that, so I knew I needed more advanced education.”

She went back to school, and completed her degree from Concordia University to get her dream job of working at the baby clinic.

Wendy said being a nurse in Kahnawake is a job that requires a very strict standard of professionalism. Community members approach medical professionals often with questions or concerns, which are highly inappropriate to answer in a social setting. In addition, Skye, as any nurse or doctor, was always careful about which patients she takes. 

“You’ve got to be extremely careful,” she said. “I don’t mix business and social, but I learned to do it, and we all learn to do that. Do not mix.”

She had nothing but positive things to say about her team in community nursing, and how all the nurses help each other out and cheer when the babies they’ve helped bring into the world develop.

“The baby gains 30 grams, everybody’s jumping for joy,” she said. “If you can relieve them of their pain, those are highlights for you. You’re not looking for a bouquet of roses. That’s our bouquet of roses. When you see good outcomes for the clients or the community.”

Having the chance to do a job she loves for so long is something that brought tears to her eyes in the end.

“To be doing your dream job for over 30 years is a big deal,” she said, adding that she would do everything the same in a heartbeat.

At 65, Skye knew it was time to retire, though she will remain active in the health field in Kahnawake.

“It’s time,” she said. “You get to a point. I don’t have the energy for the way I like to work, and I feel like I’m short-changing. It’s a hard job, and you have to keep up.”

Wendy knows she’ll miss the job, but also that her friends and colleagues at the hospital will be there for her, as they always have been.

“The door’s not closed, but I was crying when I typed my letter,” she said choking back tears. “It’s hard, but it’s time.”

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