Natalie Ogryzlo

Indigenous Excellence Feature – Natalie Ogryzlo

Program: Bachelor of Nursing Program graduation May 2022. Natalie graduated from Assiniboine Community College as a Licensed Practical Nurse and joined the LPN-BN program at Brandon University in 2020.
Bio:  Natalie Ogryzlo (she/her) is 24 years old, Ukrainian and Cree woman and a member of Misipawistik Cree Nation. I look forward to using my education, training, and skill set to touch many lives.
Outside of work I enjoy reading, yoga, weightlifting, and visiting family and friends. I love a good belly laugh, homemade cinnamon buns, and walk in the park.

Why did you choose your program of study?

I have a lot of my family in the health care field, mostly nurses. My mom is a nurse, my two close aunties, my cousins, one of my cousins completed a Master of Nursing. Why not keep the family tradition!

Natalie is joining a long line of matriarchs in her family who are part of the nursing profession and contributing to this field. One of her relatives and role models is Indigenous scholar and nurse, Melanie MacKinnon, who has been working as part of the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

I saw the numerous job opportunities you can do within a nursing profession that are diverse! You could work in a hospital setting, such as surgical, medical, maternity, clinical resource nurse, you can do public health. The options are honestly endless, and it amazes me all the options you can do as a nurse. For example, the past summer I had an opportunity to work in northern communities with the COVID-19 Rapid Response Team.

Another reason I chose nursing is to work with people. With nursing you can build therapeutic relationships with your clients within your day. I feel satisfied at the end of the day, knowing I was able to help clients.

What does it mean to you to be an Indigenous nurse?

I feel honored to be an Indigenous nurse and to have that background. There are a lot of Indigenous people who come into the health care system looking for help and I feel like once when they see another Indigenous person, they’re more comfortable. They’re not as reluctant or scared. There is racism in the health care field, which is seen as mistreatment when Indigenous peoples seek health care. Indigenous peoples face a lot of barriers in the health care system.

Currently working at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, Natalie sees a lot of Indigenous people accessing health care, which has been an empowering experience for her.

What do you hope to contribute to your community, nation, family, or the larger Indigenous community after graduating?

After I graduate, I want to be a role model for Indigenous youth/people that we are capable and able to do anything we want. I want Indigenous youth to dream big. There is racism and discrimination towards Indigenous people and depending on where you are you feel that racism towards Indigenous people. You almost feel like you don’t belong or feel undervalued with the work you are achieving. In the future I want to make a change with racism within Indigenous peoples in health care. I want to be able to show proof that we do belong, and we can do what we want, or we can do what we dream of accomplishing. I have seen many Indigenous peoples doing a lot of good for their communities.

This past year I did a project on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people. I want to raise more awareness. I’m not sure what that looks like yet, but I want to do that for Indigenous people and community.

Natalie referred specifically to Jennifer Catcheway, a woman from Skownan First Nation who went missing from Portage La Prairie in 2008. Jennifer’s case remains unsolved, along with the cases of many other Indigenous women girls, and Two-Spirit people.

One of the competencies of nursing is to be an advocate. I feel there needs to be more nurses and health care workers advocating for Indigenous people.

As an Indigenous nurse working at Winnipeg’s Health Science Centre where Brian Sinclair, an Indigenous man who experienced racism in the health care system that cost him his life, this need for advocacy couldn’t be more pertinent.

Natalie also wants to go back to school after graduating from Brandon University for her Masters in Nursing.

What helped you to be successful as an Indigenous student at Brandon University?

I’ve had a lot of resources to help me be successful in my studies. Coming to BU (joining in year 3 of the bridging program) my key factor that made me successful was speaking with Tracey Collyer, Academic Advisor for Health Studies – Nursing. We created a schedule for classes, allocated times to study for each course and created a timetable. This helped me with time management.

For my classes, if I had questions I would go directly to the professor as a lot of them are very helpful and willing to help you.

When I needed to destress, I would go to my family and parents who have been my number one supports. I would send my papers to my dad, who would help review them. I am very grateful to have such supporting parents, sister, aunties, cousins, and friends.

I think it’s important to find close friends, whether in your program or at the university so you have a connection and can relate to each other. One or two close friends to bounce off ideas or how you are doing in and experiencing in nursing school. It is quite the journey. Life in general it is better and more enjoyable to share moments with other people than by yourself.

Joining in year three, the Indigenous Peoples Centre was closed [due to the pandemic]. I didn’t join the IPC until my fourth year, but the IPC has been awesome. I recommend the IPC to any student, you will enjoy it! It is a place where you feel welcomed. I’m happy I was able to participate in activities, including the full-moon ceremonies. The Wednesday Soup days at the IPC helped me to not worry about bringing a lunch, and it was something in the week to look forward too.

What did you enjoy about your studies at Brandon University?

My clinicals were fun. Depending on where your clinicals are you may need to travel. One clinical there was a group of us that had to go to Minnedosa, and we would carpool in the morning and drive there and back. A bunch of classmates hanging out.

Being on the grad committee for nursing has also been memorable. We have done fundraisers; we’ve been connecting that way and hoping we can have a ceremony to celebrate our accomplishment.

What were some of your successes as a student?

As a student I made time for myself. I think that’s important as a student. Focusing on school but also taking care of yourself too. Sometimes you forget or you don’t have the time to. It is important to make that time, especially in the field of health care. I really believe if you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others.

Typically, every day I would try to get physical activity. I mentally feel better when I’m physically active, even if it is 10-minute walk. I try to get some physical activity outside, whether that be walking or running. I had taken up yoga because gyms were closed during COVID. I have started meditation and enjoy reading. I try to make time for that in the day or before bed.

You have to make a schedule and stick with it so that you do have time for yourself.

Some books Natalie mentioned included Indians on Vacation by Thomas King, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, and Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

If you were to give words of encouragement to an incoming Indigenous student, what would you share?

“Don’t give up. I think it’s important to reflect during hard times to remember why you started, what your education means to you and where you want to go once you graduate. Remember why you started and not give up. Don’t be scared to ask for help, there’s lots of people willing to help or put you in the direction to where you can get help.

It’s tough but it’s worth the journey.