Hutterite women take their first steps into the health sector



Growing up, Karissa Maendel never dreamed of being a nurse. But when she had the chance to embark on such a career, she knew she had to take it.

“It hadn’t been an option, but the opportunity came up,” says Maendel, now in her first year as a registered nurse. “It seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up.”

A visionary change in a Hutterite colony in Manitoba made his new calling possible.

Maendel is one of the few Hutterite nurses in the province. Now she is trying to encourage greater representation within the healthcare system to help settlements and ease staffing shortages.

“I know that part of the solution to this problem is the resources that the Hutterite community can provide,” Maendel says.


MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Judith Maendel (left) and her sister-in-law Karissa Maendel at the Baker Colony in Winnipeg. They work 12-hour shifts a few days a week at the hospital and continue to cook, garden and work at the colony in their free time.

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MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Judith Maendel (left) and her sister-in-law Karissa Maendel at Baker Colony in Winnipeg. They work 12-hour shifts a few days a week at the hospital and continue to cook, garden and work at the colony in their free time.

With support from the Baker Colony, the 37-year-old mother enrolled in a three-year bachelor of science in nursing program at the Portage la Prairie campus of Red River College Polytechnic in 2018 and graduated with honors earlier. this year – in time to join the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She now works part-time in the pediatric medical unit at Portage la Prairie Hospital alongside her sister-in-law, Judith Maendel, one of the first four Hutterite women to become nurses in Manitoba.

Baker Colony, located about 50 kilometers southwest of Portage, is home to 120 people and has found it necessary to encourage its members to join the profession, thanks in part to its longtime leader, the late Reverend Ben Maendel.

Traditionally, Hutterites did not seek employment outside the colony and had no individual income. Members work inside the colony as a collective and pool resources for farming, manufacturing, and other economic operations. For decades, Hutterites have received teaching credentials and also receive certification to work in the trades, as accountants and some as first responders.

Registered nurses in Hutterite communities are still rare.

The income that Karissa and Judith receive as nurses goes back to the colony. They work 12-hour shifts a few days a week at the hospital and continue to cook, garden and work at the colony in their free time.




<p>MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Judith Maendel (left) and her sister-in-law Karissa Maendel at the Baker Colony in Winnipeg.  Both are trying to encourage greater Hutterian representation within the health care system to help the colonies and alleviate staffing shortages in the province.</p>
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<p>MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Judith Maendel (left) and her sister-in-law Karissa Maendel at Baker Colony in Winnipeg.  Both are trying to encourage greater Hutterite representation within the health care system to help the colonies and alleviate staffing shortages in the province.</p>
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<p>They are both informally on-call in the community to provide basic care (such as changing dressings) and have the assessment skills to recognize when a trip to the emergency room is needed.			</p>
<p>There were no other Hutterite nurse role models Judith could look up to when she enrolled in Brandon University’s four-year nursing program in 2009, but she comes from a long line. pioneering women.  Her aunts at Fairholme Colony, near Portage, were the first Hutterite women to be trained as teachers, she says.			</p>
<p>“They strongly advocated for education and to have more of these professions in our community,” she says, adding that Ben Maendel supported the cause.			</p>
<p>Judith describes him as a “visionary leader”.  Thanks to her training, she was able to provide him with palliative care before his death in 2018, so that he could be at home rather than in the hospital.			</p>
<p>“At the end of his life, it was very significant,” says Judith.  “My role as a Hutterite nurse made sense, even in the midst of this tragedy.”			</p>
<p>Both women say they would not have ventured into nursing without the support of their community, and they hope more colonies will follow.  Manitoba’s Hutterite population is approximately 10,000.			</p>
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<p>MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Judith Maendel shows a selfie of herself during her nursing shift on her phone at the Baker Colony in Winnipeg.  She is one of a handful of Hutterite nurses in the province.</p>
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<p>MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Judith Maendel shows a selfie of herself during her nursing shift on her phone at the Baker Colony in Winnipeg.  She is one of a handful of Hutterite nurses in the province.</p>
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<p>They have both seen the expressions of pleasant surprise on the faces of Hutterite patients when they realize that their nurse can comfort them in their dialect.			</p>
<p>“In a vulnerable space, just seeing my headscarf, seeing my dress, hearing my accent… (brings) relief to them. I’m happy to be there for them,” Judith says.			</p>
<p>Whenever she encounters a grateful Hutterite patient, she urges them to spread the word within their home colony to “gently encourage” more Hutterite nurses.			</p>
<p>“Then they hesitate, because it would take a change of mentality in the whole community. And that’s where the change has to happen,” says Judith.			</p>
<p>“I do what I can by talking to people, and I would like the colonies to recognize how fluid it is. I can keep my responsibilities (at home) and contribute a few days a week to the hospital.”			</p>
<p>Providing culturally appropriate care is only part of the reason women are advocating for more Hutterites in nursing.  Within the structure of the colony (which functions, as Judith puts it, like a “well-oiled machine”), they have financial and social supports to help them continue their education, and Hutterite patients depend on health care. provincial.			</p>
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<p>MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Judith Maendel (left) and her sister-in-law Karissa Maendel at the Baker Colony in Winnipeg.  They are both informally on-call in the community to provide basic care (such as changing dressings) and have the assessment skills to recognize when a trip to the emergency room is needed.</p>
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<p>MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Judith Maendel (left) and her sister-in-law Karissa Maendel at Baker Colony in Winnipeg.  They are both informally on-call in the community to provide basic care (such as changing dressings) and have the assessment skills to recognize when a trip to the emergency room is needed.</p>
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<p>This aligns with their religious beliefs to give back to the wider community, and say Manitoba’s health care system could use this help.			</p>
<p>Leaving her colony “comfort zone” to become a nurse was tough, but it was worth it, says Karissa.  “You quickly discover that you can form a community anywhere.”			</p>
<p>After graduating in January, Karissa recounted her experience in a Facebook post.  She eloquently urged others in the wider Hutterite community to get health care training.			</p>
<p>“I’d be lying if I said it’s been easy. It’s been very hard. The kind of hard with regular alarms at 5:30 (am) and pots of coffee before sunrise,” she wrote, later highlighting the support offered by the colony.			</p>
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“I haven’t met a single person, none of my classmates, other working mothers, anyone, who had the support system in place that I had. From my gas and my vehicle to the meals prepared for my family and all financial and social needs in between, I was covered.”

“I would like the greater Hutterite community to extend this support and this vision beyond the boundaries of the community,” Karissa added in an interview with the Free presssaying she is particularly concerned about the province-wide shortage of nurses.

But change is on the way: two other members of the colony have signed up for health assistant courses.

Karissa says she hopes to be able to encourage Hutterite girls everywhere, including her two young daughters.

“My daughters said how proud they were, and I’m so grateful to be able to do it – just because they see me do it.”

[email protected]

Katie May

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