Sep 01, 2011

Rookie MP jumps in with both feet

Christine Moore transitions from clinical practice to the House of Commons

Teckles Photography Inc.Christine Moore is the member of Parliament for Abitibi-Témiscamingue.

Plunge right in. That’s always been Christine Moore’s credo. “I don’t wait for someone else to fix a problem ― I immediately tackle it as best I can,” says the 27-year-old, who won a seat for the NDP in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Que., in the federal election last May. It was her first foray into politics.

Making the transition from nursing to politics was not that difficult for Moore. She feels her nursing training has prepared her to handle practically any situation. And she has handled many new situations in her capacity as a clinical nurse, a member of Nurses Without Borders and a physician assistant in the Canadian Forces. “Nurses are extremely adaptable to new circumstances because we have evidence, science and ethics to guide our decision-making,” says Moore.

Her three years with the Forces were as a reservist with the 52 Field Ambulance (Sherbrooke), where she attained the rank of corporal. “In the military, I was sometimes the only person around with any degree of medical knowledge, so it was up to me to make tough decisions on the spot. I had the authority to override the opinion of a major who, during exercises, might say, ‘This soldier doesn’t look so bad; I don’t think he needs a medical evacuation.’ This helped me gain the confidence required to think and act fast in stressful conditions.”

Moore feels that her nursing background, long-standing interest in politics and commitment to social justice all complement one another. As an MP and a member of the shadow cabinet of the official opposition, she’s excited by the idea that she can now influence decisions that would benefit large numbers of people. “Instead of counselling an individual patient on nutrition, knowing she struggles to afford fresh, healthy food, I can work at the macro level on determinants of health to help many people in similar situations.”

Although she sometimes misses the direct rapport she enjoyed with patients, Moore gets similar satisfaction from helping individual constituents with their concerns. “I always listen to them the same way I would as a nurse.”

Moore attributes her decision to go into nursing to a school visit from a pair of nurses who opened her eyes to the boundless options the profession offers in areas of practice and job mobility. “I saw it as a job that would enable me to work anywhere in the world and not limit me to living in a big city,” says Moore, who was born in the tiny town of La Reine, Que., just south of James Bay, and now lives in Abitibi-Ouest.

Moore got the chance to work abroad while she was pursuing her bachelor’s degree in nursing science at the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue. As part of her undergraduate program, she participated in a humanitarian field placement in the remote Senegalese village of Thiaré, where she delivered health services alongside other nursing students and members of Nurses Without Borders. Despite the radically different surroundings, Moore felt at home. She had always enjoyed camping in northern Quebec, and as a reservist she had been accustomed to delivering care with little more than a pack of medical supplies. “The people were a constant source of inspiration,” she says. “One man queued up for five days to see us, but never once complained about the long wait. He was simply appreciative and joyful.”

The high degree of autonomy, responsibility and trust Moore enjoyed during this field placement was something she actively sought out in her nursing career. At the Centre de santé et de services sociaux des Aurores-Boréales in La Sarre, Que., she moved up quickly, becoming assistant head nurse in the medical-surgical department within a mere month of passing her licensure exam.

The physicians and senior nurses at the centre recognized and encouraged her desire to learn. “They would explain the clinical reasoning behind their decisions instead of simply telling me what to do. I loved the collegial atmosphere and the outstanding mentoring I received in so many areas: emergency, long-term care, rehabilitation and, my favourite, intensive care.” Moore enjoyed the intellectual challenge of dealing with complex cases but also thrived on the close bonds that formed when sharing a highly intense experience with patients and their families.

This clinical experience strengthened her faith in interprofessional collaboration as the way of the future, recognizing its potential to create exciting opportunities for nurses to learn and exercise leadership. “I urge young nurses in particular to get more involved and more assertive, both politically and professionally. Many decisions made at the political level can have a profound ― and sometimes quite damaging ― effect on both patients and nurses. We need to analyze these decisions and intervene when they go against what we know is right, based on clinical evidence and our professional experience.”

Moore heeds her own advice when it comes to her roles as critic of military procurement and member of the standing committee on national defence. “In the Forces, I learned that you must look at your wants and needs, establish a list of priorities and work your way down. I fully support supplying our troops with proper equipment, but if tax dollars are wasted, it means that other, more important items simply don’t get funded.”

Canada’s health system is at a critical juncture, according to Moore, who feels that a number of challenges must be addressed before they grow larger and more problematic to fix. “In nursing, for example, we see widespread workload, work-life balance and fatigue issues ― all symptoms of the national nursing shortage. Many of these kinds of challenges are common to all regions of Canada, yet we attack them piecemeal.”

She believes that collaboration among all levels of governments is essential for avoiding duplication of efforts. “Resources could be channelled into building a more integrated system for the benefit of all Canadians.”

The health system can improve efficiency, says Moore, by reducing the administrative and information management burdens placed on nurses. “What seems to be missing is the political will to invest in the right areas, so that nurses can stop spending so much time filling out forms and instead apply their extraordinary range of skills and experience toward patient care, where they can do the most good.”

In tackling these and other issues in her new job, Moore vows to plunge in feet first and eyes open. “I became a nurse and entered politics for the same reason: to help others. That makes it easy to give it your all.”

10 questions with Christine Moore

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would like to be able to play music, but I don’t really have any talent in that area.

What are you most proud of having accomplished?

Being elected to the House of Commons and obtaining my nursing degree.

What is one thing about you that people would be surprised to learn?

I took a one-year welding and fitting course.

“If I had more free time, I would….”

Play more sports.

What is your biggest regret?

Not knowing my maternal grandmother, Hélène, who passed away when my mother was 14 years old, long before I was born.

What was the last good book you read?

Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science, and Bad Religion in a World Without God, by Greg Graffin and Steve Olson.

What is the best piece of career advice you’ve received?

To specialize in emergency care and intensive care.

What is the best thing about your current job?

Contact with my constituents.

If you had the power to make one change to the health-care system, what would it be?

I would like nurses to be able to work to their full potential.

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