Guangxia Meng, a Southlake Regional Health Centre nurse practitioner, was chosen from more than 400 provincewide nominees as a recipient for the Nursing Now Ontario Awards.
Meng was one of three winners, chosen in the categories of registered practical nurse, registered nurse and nurse practitioner, to receive the award.
"I think nursing is the backbone of health care. No matter in public health, preventive health. . . nurses are probably the most important bridge between patients to the doctors. . . " she said.
The winning nurses were presented with the award during a virtual ceremony May 12.
Recognizing those that exemplify the best in nursing, the annual award is presented by the Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario (WeRPN), the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) and the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA).
"RNAO celebrates with gratitude the tremendous work and central role all nurses play in caring for Ontarians, especially during this trying and relentless pandemic," said Doris Grinspun, CEO of RNAO. "Nurses in all roles, sectors and settings — whether RNs, NPs or RPNs — have selflessly put their lives on hold to unwaveringly share their expertise, knowledge and compassion with Ontarians each and every day. RNAO says to all nurses: Thank you! To this year's winners of the Nursing Now Ontario Awards, we say: stand tall and proud as you make nursing shine."
Meng said she is honoured to have been nominated for the award by her peers and the public and considers it recognition of the journey of an international nurse and the possibilities in Canada.
Working with outpatients at Southlake's stroke prevention clinic, Meng wasn't directly involved with COVID-19 patients throughout the pandemic. Though putting their own lives at risk has always been par for the course for nurses, the pandemic intensified it, she said.
"I am not a frontline nurse who worked with COVID patents; they are heroes. . . I think people should recognize that. Nurses are really the heroes of the past two years. Not only the two years, even in the past."
The mother of two sons is celebrating a 30-year nursing career that began in China in 1992 where she practised as a midwife and registered nurse. She and her husband, Xiaojun Wang, arrived to Canada in 2001 and after a year-and-a-half of study she received her nursing licence.
Meng began working at Southlake in 2004 where she has been ever since.
Arriving to Canada as "a diploma nurse," Meng said she was lucky to begin her career before a university degree was required to practise nursing, but she has certainly made up for it.
In 2014, Meng graduated from the Master of Nursing program at University of Toronto and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo.
"You're going to laugh," she said, when asked why she decided to pursue a PhD.
As a nurse practitioner, Meng is able to diagnose and treat illness, perform some medical procedures and write prescriptions. Because of that, patients often confuse her with a doctor, she said, and she decided this way she wouldn't have to keep correcting them.
Whether that's the reason or not, Meng praises the system, the Canadian culture, all those who guided her and "the people's kindness from their heart" for her successes.
"Think about a nurse without a university education and becomes a PhD candidate. It's not just me; it's the system, the environment, the people around me. They are so kind and nice, supportive. So grateful," she added.
Meng said she wouldn't be able to do what she does without the continued strength and support of her husband. It was Wang who encouraged her to pursue a master's degree, she said, while shouldering much of the family duties.
"I always tell him, 'I am the kite but you are the string. However much you let me go, I can soar so high because you love me.'"