At multiple points in his life, Eddy Gooch took career aptitude tests and they all told him the same thing: he would make an excellent nurse. His father was in construction, however, and no one in his family had pursued post-secondary education in health care. “I thought nursing was beyond me,” Eddy says.
It was only after he had tried multiple other careers that Eddy found his way into the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Vancouver Community College (VCC). Today, he’s not only eagerly looking forward to a nursing career, but also opening new doors for Indigenous representation.
Eddy knew from childhood that he was adopted at birth from the Cowichan Tribes, one of the largest Indigenous groups in British Columbia. Eddy adores his family and was raised to take pride in his heritage – unlike many adopted Indigenous children at the time whose roots and identities were left a troubling mystery.
The term “Sixties Scoop” can be misleading, as it’s used to describe a period of (not one, but) four decades ranging from the 50s to the 90s in which thousands of Indigenous children were systematically placed into non-Indigenous families in Canada and the United States. Carried out in the name of “child welfare,” this practice is now regarded as a strategy to strip Indigenous people of culture and language and assimilate them into the North American (colonial) mainstream.
Eddy remembers nothing but care and love growing up. “My parents always expressed how lucky they were to have me,” he says. Despite his own happy memories, however, Eddy also understands the importance of his story in the context of reconciliation, which is why he’s joined the 2009 class-action lawsuit that continues to seek justice for Sixties Scoop survivors.
While Eddy learned construction skills from a young age, his first career passion was cooking. He trained in French cuisine and worked as a cook for eleven years before sustaining a career-ending injury to his wrist. As Eddy fell back on construction jobs, his mother also became ill during this time and spent extended periods in hospital.
“It was the nurses who were always there,” Eddy says, remembering how he’d watch and admire their medical skills as well as the comfort and assurance they brought in such a difficult time.
In 2018, when yet another construction job ended, Eddy finally began looking into nursing programs. Thanks to the high demand as well as academic and financial opportunities for Indigenous nurses in B.C., multiple schools were eager to have him. Eddy chose VCC due to the quality academic upgrading classes and the personalized support he received from VCC staff, particularly Indigenous Advisor Toni Gladstone. “It became about the community,” Eddy says.
Now finished the first year of his nursing degree, Eddy has become one of VCC’s most enthusiastic students. In addition to full-time study and clinical placements, Eddy continues to deepen his Indigenous knowledge and has worked as a student aide at VCC’s Indigenous Education and Community Engagement department. In May 2021, Eddy was thrilled to join VCC instructor Maki Iwase and four other classmates to represent VCC on the national stage at the 2021 Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing Virtual Conference.
While nursing careers come in many forms, Eddy’s personal goal is to work in the emergency room, helping and comforting people in some of the most distressing moments in their lives. “I’ve had too much experience going to the emergency,” he confesses. “I would love to be on the team that makes people feel taken care of.”
Similarly, Eddy hopes his presence as a proud and compassionate Indigenous man in medical centres will further the goals of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and ease the historic fears that Indigenous people have of being racialized or treated with discrimination. “This is an early wave of Indigenous representation in health care,” he says, “and it’s phenomenal to be part of it.”
Take the leap into a health care career through VCC’s various nursing and health sciences programs, or connect with our Indigenous Education and Community Engagement department for personalized support.