05/14/2015 05:27 EDT | Updated 05/14/2016 05:59 EDT

A lifetime devoted to caring in Quebec's far north

Nearly 40 years ago, Carole Beaulne moved from her hometown of Rouyn-Noranda to work as a community nurse in Quebec's far north.

She had no idea what was in store for her in Puvirnituq, a community of 1,692 tucked on the shores of Hudson Bay in the Inuit territory of Nunavik.

"I wasn't bored, but I wanted a challenge in my life," Beaulne told CBC. 

"And I found it."

Earlier this month, Beaulne was awarded the Florence Prize by the Quebec Order of Nurses, recognizing her commitment to caring for people in the region. It marks the first time the prize has been awarded to a Nunavik resident.

Beaulne was the first nurse in Quebec to work for the provincial government in a small northern community. Prior to 1976, community based nurses were regulated by the federal government.

Cultural respect

Beaulne said the most important part about working in northern Quebec is having a deeply rooted respect for the culture.

"It's important to accept the culture, to have unconditional love and also to make an effort the speak the languages."

She said she loved the values and the people and the warmness you find with the Inuit people.

She married an Inuit man, Paulsi Novalinga, and they raised five children together — all of whom speak Inuktitut, English and French.

Working in Nunavik

Beaulne works with the Inuulitsivik Health Center, which provides healthcare services to seven communities north of the 55th parallel.

Beaulne admitted she was lucky because her family was up north and that it was difficult to recruit other nurses to the area.

"It's hard because they leave their families behind," she said.

She said she was happy about winning the prize because it would encourage other nurses to consider working in small communities.

"It will start spreading in other communities. We're going to share and try to start other things in those communities," she said.