Opening a dialogue on indigenous health care


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Nurses need to hear “the indigenous voice,” University of Manitoba nursing students were told Monday.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/05/2017 (2218 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Nurses need to hear “the indigenous voice,” University of Manitoba nursing students were told Monday.

British Columbia nursing professor Lisa Bourque Bearskin, who teaches at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, said nurses need to acknowledge indigenous patients may have a different perspective on hospitals and the care they receive.

She delivered the Margaret Elder Hart Distinguished Visitor lecture on Monday as part of Nursing Week activities at the Helen Glass School of Nursing. Until now, most institutions, including universities, haven’t grasped the depth of differences that exist for many indigenous people living in Canada, she said.

Alexandra Paul / Winnipeg Free Press Lisa Bourque Bearskin from Kamloops, B.C., a nursing professor from the Kamloops-based Thompson Rivers University, spoke about the impact of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on nursing and the role of indigenous knowledge on health care, Monday.

“There’s been this ideology that this is what we need to do, from a non-indigenous perspective. People are starting to realize that we need to make space for the indigenous voice, to speak their own truths,” she said.

In Manitoba alone, there are 1,200 nurses who identify themselves as indigenous.

Bourque Bearskin’s focus was on how nursing schools can act on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the Indian Residential Schools of Canada. Commission chair Murray Sinclair, a Manitoba justice who is now a senator, released the final report in 2015 with 94 calls to action to guide reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous people.

“We’re just starting to see the impact of reconciliation, on a number of levels. On a personal level with my family, we’ve just started to engage in our experiences in residential school. I’m in my fifties and we never talked about that before,” Bourque Bearskin said after her presentation.

Bourque Bearskin is a survivor of Canada’s residential schools. She attended the Kamloops Indian Residential School as a student.

“Academically, the schools of nursing that I’ve worked with are really trying to do this in an authentic way, right?” Bourque Bearskin said.

U of M associate nursing professor Elaine Mordoch said the lecture opened the door wider than her own indigenous students originally opened it for her.

“The important thing is we’re talking, indigenous and non-indigenous nurses. We’re listening to indigenous nurses and figuring how to work together,” Mordoch said.

The lecture came on the same day Manitoba opened its first indigenous-run health authority in the province.

The Giigewigamig First Nation Health Authority is run by Sagkeeng, Black River, Hollow Water and Bloodvein first nations on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. It is based at a healing centre in Pine Falls and is intended to expand the scope of therapies and work with the health-care and hospital staff in the area.

Bourque Bearskin said she’s intrigued by the Giigewigamig centre, and hopes it will include referrals to indigenous healers and spiritual leaders.

There’s a huge gap between indigenous knowledge and mainstream medicine, Bourque Bearskin said.

“This is the first year I actually integrated traditional knowledge in any of my classrooms and there was huge pushback from my students at the beginning.

“I could see the comments and rather than calling the students out, I chose to nurture that space so they could bring their biases (about indigenous people) forward and then we unpacked the biases from there,” she recalled.

The class ended up showing students a gap in understanding they hadn’t realized existed.

Students don’t get the benefit of learning about the reality many indigenous people live daily or the impact of the country’s colonial legacy, because schools don’t teach it, she noted.

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