Nurses gain northern perspective

Six Australian nurses – under the supervision of the Meadow Lake Hospital’s director of acute care Debbie Carey (centre) – travelled the Northwest to learn about a health care system predominantly used by aboriginal peoples. The experience is intended to allow nurses to become global citizens and increase critical thinking skills. Here, students Justine Samra, Chelsea Gebhart, Astrid Benton, Bipin Joshi, Kacy Boackburn and Eoyse Griveoo flank Carey outside the hospital.

Six Australian nurses – under the supervision of the Meadow Lake Hospital’s director of acute care Debbie Carey (centre) – travelled the Northwest to learn about a health care system predominantly used by aboriginal peoples. The experience is intended to allow nurses to become global citizens and increase critical thinking skills. Here, students Justine Samra, Chelsea Gebhart, Astrid Benton, Bipin Joshi, Kacy Blackburn and Elyse Grivell flank Carey outside the hospital.

by Derek Cornet

Six student nurses from Australia travelled to Meadow Lake recently to experience one-on-one contact with a health care system frequently used by aboriginal peoples.

Dr. Arlene Kent-Wilkinson, an associate professor with the college of nursing at the University of Saskatchewan, said the institution has a special agreement with a nursing school in Australia that allows for the exchange of students. Since 2008, the college has been hosting up to six students at varying locations each July while their counterparts in Australia do the same in January.

“Canada and Australia are similar countries,” Kent-Wilkinson said. “They have a similar history of colonization. It’s good to compare them to each other.”

The university offers an indigenous and community-rural focus to nursing, which attracts several students interested in those fields. The students – who were in the Northwest for two weeks – received hands-on experience working alongside staff at the Meadow Lake Hospital and Meadow Lake Tribal Council’s facilities. The group also made a trip to La Loche and met with several people managing the health care of Saskatchewan’s northern residents.

Kent-Wilkinson said the exchange is a valuable tool for the college because it seeks to expose its students to different cultures they’ll encounter while on the job. Meadow Lake has a high First Nations and Métis population and also serves a rural area of the Northwest, which made it a prime destination for the students to visit.

“The exchange prepares them for global citizenship, personal growth, it improves nursing skills and provides them with cultural cognitives,” she said. “They see another country’s health care system in action and it allows them to think more critically.”

Students Kacy Blackburn of Port Noarlunga and Elyse Grivell from Mount Compass were amongst the nurses who travelled to Meadow Lake. Soon after arriving July 5, they began working a various locations in the city and the Northwest.

“I went out to the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation with the ladies who work at their clinic,” Blackburn said. “A nurse showed me around and explained the different traditions in the community and how people are treated at their clinic compared to others.”

The students were also given a crash-course in Canadian and aboriginal history and learned about residential schools and the settlement of Europeans. Overall, the students said aboriginal peoples in Australia and Canada have similar government supports when it comes to the health field.

Grivell also applauded the inclusion of a spiritual room in the local hospital.

“I never felt uncomfortable in Canada since I arrived here,” she said. “Indigenous people at home are more closed off about their traditions and they don’t want to share as much as they do here.”

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