British Columbia

New UBC nursing curriculum aims to teach respectful care of First Nations patients

Nursing experts at UBC's Okanagan campus hope a new curriculum will help a new generation of students deliver culturally respectful treatment to First Nations patients.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended nurses learn about legacy of colonialism

Two women hold hands at the closing ceremony of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The new nursing curriculum aims to reflect the recommendations of the commission. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Nursing experts at the University of British Columbia's Okanagan School of Nursing are teaching a new generation of students about delivering culturally respectful treatment to First Nations patients.

Retired nurse Jessie Nyberg and Prof. Donna Kurtz will discuss the new curriculum at the 2015 International Conference on Health Promoting Universities and Colleges in Kelowna on Wednesday.

Nyberg, herself a Shuswap elder, says it's important for people to understand how residential schools, the Sixties Scoop and the Indian Act affected First Nations, and resulted in intergenerational trauma.

"With that, we lost our language, we lost our culture, we lost our tradition and so therefore we lost our identity," she told Daybreak South.

"We lost parenting skills, we lost what it was meant to be loved by parents. So our young people — well, through the generations — we need to again learn what our identity is, learn our languages, and regain our health."

Truth and reconciliation

Requiring medical and nursing students to learn about aboriginal health issues, the history and legacy of residential schools, and indigenous teachings and practices is part of the 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The commission also recommended requiring medical and nursing students to train in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism, and the new curriculum aims to reflect that.

For example, rather than have nurses come into a patient's room and give orders, it's important they respect the patient, ask questions and share in the planning of care, Nyberg said.

Kurtz says the nursing curriculum teaches students about colonial history and trauma, and to "respect each other as human beings, no matter what the colour of skin [is]."

"Students sometimes do resist because it's new knowledge for them," she said.

"They've not learnt it in elementary and high school, so they come to the university and we have the knowledge keepers and elders come to the classroom for face-to-face [discussion], so they're able to talk to aboriginal people and get to know them and respect them within a relationship."

Listen to the interview: Culturally safe nursing curriculum developed at UBCO


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.