Aboriginal peoples comprise over 17% of northerners in the Northern Health catchment area, the highest proportion of any health authority in B.C. There are 54 First Nations located in northern B.C. with many governing more than one community for a total of over 80 communities. In the larger urban settings there are 11 Friendship Centers. Remnants of the past are evidenced in six residential school sites. Northern Health is divided geographically into three regions, or health service delivery areas: the Northwest, the Northeast and the Northern Interior. There are 25 First Nations in the Northwest, 21 First Nations in the Northern Interior, and eight First Nations in the Northeast. Collectively, there are 19 distinct Indigenous languages and many more dialects spoken across Northern Health.
As this is the context in which Northern Health employees work, it is very important that all Northern Health staff are culturally competent – i.e. have the skills, knowledge and attitudes to ensure that patients feel culturally safe. Cultural safety is felt or experienced by a patient when health care providers communicate and act in respectful, inclusive ways. The overall goal is for Aboriginal people to feel welcome and safe from discrimination in health care environments.
All of our Aboriginal Health programs and services are designed to support cultural competence within Northern Health. For example, we support Aboriginal Health Improvement Committees and local Northern Health staff to visit local First Nations communities, attend cultural events, and partner with Aboriginal communities to share local culture and traditions. In their work of supporting quality care for Aboriginal patients, Aboriginal Patient Liaisons also provide education to Northern Health staff on local Aboriginal culture and the historical contexts that impact Aboriginal peoples’ health.
Building cultural safety is a journey in which we rely heavily on Aboriginal communities and the First Nations Health Authority to guide us.
Indigenous Cultural Competency Training
All Northern Health staff are encouraged and supported to take the online Indigenous Cultural Competency (ICC) Training offered by the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA). Northern Health sponsors 500 seats per year so that staff can take the course free of charge. As of September 20143, 30% of Northern Health had completed the course. PHSA also offers Indigenous Cultural Competency training tailored for people working in the mental health field, and post training modules:
If you are a Northern Health employee and have not taken the ICC training yet, you can register online with your Northern Health email address.
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