SIIT nursing program connects students to curriculum
- Julia Peterson | November 17, 2020
Rosanna Gamble always knew she wanted to be a nurse, but the path to her dream career wasn’t always clear. “I had attempted an RN program, but my kids were small at the time, so I withdrew and then worked at the health centre for twelve-and-a-half years,” she said.
Now Gamble, from Beardy’s and Okemasis’ Cree Nation, has returned to school as one of thirteen students in the Saskatoon Indian Institute of Technologies’ Indigenous Practical Nursing program.
This spring, she will be among the first cohort to graduate from the program, now in its second year.
Gamble was drawn to the program because she felt connected to the curriculum.
“We get all the nursing content, which is great, but the Indigenous program incorporates Indigenous knowledge,” she said. “We did some medicine picking, we’ve done medicine wheels - it’s a lot of Indigenous content, and it’s a connection to who I am, what I am and where I want to be.”
IPN students also train using augmented reality technology, take courses on Indigenous communications and personal development, and do a variety of practicum placements.
For Tavia Laliberte, Vice President Academic at SIIT, the integration of different educational and nursing approaches is a point of pride.
“Although our nursing program does prepare students to work in Western facilities and makes sure they have the necessary understanding of medicine and science that they need to be successful in their careers, I would say we take a more holistic approach to health and well-being,” she said. “That’s the marriage we try to incorporate into this program.”
When the IPN program launched last year, Laliberte had not imagined leading the inaugural group of students through a pandemic. There have been challenges in bringing students back to campus for their in-person classes, as well as facilitating access to laptops for distance learning.
But Laliberte believes the pandemic only highlights the need for this program - the first of its kind in Canada. “Now more than ever, we need strong, skilled Indigenous healthcare workers to serve our communities,” she said. “So we can’t stop. We have to figure this out. There’s no point in waiting for the pandemic to be over.”
In the future, Laliberte hopes to see the program expand to rural and remote locations in the province as well as to other colleges and universities.
“A number of post-secondary institutions across Canada have reached out to us either to congratulate us on our program or to inquire about it,” she said. “And they’re thinking about what we’re doing and what pieces of that would make sense to be implemented in their own nursing programs.”
As for Gamble, she believes program graduates will help shape nursing culture in Saskatchewan for years to come.
“We are going to bring our knowledge and the pride of Indigenous nurses to Saskatchewan healthcare,” she said. “Maybe this program is going to open up a lot more Indigenous nurses to be in the workforce, in healthcare. I think that would be really great for all Indigenous people.”