Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Improving the Indigenous patient journey

Harley Crowshoe, Alberta Health Services - The convergence of western methods with Indigenous ways of healing has taken on new meaning in Lethbridge. The Indigenous Patient Journey now includes the Chinook Regional Hospital Ceremony Room.

Indigenous patients now have the opportunity to incorporate spiritual healing and traditional family practices to their journey. The Ceremony Room is an important part of the new hospital expansion project and incorporates the required ventilation to allow for the burning of sacred plants.

“The Chinook Regional Hospital Ceremony room provides us the opportunity to focus on the traditional wellness needs of patients, by facilitating traditional spiritual supports and ceremony for our Indigenous patients and family,” says Harley Crowshoe, Senior Advisor of the Indigenous Health Program in the South Zone. Patients and their families can incorporate different types of traditional ceremonies in their healing journey using sacred plants such as sweet grass and sage.

The Ceremony Room, situated in the new wing of the hospital, officially launched in June of 2016. Blackfoot elders for both the Blood Tribe and Piikani Nation conducted a blessing ceremony for this sacred space and gifted it with a new Blackfoot name: Golden Eagle Lodge. “The golden eagle is very sacred to the Blackfoot people and it is indeed an honour to be bestowed such a sacred name,” says Crowshoe.

The ceremony room is shared by the Indigenous Health program and the Spiritual Care Unit at the hospital. Spiritual Care facilitates use of the room for people of other faiths. It provides a comfortable and safe space for patients to go and receive quiet, peaceful time in the hospital to improve their spiritual wellness.

The room provides much needed space for workshops and various meetings. It opens opportunities for interaction between Indigenous and Western knowledge systems to improve patient care.

“We have provided hands-on cultural awareness and competency workshops that include exposure to traditional protocols that include ceremonies that are culturally specific,” Crowshoe says. “These opportunities recognize how western medicine and traditional healing and wellness processes can complement each other and provide an appropriate and culturally -safe delivery of health services to Indigenous people.”

‘Smart TV’ technology is in place to facilitate presentations and provide important messaging to promote wellness (a Smart TV is any TV that has built-in Internet connectivity, allowing it to access a range of online services including video on demand, social networking and instant messaging).

Two Aboriginal Hospital Liaison staff provide daily support for Indigenous patients, connecting them with whatever resources they might need, and helping them to navigate the health care system.

The Liaisons also help non-Indigenous health-care providers to better understand Indigenous patients, bridging those meaningful relationships. The Liaisons assist patients when they would like to access the Ceremony Room, which can accommodate people with mobility restrictions and offers enough space to accommodate family gatherings. Indigenous patients now have opportunities to experience health care in ways they have never experienced before in the South Zone.

The Ceremony Room provides new ground that Western medicine and Indigenous health care can walk on together.

Harley Crowshoe is Senior Advisor for Indigenous Health in the South Zone. He can be reached by e-mail:

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