U of R dean highlights need for more Indigenous representation in nursing

For National Nursing Week, the dean for the University of Regina's faculty of nursing is focusing on the need to recruit and retain Indigenous nurses in Saskatchewan. Global News file

In light of National Nursing Week, the need for more Indigenous nurses in Saskatchewan is in the spotlight.

The dean for the faculty of nursing at the University of Regina (U of R) is also a member of a group that represents and advocates for Saskatchewan’s Indigenous nurses.

Cheryl Pollard says recruiting and retention of more Indigenous nurses in the province is necessary to strengthen community connections.

“In terms of having proper representation, it is important to be able to receive care from the people who are like you,” Pollard said. “We need more Indigenous people within the workforce to be able to care for those that need our help in a way that’s respectful.”

The U of R nursing faculty allocates 17 per cent of its seats to Indigenous applicants. The seats don’t always fill up but at its spring convocation in June, Pollard said there will be 20 Indigenous nursing students who will be walking across the big stage with their degrees in hand.

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“Indigenous nursing within Saskatchewan is an area where there are a multitude of opportunities. There are opportunities to strengthen communities. There are opportunities to build systems that will actually care for Indigenous Peoples in a way that respects who they are,” she said. “It’s also absolutely critical that Indigenous students believe that they can do this. We, as Indigenous Peoples, can do whatever we set our mind to.”

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Pollard identifies as a descendant of the Red River Métis and said she has faced struggles in her pursuit of nursing.

“There are times where I have been treated different,” Pollard said. “There are times that my voice receives less respect when people attach that I am Métis. I don’t want that to happen to other people.”

Pollard is a member of the kā-wīci-pimohtēmāt, which means “a person who walks with others on their journey” in Cree. It is a group of Indigenous nurses in Saskatchewan who work together to bridge the gaps, provide education and awareness, recruit and retain nursing potentials, and provide a safe space for those who identify as Indigenous.

“It’s through groups like the Indigenous nursing practice group that is helping,” Pollard said. “No matter what we look like, that we have a place and that we belong.”

Monday was recognized as Indigenous Nurses Day, which kicked off National Nursing Week. Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu said in a statement that First Nations, Inuit and Métis nurses play an essential role in establishing culturally safe, culturally appropriate health-care services and programs.

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“By continuing to increase Indigenous representation in health professions, we can transform our healthcare systems to meet the needs of Indigenous Peoples,” Hajdu stated. “With Indigenous healthcare practitioners at the forefront of our efforts, and with traditional Indigenous healing integrated into our approaches, we can work together toward improved health outcomes for Indigenous communities across Canada.”

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