TRU nurses partner with Merritt First Nations

Brendan Kergin, News Editor  Ω

A new partnership between TRU and a Merritt-based First Nations group looks to strengthen both communities. The TRU School of Nursing and the Conayt Friendship Society have started working closely to help teach students more about aboriginal traditions.

Conayt will also gain assistance running the various programs it has for First Nations people and the wider community.

Sherrie Bade is an assistant professor in the nursing school and a central figure in running the partnership.

She has been regularly spending time in Merritt with students at Conayt.

“I take semester five students for six weeks,” said Bade, “and in that we’re going to do some very neat things.”

She’s excited about the opportunities offered in this partnership. Not only will it give students some hands-on experience in a varied workplace, but it’s also giving a unique cultural perspective.

Students will spend time talking to elders, learning traditions and partaking in some aspects of the culture.

This will give them greater insight into the health issues facing aboriginal people and how best to make connections. Erasing this cultural boundary is important to working towards more effective healing choices.

“Before you can be at this place there has been a year of work,” said Bade. “There’s a lot of meeting of stockholders.”

She gives a lot of credit to the efforts of George Girouard and the elder board at Conayt.
The society runs 11 programs working with the community in a variety of ways, many them dealing with health in some regard. The students are able to assist and learn at the same time in these situations.

Bade also encourages the students to take advantage of any opportunity presenting itself,from producing brochures to helping with individual cases.

Conayt is also aiming to be a mental health promotion centre.

This means that instead of concentrating on dealing with an illness there will be programs aiming at preventative measures.

The partnership started with the placement of Rebecca Stent last year at Conayt.
As she was doing her practicum she helped develop a new position at Conayt for future nurses to fill after her time finished.

When she graduated she was invited back to Conayt to fill the position she had created.
“It’s neat to see your students who had developed the role then actually fit the role,” said Bade. “Now what she’s doing is mentoring my students there.”

After seeing the success of Stent at Conayt, Bade hoped to get students involved earlier in a similar situation. It was from that the partnership grew.

With the more immersive experience it is hoped some of the students will help fill a a critical shortfall of nurses in the aboriginal community.

“Not that we’ll ever be insiders, but we’ll be far more likely to understand the issues,” said Bade.

Despite still being in its infancy the partnership is seeing strong results in student and community response and all involved are looking toward a more united program.