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Elders support patients, families at North Island hospitals

A program that promotes understanding of Indigenous perspectives, knowledge an approaches to wellness has now launched.

Two Kwakwaka’wakw Elders have joined the Elder-in-Residence program at the Comox and Campbell River hospitals. They will be providing patients, families, and staff support by promoting understanding and respect for Indigenous culture and values. 

According to Island Health, the position supports a proactive and holistic approach to health and wellness through services that respect the customs and traditions of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples. 

Sheryl Thompson of the Wei Wai Kum Nation and Fran Prince of the K’ómoks First Nation have joined the program. Thompson will be the Elder-in-Residence in Campbell River and Prince will be in the Comox Valley. 

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“Integrating cultural perspectives in healthcare will improve patient and family experience in hospital, promote respectful patient-staff relationships and result in improved health outcomes,” Island Health Board Chair Leah Hollins said.

“We are very pleased to partner with the First Nations Health Authority on this project, and honoured that Elders are here to work with us on this journey.”

“Acknowledging that First Nations people are more likely to access care when they feel safe and respected, FNHA and Island Health have identified the need to provide access to Elders in the hospital environment,” FNHA’s Regional Executive Director for Vancouver Island Brennan MacDonald said. 

Prince says she applied for the position because she wanted to help Indigenous patients feel more comfortable in hospital settings, as well as to advocate for them if needed. She has a background in education and administration. 

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Thompson says she is looking forward to speaking Kwakwala to patients. She has a background in nursing and teaching.

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