Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic

Saskatchewan Polytechnic cultivates success through Indigenous nursing supports

Nursing is one of the most rewarding careers you can choose — it’s an opportunity to help others, improve health outcomes and creates a positive impact on the lives of many people. But, the road to get there can be challenging at times and combining cultural concepts of health and healing can cause some students unnecessary struggles. By providing Indigenous students with support and counselling services, Sask Polytech aims to address this barrier and ensure all students have an equal opportunity to achieve their educational and career goals.

“Our Indigenous nursing student advisors are selected for their unique backgrounds and knowledge,” says Cindy Smith, associate dean of the School of Nursing and School of Health Sciences. “They are familiar with Indigenous culture and with nursing culture and can help students appropriately navigate through their program.”

Sask Polytech Indigenous Nursing, also known as SPIN, uses a holistic approach to support nursing education, beginning with program selection straight through to post-graduate employment opportunities. Support can also be customized to ensure individual needs are met as best as possible.

“Our advisors are dedicated role models, mentors and coaches,” says Smith. “They are there to guide students on their nursing education journey.”

The nursing student advisors spend a great deal of their day working with staff and faculty to ensure curriculum, projects and other activities are developed in a way that is inclusive of Indigenous ways of knowing and learning. Advisors also work with faculty and help them figure out how to Indigenize their classrooms to be more inclusive.

“When we assist with curriculum review and revisions, it can provide a greater awareness and share more knowledge of cultural settings and teachings, we can support our students in becoming better nurses,” says Sharon Ahenakew, Indigenous nursing student advisor. “We also participate in research that focuses on Indigenous health, education and student success.”

The daily dedication nursing student advisors have to elevating Indigenous nursing students and helping them achieve success is one piece of the larger Indigenous Student Success Strategy, which was developed with Indigenous students’ input to enhance the student experience and remove barriers to success.

“Sask Polytech is committed to the Indigenization of our institution,” says Jason Seright, director of Indigenous Strategy. “Indigenization is our social and collective responsibility, ultimately enriching and benefitting the lives of all who study and work at Sask Polytech.”

For student Cole Woytiuk, advisors helped him find direction in his career planning. He says that nursing is an honourable profession and he’s proud to be on the path he’s on.

“I want to become a nurse working up north in Indigenous communities, helping to make a positive impact on the lives of the people who live there,” says Woytiuk. “Figuring out how to achieve that, led me to my Indigenous nursing student advisor. He was able to give me resources, experiences of his own and outlined a path to achieve this goal.”

Woytiuk adds that the nursing student advisor and other Indigenous student services help ground him as a student.

“My nursing advisor and Elder help me grow as a person,” says Woytiuk. “These services help me grow as a student and learn more about myself and my culture.”

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This story was originally published in a special feature of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix and Regina Leader Post for National Nursing Week.