New details have emerged about cultural safety training that's set to roll out for staff with the Northwest Territories' Department of Health and Social Services before the end of the year.
About 20 practitioners will participate in a one-day training session on Dec. 14, according to Sabrina Broadhead, director of the Indigenous health and community wellness division with the department. It will be led by Yellowknife-based contractor Momentum Training Services and focus on bias in the workplace and positive relationship building.
"The importance about the training is that we've started the conversation," said Broadhead. "We're at the place now where there's an acknowledgement that there's a disparity in health outcomes for Indigenous people and we've as a system been brave about naming that and looking for solutions that are going to make a difference."
This will be one of three initial training sessions set to roll out in December, January and late February or early March. Practitioners, including doctors, nurses, social workers and other frontline workers, will provide feedback on the training before it's expanded.
Over the past year, Broadhead said the division has spoke with experts in the field and travelled across the territory to meet with regional wellness councils, Indigenous governments, practitioners and patients about changes they'd like to see in the health and social services system.
"We've worked with some of the very best people in the country to help us figure out where we start, what are some of the pieces that have to be built," she said.
"I think that what we've learned from the people who do this work best ... is that if you have training that meets people where they're at, it can be the most successful."
Building relationship-based care
Broadhead said one of the main things she's heard is the importance of the relationship between practitioners and the people and communities they serve.
"We know we use a lot of locum staff in the Northwest Territories," she said. "But we also know that we have staff that have been here for a long time and what people have said is if they've developed a relationship with their care provider, they're more likely to go for care."
Broadhead said her team hopes to build a health and social services system that is more relationship-based and one where clients feel like they know the team they're working with.
"It's a lofty goal but we think we're starting in the right place by working with our current complement of staff and building their awareness of the cultural competencies that are required to build a culturally safe environment," she said.
Responding to recommendations
The training is part of an impending action plan the government has been working on in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action on health.
Cultural safety training was also one of 16 recommendations that came out of an external investigation into the death of Hugh Papik.
The 68-year-old Inuvialuit man died in August 2016 after having a massive stroke. Papik's niece said his symptoms were dismissed as drunkenness at the health centre in Aklavik and that racism was a factor in the way he was treated.
Broadhead, who is Métis from Fort Smith, said this work has been a long time coming but the department has been working hard to be more responsive to Indigenous people.
"Fortunately for us and our team we have a lot of long-term Northerners, many of us are Indigenous, most are well educated, they really care about this work and want to make a difference for the population because it's our population," she said.
"It's our friends, our family, the people that we've known all of our lives and so if you can contribute to making a difference the work is really, really meaningful."