Dec. 11, 2019

Nursing students help Indigenous youth envision a university education

Community health placement in Morley is eye-opening for second-year students and Stoney Nakoda youth

A group of second-year nursing students hopes that opening the doors (literally) of UCalgary to 23 Grade 10, 11 and 12 students from Morley Community School (MCS) will help those high school students envision a future at university and maybe even a career in nursing.

This is the third group of nursing students from instructor Melanie Lind-Kosten’s Community Health Nursing practice classes to be invited to MCS in the past year and a half.

“The practicum was originally set up in fall 2018 in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action around Indigenous health issues and understanding of Indigenous health practices,” she explains.

The nursing students went to the school once a week for two months to tutor in the sciences and math, to develop relationships with the youth and to learn about the richness of Stoney Nakoda cultures.

The responses from the MCS were really positive,” says Julie Patmore, one of the group of eight from UCalgary nursing. “So many of the kids were shy when we were first working with them and that was discouraging as it felt as though we weren’t providing anything valuable to them. But all it took was a little bit of time and listening.”

Melanie Lind-Kosten with N289 students after Morley students visit.

Instructor Melanie Lind-Kosten with her N289 student group the day of Morley students visit.

  • Photo above, back row from left: Julie Patmore, Jason Batac, Alice Choi, Vinnie Ma, Bisma Tahir. Front row from left: Melanie Lind-Kosten, Emily Flanagan, Paulina Eugenio. Missing: Denise Irlanda.

The MCS students were then invited to campus to tour nursing’s Clinical Simulation Learning Centre and even got to experience hands-on learning about CPR and how to take vital signs.

“The principal at the school, Sheldon Couillonneur, expressed a desire to bring the kids to the university to inspire them and show them what a university life would look like,” explains Vinnie Ma. “It was important for them to come because if they don’t have a vision of what education can do for them, then they won’t have the motivation to work hard in high school. But I also think us being at their school has helped inspire them already.”

Nursing student Alice Choi agrees. “Many of the students I spoke to at MCS did not know what they wanted to do in the future, which is completely understandable. I hope that bringing them to campus and showing them the life of a nursing student sparked some inspiration or ideas. I would like to think that at least one of them will consider a nursing education.”

Lind-Kosten says that the wishes of the Morley community — to have more of their youth enrolled in nursing or other science-based programs — align with UCalgary’s Indigenous initiatives. “I give kudos to all those teachers in Morley who are doing a great job with the limited resources they have,” she says. “And I am extremely proud of my students for everything they have accomplished and learned this term about Canada’s Indigenous people.”

Morley students get to try hands-on training with nursing's CPR manikins.

Student Emily Flanagan with Morley students as they try out nursing's CPR manikins.

For their part, the nursing students feel they have received as much, if not more, than they gave. Choi says she has developed important skills such as patience, understanding and how to practice client-centred care, which will be fundamental during her time as a nursing student and in her future as a RN. For Ma, it is about not taking his education for granted and working hard to succeed so he can continue to work with communities in need.

Upon initial glance, MCS seemed like any other high school,” he says. “However, as I worked with the kids and learned more about the school, I started to realize there were some inequities. For me, I drove 10 minutes every day to get to my high school and not once did I ever have to worry about how I was going to complete my education.

“Going forward, I will always look deeper into situations because that is how I will find the root causes of issues and truly understand the situation." 

“The biggest takeaway for me has been witnessing first-hand the resiliency of the community,” says Patmore. “We learn in our theory classes about the disparities and systemic discrimination faced by Canadian Indigenous populations, and how these disparities impact their health. Through this placement, I have seen some of these disparities play out in daunting ways. However, the strength that the community shows through their compassion for one another, and their pride in what they share, is impossible to ignore.”