Island Health has been named this year’s recipient of the Canadian College of Health Leaders Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Award for its Aboriginal Employment Program.
“We are honoured to have our work recognized by the Canadian College of Health Leaders,” says Kathryn MacNeil, executive vice president, quality safety and experience with Island Health. “This recognition validates the impact of the Aboriginal Employment Program on the experience of patients, families, staff and communities of Island Health.”
Minister of Health Terry Lake says he appreciates the program’s recognition, as well, since he says the government is committed to “inclusive and culturally-safe practices, and Island Health’s Aboriginal Employment Program is a great example of how incorporating Indigenous perspectives can help improve patient care.”
The number of Island Health employees who self-identify as being of Aboriginal ancestry increased from 199 in April 2012 (the year the program went from pilot to permanent) to 582 as of May 2016, according to the release on the award.
Kate Elliott, member of the Métis Nation, and one of the first “alumni” of the Aboriginal Employment Program, says she appreciated the program because “it was one of the first times that I wasn’t afraid to identify as Aboriginal within an education setting,” during her nursing education. As a nursing student in 2009, she began working with the Aboriginal Employment team and says she had the opportunity to create a one-day workshop for Aboriginal youth to explore careers in health care.
This workshop created a culturally safe environment for youth to ask questions and learn about the diverse career opportunities offered in the health authority.
“I was able to learn about the business aspects of healthcare and how to create positive change within a large organization,” Elliott says.
Six years later, after her first practicum, a co-op placement, serving as a member of the Aboriginal Employment Advisory Committee and a variety of roles with increasing responsibilities for health service and care, Elliott recently left Island Health to begin her first year of medical school.
“When you consider the positive impact that employees like Kate can have on our organization and what an inspiration they are to future generations, it’s easy to see why other organizations are taking notice,” says Don Hubbard, Board Chair for Island Health.