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VIHA Focus on Aboriginal Recruitment is Paying Off

November 28, 2012

Vancouver Island – All patients – and Aboriginal patients in particular – are benefitting from the increased focus the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) is placing on recruiting Aboriginal people to jobs in healthcare.

“Since June 2011, VIHA has successfully recruited over 119 individuals who have voluntarily identified themselves as First Nations, Métis, or Inuit,” said Steve Sxwithul’txw, from the Penelakut Tribe near Chemainus who is VIHA’s Aboriginal Employment Advisor. “With among the highest growth and birth rates in Canada, Aboriginal people not only provide a pool of labour as our staff retire, their employment in our care settings also ensures our work force represents the communities and residents we serve.”

Sxwithul’txw added that having more Aboriginal people represented in a cross-section of healthcare jobs helps promote more cultural awareness among non-Aboriginal staff and physicians, better alignment with culturally safe care practices, and more support for Aboriginal communities as they address the socio-economic challenges and barriers that many face.

“If someone has a decent education, a good job and is earning a good salary, this in turn helps promote good health and socio-economic wellbeing,” noted Sxwithul’txw.

Aboriginal employees are found in a variety of geographic areas and job types in VIHA. Most of the new recruits are nurses, care aides, community health workers or support staff.

“Since joining VIHA last year, I have experienced wonderful opportunities to help a variety of patients and their families with their health care needs,” said Kate Elliott a registered nurse who is Métis. “A career in healthcare is very rewarding personally and it is also a great way to broaden one’s experience and opportunities. I would encourage all Aboriginal people to seriously consider a career in this field of work.”

VIHA’s Aboriginal recruitment and retention strategy is a five-year plan with five key focus areas:

  • Establishing trust and partnerships with Aboriginal communities and organizations.
  • Building for the future by providing education and information to Aboriginal people, including youth and students, who may not currently be qualified for many health care jobs with the aim of encouraging them to explore career opportunities and learn about educational requirements.
  • Building awareness within VIHA by providing information, education and cultural safety awareness to VIHA employees and physicians working with Aboriginal peers.
  • Promoting VIHA employment opportunities to Aboriginal people who are currently qualified for available jobs.
  • Supporting Aboriginal employee retention by identifying issues that may be affecting why some Aboriginal employees choose not to stay in their jobs, and putting strategies in place to address issues and barriers to retention.

“I am excited to be developing the training program and am encouraged by VIHA’s commitment to make services more culturally safe for our Aboriginal populations here on Vancouver Island,” said Michele Mundy, the new Cultural Safety coordinator for VIHA and a member of the ‘Namgis First Nation of Alert Bay. “If we improve services for our Aboriginal population, we will improve services for everyone and I very much look forward to building awareness and sharing cultural teachings with VIHA employees throughout the health region.”

“Through the great work of VIHA’s Steve Sxwithul’txw, the importance of developing and main-taining relationships with Vancouver Island’s large First Nations Population is being recognized,” said Dana Thorne Quw’utsun (Cowichan) Employment Training Coordinator. “Recognizing the demographic in the communities served, Mr. Sxwithul’txw and the health authority have taken an open door policy to help all First Nations with questions regarding employment opportunities, creating an environment where our members feel confident.”

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Graphics available:

  • Chart that details the types of jobs to which VIHA’s new Aboriginal staff have been hired
  • High-resolution photograph of Kate Elliott, a registered nurse who works in the Operating Room at Royal Jubilee Hospital demonstrates OR equipment to Steve Sxwithul’txw, Aboriginal Employment Advisor, VIHA

Media Contact: Suzanne Germain, VIHA Communications, 250-370-8294