'Beyond their job description': FNHA nursing leaders speak about the important roles nurses play



​​​With National Nursing Week now well underway, the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) is honoured to have the opportunity to shine light on the incredible work nurses do across BC – in community and virtually – as they serve First Nations people and communities.

Nurse leaders are the cornerstone of healthcare excellence – they drive innovation, foster collaboration and ensure optimal patient care. In response to colonization and subsequent inequities in health status of First Nations across BC, FNHA's Office of the Chief Nursing Officer (OCNO) has mandated a system that incorporates the concept of cultural safety, humility and trauma informed care into its practices.

Nurse leaders exemplify and model this way of being.

By prioritizing cultural safety, humility and quality nurse leaders elevate the standard of care, propel best practices forward and foster transformation. Their focus and outlook underscores OCNO's commitment to continuously improving patient outcomes, driving excellence in practice and enhancing culturally safe and trauma informed care.

The FNHA spoke with several nurse leaders from across the province about their careers and the important role nurses play in ensuring First Nations clients receive culturally sensitive care, here are their responses:

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Lauren Brown, Director, Cultural Safety & Humility

How did you become a nurse leader?

After completing my nursing degree I went into direct nursing care at St. Paul's in Vancouver, I took on a role as patient navigator on call, and worked casually with Healing Our Spirit as a nurse educator and I burnt out. Growing up on a reserve, I thought I could really support policy development and change. I spent time working with Health Canada and eventually moved back to my community to serve as a health director for 18 years. There I was able to support the implementation of policy changes in my community and advocate for it at the provincial level.

Eventually I felt the need to do something different and what is so meaningful about my current role is it feels like such a natural progression. I get to support the changes that need to happen in our healthcare system, shift the ideas for our people that we deserve equity in health care and prioritize bringing culture into a system we inherited.

How important are nurses in ensuring First Nations clients receive culturally sensitive care?

Nurses are key because they're at the frontline, they have the capacity to see the person and the services they're trying to access. If we can continue to get nurses to shift beliefs, patterns and attitudes on First Nations people, culturally safe care will be provided. Nurses are absolutely key, they have a lot of interface with our people and there's a huge relational aspect of nursing that supports client centered care delivery.


​Michelle Speer, Manager, Regional Nurse, Interior

How did you become a nurse leader?

I never intended on it, but after being with the FNHA for 8 years on the frontlines, it felt like a natural shift. Through the years I had come across situations regarding the day to day operations and often thought – why aren't we doing this, or why aren't things done this way?

When the opportunity arose I wanted to see if it was possible to make those changes I'd often wonder about. I have been humbled and learned a lot but I love being in a better position to advocate and create change in a positive and meaningful way for our communities. 

How important are nurses in ensuring First Nations clients receive culturally sensitive care?

It would be impossible for First Nations clients to receive culturally sensitive care without nurses. Nurses continually advocate for clients and play a big role in educating others about how to provide culturally sensitive care – including other health care providers who may not have the same lens we do. The nurses that I work with all go above and beyond their job description and are so passionate about their communities and the work they do. 

Reilly Kluss, Manager, Regional Nurse, North

How did you become a nurse leader?

Shortly after nursing school I went and got my masters because I knew that would help me get to where I want to be – I always knew I wanted to be in a leadership role and mix all of my nursing knowledge with the things I love about leadership.

One of the reasons I chose FNHA was because I was so passionate about helping bridge all of the gaps, all of the health disparities that I saw. I knew I wanted to be part of a team of really good people with strong follow-through around creating culturally safe spaces, not just using it as a buzzword.

How important are nurses in ensuring First Nations clients receive culturally sensitive care?

Nurses are the first health care professional that lots of people encounter and so even though there's space for all health care professionals to be working in a culturally sensitive capacity, I think nurses have even more of a responsibility.

Nurses are the ones that are seeing clients at the beginning, building relationships from the ground up and are usually holders of that relationship between patient and system.

National Nursing Week event

Nurses supporting Indigenous wellness: Changing lives & shaping tomorrow

Celebrate National Nursing Week with FNHA and the UBC Learning Circle later this month by participating in a Q&A session with our nursing leaders Learn more about the event here.

  • May 23, 2024: 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. PST
  • Register for the webinar here
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