Elders support patients, families and care teams at North Island Hospital campuses in Comox and Campbell River



Pictured above: On left, Sheryl Thompson, Elder-in-Residence 
at North Island Hospital Campbell River. On right, Fran Prince, Elder-in-Residence at North Island Hospital Comox Valley.

Two Kwakwaka’wakw Elders have joined a new Elder-in-Residence program at the North Island Hospital campuses in Campbell River and Comox to support patients, families and staff by promoting understanding and respect for Indigenous knowledge, culture and values.

Island Health and the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) developed the Elder-in-Residence program to ensure that Indigenous perspectives, knowledge and approaches to wellness are honoured in hospital settings. This position supports a proactive and holistic approach to health and wellness through the delivery of services that respect the customs and traditions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. 

“Integrating cultural perspectives in healthcare will improve patient and family experience in hospital, promote respectful patient-staff relationships, and result in improved health outcomes. We are very pleased to partner with the First Nations Health Authority on this project, and honoured that Elders are here to work with us on this journey,” said Leah Hollins, Island Health Board Chair. 

“Acknowledging that First Nations people are more likely to access care when they feel safe and respected, FNHA and Island Health have identified the need to provide access to Elders in the hospital environment,” said Brennan MacDonald, FNHA Regional Executive Director for Vancouver Island. “An Elder-in-Residence will benefit patients and their families by providing culturally-safe support. The Elder-in-Residence will also benefit hospital staff, including leadership, by ensuring protocol adherence, cultural competence and cultural safety for patients and families.” 

Fran Prince of the K’ómoks First Nation and Sheryl Thompson of the Wei Wai Kum Nation, which are both part of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation, joined the new program in September.

“I was inspired to apply for this position to assist our people to be more comfortable while being in the hospital, and to advocate if needed, and to be part of their health plan while in hospital,” said Prince, who has a background in education and administration . “I look forward to this new adventure as part of the Aboriginal Health team.”

“I love to speak my language, which is Kwakwala, and I look forward to any opportunity to speak with others,” said Thompson, who has a background in nursing and teaching.

The Elders- in-Residence will:

 Provide support, mentoring and a calm, reassuring presence for patients and families;

 Share traditional ways of knowing (teachings) with patients, families and care teams;

 Nurture understanding of Aboriginal patients’ needs with care teams;

 Provide cultural support, leadership and guidance for patients and families;

 Share personal knowledge of the history and culture of Kwakwaka’wakw people with care teams;

 Assist patients with connections to appropriate cultural resources and coordinate referrals to community organizations. 

About FNHA:
The FNHA is responsible for planning, management, service delivery and funding of health programs, in partnership with First Nations communities in BC. Guided by the vision of embedding cultural safety and humility into health service delivery, the FNHA works to reform the way health care is delivered to BC First Nations.

About Island Health:
Island Health provides health care and support services to more than 794,000 people on Vancouver Island, the islands in the Salish Sea and the Johnstone Strait, and mainland communities north of Powell River. With more than 21,000 staff and over 2,000 physician partners, 6,000 volunteers, and the dedicated support of foundations and auxiliaries, Island Health delivers a broad range of health services, including: Public health services, primary health care, home and community care, mental health and addictions services, acute care in hospitals, and much more across a huge, geographically diverse region.


Media Inquiries:

Island Health
Dominic Abassi

First Nations Health Authority
John Moody

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