The Power of Voice to Advance Culturally Safe Health Care for First Nations Communities


Community Health Nurse, Carley Julien shares “Ode to an Elder" song for Nursing Week

2020 is the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. In celebration and recognition, we will feature stories all year long of community health nurses from across the province and the great work they do for BC First Nations people and communities.

During one of her shifts as a Community Health Nurse with the First Nations Health Authority, Carley Julien asked an Elder she was helping at the Tsay Keh Dene Nation Community Health Centre about where he was born, and if he'd like to show her on a map. Where he pointed showed only the reservoir that is a result of the W. A. C. Bennett Dam on the Peace River in Northern BC. He then began telling Carley about the cycle of dislocation he and his community experienced as the dam was built.

“We sat in the waiting room, and I remember wanting to lock the door because I didn't want him to be interrupted," says Carley. “I could tell it was such a powerful thing for him to be sharing this—especially to a health care provider who is a settler."

Carley has worked in rural and remote nursing for over five ​years ​and describes her nursing practice as relational. Limited resources often make rural and remote health care difficult, but those limitations are also what allows relationships to develop in ways they might not in a city. “There is opportunity to get to know people in community nursing. Finding out what matters to them impacts the care they want to receive. The community guides our practice," says Carley.

As the Elder continued on to share about his experience in Residential School, Carley realized it was a gift to be let into his experience and to be given the history of his territory. “It is my responsibility [as a nurse], just as much as it is to practice evidence-based, best-practice care, to provide care in a way that builds trust," stats Carley. “Building trust takes time and listening, and that is why I was able to hear his story and voice my reflections through song for others to hear, and hopefully learn from the way I did."


​Ode to an Elder has been widely shared and appreciated through Tsay Keh Dene Nation, beginning with an intimate moment when Carley played it for the Elder who inspired her song.

Carley continues to be passionate about using her voice for good. When asked what the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife means to her she was quick to speak about the responsibility nurses have to be a voice for justice. “Being a nurse is also about being the loud voice that calls upon our leaders to address inadequacies in the health care system and make social change, not just for First Nations communities and individuals, but with them."

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