It will be 10 years ago that Interior Health’s first Aboriginal Patient Navigator started in Williams Lake.
Since then the program has expanded to include nine APNs working through the health authority along with one Ktunaxa Nation-based APN.
“Our Aboriginal Patient Navigator positions offer support in a number of ways both with our patients and our employees as well,” said Brad Anderson, Corporate Director of Aboriginal Health.
“The lens that they bring around cultural safety and helping our patients navigate through our sometimes complex system whether it’s to assist with discharge planning, spiritual care, they’re really to work in that multi-disciplinary team, and they’re a vital and valuable resource that we have within our health authority.”
Interior Health Board Chair Doug Cochrane says the healthcare system can be complicated and that factors such as language barriers, huge geographic distances, and cultural differences can make it even more so.
“The APNs help address barriers and improve access to health-care services,” he said in a news release.
“This is a vital service that helps to address health disparities that indigenous patients face when interacting with our health system.”
Based at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, APN Debra Donald says there has been a lot of positive change.
“For example, the family of one of our patients who was palliative and on comfort measures was quite spiritual and cultural,” Donald said.
“They wanted to have a smudge and an end-of-life ceremony in hospital. I wasn’t on shift but management and medical staff knew how to facilitate that process. They were willing and able to do what they needed to allow that family to practice their cultural belief and spirituality. “
“The family appreciated that their relative was able to pass away observing First Nation customs despite being in a hospital setting.”