Thompson Rivers University

Indigenous nursing research chair a step toward authentic reconciliation 

  Posted on: April 8, 2020

Dr. Lisa Bourque Bearskin of TRU's School of Nursing

Dr. Lisa Bourque Bearskin, Associate Professor & Indigenous Research Chair in Nursing

Dr. Lisa Bourque Bearskin has long been a leader in nursing research, and now her leadership has been nationally recognized, having been awarded one of six Indigenous Research Chairs in Nursing by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). She is the only researcher in British Columbia to receive such an honour.

As an Indigenous Research Chair, Bourque Bearskin’s research program will be supported by an investment of more than $1.52 million over the next five years. Along with the CIHR, the First Nations Health Authority and the Canadian Nursing Foundation are also key partners. Bourque Bearskin’s research program focuses on advancing Indigenous health through enacting and supporting policies and standards that are informed by the experiences of Indigenous peoples, and she works to empower nurses to advocate for access to traditional wellness practices. 

“The fact that CIHR devoted six chairs across the country to this program is significant. It recognizes the talents and the leadership that Indigenous nurses have, and how they can contribute to making authentic changes in health care,” she said.

Advancing Indigenous wellness

“At TRU, we are tremendously proud of the work Dr. Bourque Bearskin has done. Because of research like hers we have a better understanding of how traditional knowledge and cultural safety are foundational for community healing,” said Dr. Brett Fairbairn, TRU president and vice-chancellor.

A member of Beaver Lake Cree Nation in Treaty 6 Territory, Bourque Bearskin said her research is grounded in own nehiway teachings of mâmawoh kamâtowin, which means coming together to help each other.

“This way I get to practice in my own way of knowing while working with knowledge holders and nurses within Secwépemc’ulucw, the traditional territory of the Secwépemc people as a way of recognizing and honoring Indigenous nurses from this region,” she said.

Research that empowers all nurses

The most important aspect of this work, she added, will be maintaining relational accountability and mutual reciprocity.

“Even though nurses are at the heart of health care, we are still developing our own knowledge base. Now we have a formalized platform to empower not just Indigenous nurses, but all nurses, to carefully rethink our role within health care,” she said. “This opportunity to co-create ways that acknowledge Indigenous rights and sovereignty, including health security, is central to nurses’ work. We have a social mandate and responsibility to enact and support policies and standards that are informed by the experiences of Indigenous peoples.”

This investment in Indigenous health nursing provides an opportunity for all nurses to make research part of their everyday practice, and shows a positive step toward enacting authentic reconciliation, Bourque Bearskin said. Indigenous nurses hold positions that contribute significantly to reconciling nursing practices and alternate pathways in nursing and health-care service delivery. 

About Dr. Bourque Bearskin

Bourque Bearskin has spent 30 years as a registered nurse advocating for improved health-care service delivery to Indigenous populations. She is affiliated with the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing, the International Public Health Association, and the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association, of which she was past-president. She has been recognized for her commitment to nursing by the Canadian Nurses Association, and the Association of Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of BC.

More information

Dr. Lisa Bourque Bearskin, Associate Professor, TRU School of Nursing
Indigenous Nursing Research Chair
lbourquebearskin@tru.ca