KAMLOOPS, BC–Thompson Rivers University (TRU) researcher Dr. Lisa Bourque Bearskin is one of six researchers nationally awarded an Indigenous Research Chair in Nursing from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the only researcher in BC to receive the honor.
Dr. Bourque Bearskin’s research focuses on advancing Indigenous health nursing that promotes wellness and participation, and that empowers nurses to advocate for patient access to traditional wellness practices within culturally safe and secure health-care environments. This research is supported by more than $1.52 million over five years. Along with the CIHR, funding support also comes from the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), the Canadian Nursing Foundation (CNF) and TRU.
“The Canadian Nurses Foundation is committed to support training and capacity development of Indigenous nurses to work in collaboration with other Indigenous health researchers. CNF is extremely pleased to partner with others across Canada for the Indigenous Research Chairs in Nursing initiative which aims at improving the health of Indigenous Peoples. We are particularly thrilled to support Dr. Lisa Bourque Bearskin, a multi-CNF award recipient,” said Christine Rieck Buckley, CEO, Canadian Nurses Foundation.
“FNHA is honored to be working in partnership with Dr. Lisa Bourque Bearskin, CNF, CIHR and TRU for this ground-breaking initiative. Nursing professionals have long understood the value of research and inquiry in their practice, and the opportunity to advance this learning from an Indigenous lens has enormous impact that extends not only to our nursing professionals, but to the entire system of care. The value of hardwiring cultural safety and humility into the health-care system cannot be overstated and this work deeply aligns with our efforts to move toward that,” said Becky Palmer, chief nursing officer, FNHA.
Bourque Bearskin said this investment into 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. Indigenous nurses hold positions that contribute significantly to reconciling nursing practices and alternate pathways in nursing and health-care service delivery.
“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. This research program is grounded in Borque Bearskin’s 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.”
The most important aspect of this work, she said, 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 Indigenous peoples.”
“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.
“I would like to congratulate Dr. Lisa Bourque Bearskin on this new and exciting role. The FNHA looks forward to working with her and supporting this initiative,” said Richard Jock, interim CEO, FNHA.
Bourque Bearskin, a member of Beaver Lake Cree Nation in Treaty 6 Territory 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.
Dr. Lisa Bourque Bearskin, Associate Professor, TRU School of Nursing
Indigenous Research Chair in Nursing