Blake Deal
The Navigator

Students in VIU’s Health Care Assistant (HCA) program will now have the addition of Aboriginal perspectives relevant to their training, and guidance from Aboriginal Elders-in-Residence at three VIU campuses.

VIU has offered an Aboriginal-focused HCA program at its Cowichan campus for the last four years. Carol Stuart, Dean of Health and Human Services, said the VIU faculty has now recognized the importance of including Aboriginal perspectives into all HCA programs offered at Cowichan, Nanaimo, and Powell River campuses.

Last month, a gathering was held on the Nanaimo campus in which Stuart joined Snuneymuxw First Nation member and VIU Elder-in-Residence Geraldine Manson in welcoming a group of 30 HCA students starting the newly formatted program.

“Aboriginal perspectives absolutely need to be a part of training for any health care assistant,” said Stuart. “It’s particularly important here on the Island in terms of the population of the elderly that students will work with—they are guaranteed to have a number of clients who are First Nations or urban Aboriginal clients.”

Students in the 24-week HCA program will be supported by Elders-in-Residence serving all three campuses, and will have Aboriginal perspectives woven into program content.

“Students in this program will gain some understanding of the First Nations experience—not just Aboriginal culture and traditions, but also an understanding of the extent of oppression and abuse that has happened to First Nations people in this country,” Stuart said.

In her role as Elder-in-Residence, Manson works directly with students and faculty in Health and Human Services programs at VIU’s Nanaimo campus. Early in her career, Manson trained as a Health Care Assistant and has deep experience working with Elders in the Snuneymuxw First Nation.

Manson offered her encouragement to the students and advised them to take the time to know their clients as unique and special individuals. “When you get to know an Elder, you get to know them like a book—their personalities, moods, favourite foods,” she said. “They love hugs and they love to be spoken to.”

The newly formatted HCA program, which is expected to involve First Nations in each region, began at the Cowichan campus on March 17 and will launch in Powell River on September 22.
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