The power of reflection to improve training on Indigenous health care

June 8, 2021 | Author: Royal College Staff

“When we address Indigenous health inequities, everyone benefits.” 

The Indigenous Health in Specialty Postgraduate Medical Education Guide is the newest addition in a series of Indigenous health resources created by the Indigenous Health Committee (IHC) at the Royal College, an independent body comprising Indigenous physicians, scholars and other health care professionals.

Aimed at faculties of medicine looking to enhance Indigenous health curricula and programming, the Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program-accredited guide can also support the development of assessment tools, faculty development resources and benchmarks for program evaluation.

Changing the narrative

Dr. Sarah Funnell (Submitted photo)

Sarah Funnell, MD, FRCPC, a member of IHC and one of the guide’s contributors, says her colleagues feel it was important not to perpetuate stereotypes when presenting Indigenous health to the postgraduate medical education (PGME) community.

The Algonquin-Tuscarora family physician remembers “cringeworthy” experiences as a medical student when it came to discussing widely accepted narratives around Indigenous communities and their well-being.

“Historically, Indigenous health within education is presented as deficit-based and paternalistic – this group needs help because they are vulnerable and only ‘we’ (physicians) can help them,” she explains. “The reason why Indigenous Peoples have poorer health outcomes is structural and not because of a lack of strength.”

The guide uses a rights-based approach to exploring Indigenous health; Indigenous Peoples wield self-determination and agency in their path to well-being and physicians are invited as partners, not guides, on this journey. The guide also encourages physicians to consider a holistic view of an individual, asking questions around how family and community play a role in supporting patients’ optimal health.

“It does take more time but it’s worth it, in terms of building relationships and trust between patient and physician,” Dr. Funnell says of this approach.

Reflection and improving care for all

What she wants readers to take away from the guide, or any cultural care resources physicians come across, is to understand the power of reflection in their work. Thinking about power dynamics between patients and physicians or the role of culture in well-being may encourage physicians to try new ways to communicate and develop treatment plans.

“Improving quality health care for Indigenous Peoples may look different but it doesn’t take away from improving care for anyone else,” Dr. Funnell says. “When we address Indigenous health inequities, everyone benefits.”

Visit our Indigenous health web page to access the following MOC-accredited Indigenous health resources

  • Indigenous Health Primer: Foundational reading on Indigenous health, including case studies on Indigenous experiences and insights.
  • Indigenous health in specialty postgraduate medical education guide: Designed for faculties of medicine looking to enhance Indigenous health curricula and programming.
  • PGME Environmental Scan: Provides an overview of the “state of readiness” of the 17 faculties of medicine in Canada to integrate Indigenous health in postgraduate medical education curriculum and programming.
  • COVID-19 cultural safe care: Five tips for health care professionals on how to follow culturally safe practices when treating Indigenous patients with COVID-19.

Read our statement: Royal College grieves the tragic loss of 215 Indigenous children


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