A smudging ceremony to set new nursing students on a good start

The next generation of nursing students was given a hopeful start with a traditional ceremony at the Kenora campus of the Seven Generations Education Institute on Monday night.

“We were smudging the stethoscopes, which is our tradition for first year nursing students,” said Kim Elke, the nurse coordinator instructor for the nursing and health discipline program for Seven Generations.

“We had the elder Phyllis Shaugabay, an elder in the community, [conduct the ceremony]. She explained to us about the blessing about honouring the four directions, about the grandmother and grandfather teachings,” she said.

Shaugabay said after the smudge, students should think of their stethoscope as a way of connecting their hearts with their patients, to lead with kindness and compassion.

The traditional practice sets students on the right path to ensure its nursing and health care education includes the need for Indigenous sensitivities, the institute said. It added the school prides itself on teaching education for all, but also teaches its students to incorporate this motto into their careers - in this case, health care for all.

Elke said because of COVID, the ceremony had been put off for a few years, so “some of our newer instructors of the last couple of years… brought their stethoscopes to be smudged as well."

Ten of the 12 students in the two-year registered practical nurse or four-year registered nurse programs were able to attend.

Seven Generations partners with Canadore College to deliver the RPN program and with Lakehead University for the RN program. Elke said the programs can help with the critical nursing shortage facing the Northwest and to make education more accessible to all. The programs are available at the Kenora, Fort Frances, and Sioux Lookout locations.

“There’s a lot of barriers to leaving the Northwest for education,” she said. “To have a university and college program, it’s such a benefit to our community."

“It also helps to keep our nurses local. They are likely to stay where they receive their education.”

Eric Shih, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source