Island Health receives national award for innovative approach to diversity and inclusion in healthcare

June 7, 2016

“A far reaching and impactful program,”

“…a deep and focused Aboriginal initiative from a staff and community perspective, with dedicated resourcing and impressive progress to date; the highest level of organizational commitment is evident.”

These are just a few of the comments shared by the committee members selecting Island Health as this year’s recipient of the Canadian College of Health Leaders Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Award.

“We are honoured to have our work recognized by the Canadian College of Health Leaders, and the award sponsor, Sodexo," says Kathryn MacNeil, executive vice president, quality safety and experience. "This recognition validates the impact of the Aboriginal Employment Program on the experience of patients, families, staff and communities of Island Health.”

“I am happy to see that Island Health is being recognized for their innovative and inspiring program,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “Our government and partners are committed to inclusive and culturally-safe practices, and Island Health’s Aboriginal Employment Program is a great example of how incorporating Indigenous perspectives can help improve patient care.”

The number of Island Health employees who self-identify as being of Aboriginal ancestry increased from 199 in April 2012 (the year the program went from pilot to permanent) to 582 as of May 2016. These numbers are a snapshot of the broader vision to create culturally safe care at Island Health. The program is rooted in the strength of the employees who bring Indigenous perspectives into focus.

Kate Elliott, member of the Métis Nation, and one of the first “alumni” of the Aboriginal Employment Program, reflects on her experience as a new employee and the ways in which she was able to shape her career with Island Health as well as the careers of present and future Indigenous colleagues.

“I began working with the Aboriginal Employment team in 2009 as a nursing student,” recalls Elliott. “During this placement, I had the opportunity to create a one-day workshop for Aboriginal youth to explore careers in health care. This workshop created a culturally safe environment for youth to ask questions and learn about the diverse career opportunities offered in the health authority. I was able to learn about the business aspects of healthcare and how to create positive change within a large organization.”

Elliott says it was a turning point in her nursing education. “It was one of the first times that I wasn’t afraid to identify as Aboriginal within an education setting.”

Six years later, after her first practicum, a co-op placement, serving as a member of the Aboriginal Employment Advisory Committee and a variety of roles with increasing responsibilities for health service and care, Elliott recently left Island Health to begin her first year of medical school.

“When you consider the positive impact that employees like Kate can have on our organization and what an inspiration they are to future generations, it’s easy to see why other organizations are taking notice,” said Don Hubbard, Board Chair. “The Aboriginal Employment Program illustrates the kind of leadership called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action. Island Health is committed to invest the time, energy and resources needed to ensure cultural diversity can make a difference, not only in the lives of Indigenous patients, families and communities, but to all residents of our service region.”

For more information visit: www.viha.ca/careers/aboriginal or join Island Health’s Aboriginal Employment team at one of five Aboriginal Week celebration events near you, June 20 – 24, 2016.

Thinking about a career in health? Check out our Aboriginal Health Program!

Central/North Island media inquiries
Valerie Wilson
Manager, Regional Communications

South Island media inquiries:
Kellie Hudson
Media Relations Manager