“Opened My Eyes”: Learning from Interprofessional Engagement with Indigenous Communities

Thursday, August 6, 2020, 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm EDT

Interprofessional collaboration (IPC) has been identified as an essential component in providing culturally safe healthcare in Indigenous communities. Despite this, there are few IPC opportunities that involve working with Indigenous communities and peoples. To address this gap, a Canadian university offers a two-week interprofessional collaboration experience where groups of 4-6 students are immersed within a First Nations community to learn about its people, their health services, and their perspectives on health. 


Since 2017, 61 students from 9 professional programs have participated in this community engaged learning opportunity.  Prior to and during the experience, students are provided with readings and teachings on the history of colonization, the impact of racism in the health care system, and power and privilege.  A qualitative study using interpretive description was used to explore how this immersive experience enhanced their skills, knowledge and behaviors related to interprofessional collaboration and working well with communities.


The results found that “Ndinawemaaganag” (Anishinaabe word meaning “all my relations”) provides a rich opportunity for the students to connect with the community, each other, and the land. This lays the foundation to “Open the Students’ Eyes” to the effects of colonization, systemic racism, and the resilience and strengths of Indigenous communities. Students were confronted with their privilege and positionality which supported their “Journey to cultural advocacy/Gaa shii anooki yang” and learned the importance of working collaboratively with each other through “Interprofessional Collaboration in Action”.  Students came away from the experience with a stronger understanding of their place in working with Indigenous communities and on interprofessional teams, thus “Finding Their Place”.


In this seminar, learners will:

  • Learn about this innovative immersive community engaged experience where students have the opportunity to learn about each other, a community, and its health services
  • Reflect on how they can make space for/facilitate opportunities for a community centred interprofessional engagement experience in their own context
  • Discuss how these strategies, processes, and lessons learned can be generalized to support future interprofessional community engagement opportunities to address other known health care  disparities using a community centred, culturally safe, anti-oppressive and anti-racist lens.