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Unique program graduates LPNs from First Nation college.

SIKSIKA FIRST NATION

After two years of hard work, 11 students have graduated from the Old Sun Community College in the school's first ever Aboriginal Practical Nurse Diploma Program. The training was offered on the Siksika First Nation campus in partnership with Bow Valley College.

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"Instructors from Bow Valley came and showed us how to utilize everything in there, to teach us better. From what we learned in there, once we were put in the hospital environment (for our practicums), we were very well prepared," said graduate Valene Bearchief.

Bearchief was influential in making the program happen.

"It was kind of personal, with my grandmother living in the Elders Lodge. They didn't have a lot of qualified workers and I just wanted to be able to help in a more direct way, instead of just writing letters and stuff like that ... I wanted to be able to help my grandma," said Bearchief, who gathered names of interested students who were willing to commit if the program was offered so close to home.

While Siksika has a number of individuals qualified as health care aids to deliver basic care, Bearchief said LPNs can give medicines and better assessment.

The 11 Siksika post secondary students were honoured in a Licenced Practical Nurse Pinning Ceremony on June 28 at the Deerfoot Sportsplex. The ceremony included a Traditional Siksika Honouring.

In the summer of 2009, this first class of LPNs began their journey. Since then, they have undertaken five semesters, including two practicum components, to gain the skills needed to work within the healthcare setting.

The first part of the LPN program was a contribution by Old Sun College to deliver prerequisite courses in such areas as math, personal health, and human anatomy. Old Sun College registrar Fritzi Woods said three Aboriginal identity classes were also offered.

Eventually, students got into more hands-on learning, utilizing the medical lab built specifically for them on the third floor of Old Sun College.

Bearchief said the pinning ceremony held on the Siksika First Nation meant more to her than the earlier convocation which took place in Bow Valley. That ceremony comprised of a traditional Siksika honouring as well. It made her proud, she said, to be recognized in her home community, among her family and friends, and the overall health services department.

Seven of the graduating students are preparing to write their licensing exam in September, which will recognize their efforts nationally, while the other four will wait until next year. In the meantime they will rely on their temporary license.

Both colleges plan to work together to offer this same program opportunity again come this fall, although it is up to funders.

"We have high hopes. We've got the number of cohorts ready to go for this next term. We just have to see if we have enough funding for that," Woods said.

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BY SUSAN SOLWAY Sweetgrass Writer

COPYRIGHT 2011 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
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Title Annotation:EDUCATION; licensed practical nurse
Author:Solway, Susan
Publication:Alberta Sweetgrass
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Aug 1, 2011
Words:496
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