Feb. 14, 2024

In the Spirit of Reconciliation

Assistant Professor (Teaching) Megan Keszler reflects on the journey bringing the professional development workshop “The Four Elements: Bringing an Indigenous Framework into Nursing Education” to UCalgary Nursing
Megan Keszler and Michelle Scott
Megan Keszler, Assistant Professor (Teaching) and Dr. Michelle Scott, Director of Indigenous Initiatives, Calgary Nursing

Megan Keszler is a fourth-generation settler of British and German descent, an Assistant Professor (Teaching) with the Faculty of Nursing and a Master of Education (Interdisciplinary) student currently studying in the Indigenous Education: A Call to Action program at the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. 

“Reconciliation is not a spectator sport” – The Honourable Murray Sinclair

“What supports are available to the Indigenous patient I’m caring for?” asked the Indigenous nursing student, as we sat at a nurse's desk in an acute care unit at a Calgary hospital in the Fall of 2022, during the student’s Term 5 clinical placement. The patient was strongly considering leaving the hospital before their treatment was complete. This was confusing to staff and students alike, but in hindsight, a direct result of the patient’s life-long experience with a colonial health-care system. 

At this moment, although I was aware of the standard supports within Alberta Health Services available to Indigenous peoples in the hospital including the Indigenous hospital liaison, I started to realize how little I knew about the holistic needs of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit persons in the hospital. 

I was reminded of many of the Indigenous people I had cared for in the hospital over my career and their stories: the reasons they came to hospital were often woven from the effects of intergenerational violence and colonization. I realized how poorly I was equipped to work collaboratively with Indigenous people to promote their healing without understanding more about the truth of our history. 

Even though I have been a registered nurse for 19 years and a clinical instructor for five, I recognized that I had to do better; for my students who are the future of nursing, Indigenous peoples in the hospital, myself, and the community. 

I made the conscious choice to enroll in the Indigenous Education: A Call to Action program at the Werklund School of Education for the second year of my laddered Master of Education (Interdisciplinary) degree. This program has unexpectedly offered me life-changing learning and growth and I strongly recommend it to anyone considering or progressing through the Master of Education (Interdisciplinary).

As a settler of British and German descent, I began this journey of understanding and moving toward decolonizing my thinking and acting and found it initially intimidating. I felt shame that I had not sought to better understand Indigenous histories, cultures, and ways of knowing earlier. However, the second-best time to start is always now. 

On the first day of the program, we began with a smudge under the guidance of Elder Toni McCune to start our immersive and often emotional understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing and our positionality. The class had to understand the truth before we could begin to work toward reconciliation, which would take the form of an ethical critical service-learning project.

My pivotal experience with the student seeking to understand Indigenous supports available in the hospital led me to approach Dr. Michelle Scott, Director of Indigenous Initiatives for the Faculty of Nursing for the final reconciliation project for the Indigenous Education: A Call to Action certificate. I knew she was leading work on an Indigenous curricular framework, for the new BScN curriculum at the Faculty of Nursing which is taking effect Fall 2024, and I discussed with her my desire to support her work through my critical service-learning project. She considered what I had to say carefully and decided that a good focus for the project would be to support her work in the creation of faculty development workshops to introduce nursing instructors and faculty to the new Indigenous framework: The Four Elements. and this was the start of the workshop planning where I could support her integral work.

Dr. Scott demonstrated graciousness and patience by accepting the project in support of her work over many months, and she served as my teacher as I learned to navigate what it means to walk alongside. Along the way, as I continued my Indigenous Education coursework, I started attending more Indigenous learning opportunities in the Faculty of Nursing and beyond. These immersive opportunities grounded me in the purpose of the work: reconciliation, and further served to remind me that the motivation needed to come from the heart. Now, whenever I smell the lingering scent of sweetgrass and sage smudge in the Faculty of Nursing it offers me comfort. Change is happening and it is exciting.

Red dress on campus

A red dress placed outside the Werklund School of Education and Faculty of Nursing, at the University of Calgary, July 2023, to raise awareness for murdered and missing Indigenous women.

Photo by Megan Keszler

“24. We call upon medical and nursing schools in Canada to require all students to take a course dealing with Aboriginal health issues, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, and Indigenous teachings and practices. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.” - Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action (2015)

Through discussions with Dr. Tracey Clancy, Assistant Dean of Faculty Development, the upcoming workshop “The Four Elements: Bringing an Indigenous Framework into Nursing Education” was endorsed as an official faculty-supported professional development workshop. Future plans include incorporating this workshop into the faculty’s teaching and learning micro-credential program PEP. The pilot workshops for nursing faculty and clinical instructors will be offered in March. 

Dr. Scott will introduce the Indigenous framework, its meaning, and how faculty and clinical instructors might begin to incorporate the Framework into their teaching practice. I will be sharing my ongoing journey in learning and how I have begun to take up this important work in my teaching practice. 

As a nursing educator, I now recognize that is incumbent upon me to take up the work to address the systemic colonization and racism within healthcare and in healthcare education as mandated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action. This workshop offers an excellent opportunity for others to learn how to take up the work as well. 

Special thanks to Dr. Michelle Scott for her partnership, patience, and teaching, and to my professors at the Werklund School of Education: Drs. Yvonne Poitras-Pratt, Derek Markides, Jaime Fiddler, and Aubrey Hanson. 

Join Dr. Michelle Scott and Megan Keszler for the Faculty of Nursing professional development workshop “The Four Elements: Bringing an Indigenous Framework into Nursing Education” on March 14 or March 19, 12-1:30 p.m. in PF 2275. It is open to nursing faculty and clinical instructors and there will be participatory activities and food offered. Please register below.