Back to Top Blanket Exercise boosts staff awareness about colonization effects on Indigenous patients | The Ottawa Hospital Favourite Icon
 

Blanket Exercise boosts staff awareness about colonization effects on Indigenous patients

 
Megan Ellis, Aboriginal Program Coordinator, wears her red sash to show her Métis heritage

Megan Ellis, Indigenous Program Coordinator, has been leading the KAIROS Blanket Exercise with groups of staff from The Ottawa Hospital. She wears her red sash to show her Métis heritage.

It moves some to tears. Others are shocked, yet hopeful. Anger, guilt and shame can also come with the heightened awareness hospital staff members have after taking part in the KAIROS Blanket Exercise.

The interactive exercise – developed by KAIROS, an ecumenical social justice group – retells 500 years of Canada’s history through the perspective of First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Staff members stand on blankets that represent all the land controlled by Indigenous people when settlers first came to what is now Canada. By the end, they are standing on small islands of folded blankets, illustrating the dispossession of land and all that Indigenous people lost.

During the exercise, staff are asked to step off the blankets, as they represent children adopted as part of the ‘Sixties Scoop,’ children who died at residential schools, people who died from smallpox, and so on.

A group discussion followed the exercise. Many participants expressed dismay that they never learned this history in school and it’s still not always taught to their children today. Many did not know, for example, that sled dogs were shot so the Inuit could not pursue their traditional hunting. Or that blankets were purposely infected with smallpox and handed out to Indigenous people. Or that nutrition experiments were conducted on children at residential schools.

Staff members stand on blankets that represent all the land controlled by Indigenous people
Staff members stand on blankets that represent all the land controlled by Indigenous people

 

Staff members stand on blankets that represent all the land controlled by Indigenous people. They had lots of land at the start, when settlers first came to what is now Canada, but they have much smaller, unconnected islands of land now.

 

“As Canadians, it’s part of our story, something we have to carry with us,” said Megan Ellis, Indigenous Program Coordinator, who led the exercise. “We all have to carry on and move forward in a good way.”

“This exercise is not to make you feel guilty, but to more fully understand Indigenous people, and where they’ve come from, the traumas they’ve been through and how to provide culturally sensitive care,” explained Gwen Barton, Manager of Patient Experience in the Cancer Program.

Ellis, Barton, Dr. Treena Greene, Regional Indigenous Cancer Lead, and Indigenous Patient Navigator Carolyn Roberts are offering the KAIROS Blanket Exercise to groups of staff, doctors and volunteers to raise awareness about the traumas that Indigenous patients have gone through. So far, about 90 staff members have taken part. They are encouraged to incorporate that knowledge into their patient care.

“If you’ve treated an Indigenous patient around age 50 or older, odds are they’ve attended residential school,” said Roberts. “There are reasons why people behave the way they do.”

Lucie Zabchuk, Coordinator of Volunteer Resources at the Civic Campus, took part in the exercise in May.

“I felt like crying,” said Zabchuk, who represented children who died at residential schools. “I think everyone should go through this. We can’t forget our history, but it gives me hope that we can make it better.”

closeup of hands with school cutout

As part of the KAIROS Blanket Exercise, staff members were asked to step off the blankets, as they represented, for example, children who died at residential school.

“Several of my staff members described the exercise as a life-changing and intense experience,” said Julie Renaud, Manager in Radiation Therapy.
Some of the biggest questions people have after going through the exercise are “What changes can we make here? What’s next?”

Cancer Program staff are making a difference to Indigenous patient care at The Ottawa Hospital. Inuit patients from Nunavut, for example, come to The Ottawa Hospital for cancer treatment, but have trouble getting back home for palliative care. Roberts has intervened in many cases to enable patients to die at home, surrounded by their extended families.

Managers who would like to schedule the KAIROS Blanket Exercise for their group, or those who would like more information, should email Megan Ellis.

 
Comment

Comment on this post

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*


You might also like…

“My nurses made me feel safe and told me I was strong”: A tribute to nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic

In honour of Nursing Week 2021, Dr. Debra Bournes, Chief Nursing Executive and Vice-President, Regional Cancer Care at The Ottawa Hospital shares heartfelt thanks from patients and expresses her gratitude to nurses for the compassionate care they have provided during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tales of a therapy dog

Need a lift? In this four-part series, The Ottawa Hospital volunteer Christine Phillips shares pre-COVID-19 stories of how she and her therapy dog, Caileigh make a difference in people’s lives.

Inuit cancer patients receive care in Nunavut thanks to ongoing hospital partnership

Although Inuit patients from Nunavut typically come to The Ottawa Hospital for cancer care, they can now receive more care close to home. It’s part of an ongoing partnership between The Ottawa Hospital and Qikiqtani General Hospital.

Our community thanks staff at The Ottawa Hospital

From school children to celebrities to first responders and the public, thousands of people continue to say ‘thank you” for all you have done for our community. Take a look!

Dr. Lisa Calder, new CEO of the CMPA, talks leadership, patient safety and the future of health care

Physician, researcher and educator Dr. Lisa Calder discusses the future of health care and how working at The Ottawa Hospital has prepared her for being the CEO of the Canadian Medical Protective Association, a national organization with more than 100,000 physician members.

Resident physicians provide world-class care to patients at The Ottawa Hospital

As important members of the front line, read how some of our residents at The Ottawa Hospital are providing world-class care to patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This website gives you common facts, advice and tips. Some of it may not apply to you. Please talk to your doctor, nurse or other health-care team member to see if this information will work for you. They can also answer your questions and concerns.