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You’re in my care: Smudge procedure gives comfort to Indigenous patients and families

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Smudging

Smudging is often used when someone is born, or someone dies, or during a crisis. It might also be part of a patient’s everyday spiritual practices.

For many patients and families, spiritual practices can help manage the stress of time spent in hospital. For First Nations and Métis patients and families, these practices might include smudging ceremonies.

The Ottawa Hospital now has a procedure in place to be able to respond to requests from patients and families for smudging ceremonies.  

Smudging is a traditional practice that is part of some, but not all, Indigenous cultures in Canada, and is practiced differently by different communities. Patients might request a smudging ceremony at any time, for a wide variety of reasons.

“When she learned she would be able to smudge in the hospital even though she couldn’t leave her room, there was a sense of relief.”

Karen Lawrence, Clinical Manager on 6East, requested a smudging ceremony for a patient not long after the standard operating procedure was approved.

“Smudging was part of the patient’s normal practice. When she learned she would be able to smudge in the hospital even though she couldn’t leave her room, there was a sense of relief,” she said.

Smudging is often used when someone is born, or someone dies, or during a crisis. It might also be part of a patient’s everyday spiritual practices.

During a smudging ceremony, people generally burn traditional, medicinal plants and waft the smoke over parts of the body as a spiritually cleansing ritual.

Patients can smudge in three different types of spaces at the hospital: outside the hospital building, in a designated indoor smudging area, or if the patient can’t be moved to a designated indoor smudging area, a smudge can be arranged for inpatient rooms.

Requesting a smudge was easy and seamless, said Lawrence: “There’s a lot of support to help you.”

The standard operating procedure for smudging includes safety requirements so that smoke and scent from the smudge doesn’t travel through the hospital and affect other patients, families, or staff members.

“For many of our Indigenous patients, being able to smudge while in hospital is an important part of their spiritual wellbeing,” said Gwen Barton, Manager of the First Nations, Inuit and Metis Cancer Program. “As health-care providers, it’s our responsibility to do what we can to create a culturally safe and respectful environment.”

To request a smudging ceremony, please talk to your health-care team.

 
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