Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Science




Smye, Victoria

2nd Supervisor

Webster, Fiona


Statement of Research Problem: The Truth and Reconciliation 94 Calls to Action (TRC) (2015) calls for the implementation of accessible and appropriate Indigenous health education. Schools of Nursing are increasingly implementing various approaches to teach Indigenous health. Limited research exists for Canadian nursing students' experiences of learning Indigenous health. This study explored undergraduate nursing students' experiences of learning Indigenous health from four Schools of Nursing across Canada. Particular attention is paid to the factors that shaped student and faculty experiences of learning and teaching Indigenous health, respectively, the facilitators and challenges, and what constitutes a safe and effective learning environment.

Methods: Using a qualitative methodology informed by critical ethnography nine semi-structured interviews were conducted with six undergraduate nursing students and three faculty members. Postcolonial theory was used to inform the work and a thematic analysis was utilized to elicit themes.

Results: Findings resulted in five overarching themes: (1) encountering racism in education and practice, (2) need for faculty development, (3) decentering whiteness in the classroom, (4) creating cultural safety in the classroom, and (5) from classroom to practice.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that for transformative work to take place, the education system needs to work towards better representation of Indigenous faculty and students. Healthcare and education settings need to collaborate to develop anti-racist, anti-oppression, and decolonizing policies and procedures to support the translation of classroom learning into clinical practice. All work should be in partnership with local Indigenous communities. The work remains ongoing and health care professionals are accountable to bettering and humanizing the landscape of care for all Indigenous peoples and persons of color. Education is a political act and one that requires more accomplices in dismantling the colonial structures of violence.

Summary for Lay Audience

This study aimed to critically explore undergraduate nursing students’ experiences of learning Indigenous health education in Canadian schools of nursing. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission called upon nursing educators to include Indigenous health education within curriculum to address issues of health care racism experienced by Indigenous peoples and communities when they sought care in clinical settings such as hospitals. This study aimed to gain understanding of the culture with which students are immersed in and learn in throughout their undergraduate studies. It is hoped that better understanding of the culture of learning and its facilitators and challenges for students will shed light on how (neo)colonialism manifests and can be challenged to promote culturally safe learning and in turn, safer care for Indigenous peoples.

We were able to interview six nursing students and three nursing faculty to understand their learning and teaching experiences respectively. The five overarching themes tells us about the facilitators, challenges, tensions, pitfalls, and potential opportunities to improve upon Indigenous health education, policy, practice, and research.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.