Combining Tradition and Culture with the Western Medical Model – FNHSSM Turtle Team


“People are conditioned to believe that there is a way to do things and a way to improve. Western medicine does a great job of treating physical problems and diagnoses, but it leaves out the spiritual aspect. I work with Shared Health, so that everyone can better understand our culture, our ceremonies and our medicines, and what they have done and can still do for our people.

The way the Northern Lights dance in a calm winter sky, that overwhelming sense of pride and love as you watch your child take their first steps and the wind whispering through the branches of the trees, all of these things have something to do with it. the mind.

“Everything you are involved in, every experience and emotion, there is a spiritual influence. Sometimes it can affect our actions. I believe it can even affect our health, ”said Robert Hotomani, cultural coordinator for the Turtle team at the Manitoba First Nations Health and Social Affairs Secretariat (FNHSSM).

Hotomani describes her role as developing and maintaining a connection with clients – telling them about the emotions of isolation, anxiety resulting from a positive test or exposure to COVID-19, or thoughts that weigh heavily. on their mind.

“People are conditioned to believe that there is a way to do things and a way to improve – through the Western medical model. He does a great job of solving physical problems and diagnoses, but he leaves out the spiritual aspect, ”Hotomani said. “My work with Shared Health is to help others better understand our culture, our ceremonies and our medicines, and what they have done – and can still do – for our people. “

“Everyone is going through something. Whether they need hope, reassurance that they don’t go isolated or that everything will be fine, I will do whatever I can to help them.

Sandra Ducharme, customer communications manager for the Turtle team, explained that the combination of Western medicine with the holistic approach of traditional methods has been going on for many years.

“We were initially set up as a COVID Response Team, but through this we have become aware of other things that are going on in the lives of our customers, and we can help them overcome these challenges. – that’s the most rewarding part, ”said Ducharme. “Some of our clients come to us with previous problems, such as getting housing. These are normally seen as barriers, but they can also be a tool that we can use to get to know people. “

Sharing cultural experiences and traditions with guests or offering simple acts of kindness are all times of being a Turtle that Ducharme knows she will never forget.

“Whether it’s buying a teething ring for a child, clothing or personal hygiene items, it’s a great addition to advocacy work,” she said. “We were even able to introduce customers to beadwork, smear, things they might not have had access to, and it’s nice to be able to bring their culture back to life.

Also in a client advocacy role with the Turtle team, Kimble Chartrand, Client Advocate Manager, acts as a voice for clients as he has been in similar situations and can relate to their feelings.

“Most of the time our people face racism in the health care system,” he said. “Sometimes people from different communities find it difficult to talk to others outside of their community. I was the same way and didn’t use my voice so I was able to relate to them and gain their trust.

As a customer advocate, Chartrand takes the time to visit customers and listen to their concerns and concerns.

“I treat clients like I would treat a family member. If I was isolated and felt that what I was saying was not reaching those who are helping me, it would be frustrating and I would be stressed out, which does not help when trying to overcome COVID, “Chartrand said. “My job is to hear their issues and concerns and stand up for them in a way that everyone understands – it makes a real difference to our customers. “

As the pandemic evolves and the team continues to adapt, the Turtles hope that a combination of Western medicine and traditional healing will endure in the healthcare system and continue to grow.

“A healthy mind and a healthy mind transform into an overall healthy being,” Hotomani said. “If we can help treat people physically, while also removing some of the things they’ve picked up in their lives that they hold onto, they can heal both physically and spiritually.

Funded by the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch and led by FNHSSM, the Turtle team was formed in January 2021. The team offers a variety of services, including cultural support, family support and advocacy. customer rights, thus filling a gap identified in the services offered by Alternative. Isolation accommodation sites for members of the Aboriginal community during their stay.

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