Cultural Safety Module 2: Peoples Experiences of Oppression

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Internalized Oppression
Profile: Nursing Education

This section continues our conversation about internalized oppression, focusing on nursing education and, at times, education in a broader sense. It is important to understand how nurses and other health professionals are educated and how this affects people's experiences of health.

There is a direct link between colonization, culture, and our education system, just as there is a link between colonization, culture, and health care. In our roles as nurse educators with students and with patients in the practice setting, how do we together create learning communities that acknowledge racism and other forms of oppression stemming from multiple difference?

Issues of denial and blame will surface when we reflect and converse on this issue. This is why it is important to acknowledge that hundreds of years of internalized oppression and internalized dominance cannot be fixed in a day. This is also an appropriate time to reflect on our capacity to change, for although change can be difficult, it is often very worthwhile.

The experiences of Aboriginal peoples in education, specifically nursing education, are varied, because the values underlying the education system are those of the dominant culture and do not take into account multiple difference. This is often passed along by nursing instructors, even subconsciously.

In the following clips, Emily Kelly reflects on her experiences in nursing education, may of which were negative. Her instructor made assumptions about her gender roles and her age. Do you think nursing instructors would make the same assumptions about a younger, non-Aboriginal student?

Current educational opportunities put little value on Aboriginal learning styles or on multiple learning styles, which can lead to people being labelled as inadequate — or incapable. Often, instructors and others unconsciously assume that there is one "correct" way to learn.

It is also dangerous to assume that there is no diversity of experience in relation to Aboriginal ways of knowing or that Aboriginal ways of knowing are right for everyone. Evelyn Voyageur suggests that ways of learning and knowing can overlap and that we must work to find the best in multiple approaches so that the shame experienced by Emily in the way she was taught is eliminated.16

Evelyn speaks about traditional parenting and the link to learning. Because traditional parenting practices were interrupted or destroyed through colonization, these ways of learning and knowing have a lower profile. Evelyn feels that traditional parenting is about "care, love, and respect."17

Focusing on co-operation and patience and on kind and caring learning communities will challenge dominant educational models of success and competition. We must ask ourselves: Why don't we treat people well in education and health care settings? Evelyn goes on to say, "Some of our future lies in the hands of our teachers and instructors."18

What is the dominant culture in education that makes open conversation about multiple difference so challenging? Could this be related to privilege?

While you're reading about how different you can be and still survive in Patterson, Osborne and Gregory, think about the following:
What happens when students from the same ethnic group are all put into the same activity groups in class? What happens when students of a similar ethnic background are required to mingle with the other students?

Roger John, Need for Indigenous Teachers
Roger John,
Need for Indigenous Teachers

[Text Transcript]


Supporting students and colleagues begins with encouraging instructors to learn how culture and colonization are linked and to consider how ideas of cultural safety contribute to creating learning communities rather than learning competitions. This process includes the need for more Aboriginal educators.

In this clip, Roger describes the importance of this need based on his own experience.


Experiences in education link directly to internalized oppression in the workplace. Racism and other discrimination based on multiple difference occurs between nurses in the workplace. Listen to Emily's clip about being watched.

In her clip, Emily refers to "stuff like that ... little things ..." What do you think she means? What is she not saying? What does her expression say about trust in the education system?


Emily Kelly, On Being Watched
Emily Kelly,
On Being Watched

[Text Transcript]


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Strength and Capacity

Emily Kelly: Support new nurses
Emily Kelly,
Support New Nurses

[Text Transcript]


Despite difficult and challenging experiences in education and in the workplace, Aboriginal nurses emerge with strength and capacity. As you can tell by Emily's willingness to share her gifts with her colleagues, she is a committed professional.


Roger describes the importance of Aboriginal health professionals to their communities.

If you have not done so already, read Paterson, Osborne, & Gregory's "How Different Can You Be and Still Survive?" Reflect on your own experiences in nursing education. Does your experience resonate with those of the students who participated in the authors' study?


Roger John, Need for Aboriginal health professionals
Roger John,
Need for Aboriginal Health Professionals

[Text Transcript]


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