Hands holding beadwork

The program is aptly named “Ashukin”, a Naskapi word meaning “bridge”. “We are creating a real, tangible connection between two communities, learning from and helping each other,” - Francoise Filion. The program provides students with the opportunity to work with Indigenous populations in both Southern and Northern Quebec, in urban, rural and remote communities.

Ashukin Program

Building in wemotaciAs part of the program, students perform a needs assessment in collaboration with community members, who actively take part in identifying their own needs. Based on the assessments, students develop a health promotion or primary prevention project to be shared with the community at large upon completion. This way, students get to exchange culture and knowledge with members of an Indigenous community, while learning clinical competencies ranging from public health, health promotion, health education to primary prevention, and the communities get to share their knowledge, and benefit from the students’ work. 

The Ashukin program has a direct impact on students’ professional development, as well as on the Indigenous communities they will be serving. First, students are exposed to  individuals who exhibit a variety of health needs, which promotes the development of their populationhealth and clinical skills in complex settings, and allows them to tailor specific health promotion and primary prevention interventions and programs, depending on the community’s needs. Second, the possibility of working with children, parents, educators and other health professionals in Indigenous communities will enhance not only students’ cultural competence and safety but also their public health competencies and ability to work in an interdisciplinary team. 

In the case of Indigenous communities located near Montreal, students are engaging in weekly visits. For more remote regions, students are dispatched to communities twice a semester. Regardless of distance, the experience will expose them to groups and individuals who exhibit a variety of health needs, helping students develop their assessment skills in complex settings. 

In its first year, the Ashukin program enabled 33 students to work in five Indigenous communities, including three community organizations in Montreal: 

  • Native Friendship Center 

  • Projet Autochtone du Québec 

  • Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal 

In addition, students were also placed in sites outside of Montreal, including Riverside Elder’s Lodge,a rural community organization, in Kanehsatà:ke, located one hour from Montreal, and Wemotaci, a northern rural Atikamekw community located  six hours from Montreal. Feedback from students and Indigenous community representatives has been positive and encouraging for the projected future growth of the Ashukin program.   

Building a large dream catcher

The Future of the Ashukin Program 

The first year of implementation of the Ashukin program was a success, both for the ISoN students involved, and the Indigenous communities who took part. Throughout this first year, we quickly became aware of certain gaps, which will need to be addressed to ensure the successful future of the program: 

  • More students are needed in order to address the needs of Indigenous communities 

  • Indigenous high schools need to be more involved where health needs are important 

  • Master’s degree Nursing students would be a valuable addition to the program  

We also gained insights into how the program could be enhanced in the future. Going forward, we would like to expand the Ashukin program as follows: 

  • Expand the cohort of students to include MSc(A) Nursing students 

  • Increase the total number of student participants in the program to 50 

  • Collaborate with additional Indigenous communities, such as the Survival School in Kahnawake and Howards S Billing High School in Chateaguay  

  • Develop Ashukin to act as a bridge into a new program with Nunavik, a remote fly-in community in the Far North, by creating a customized program for Inuit students to pursue a Nursing degree from McGill, online. The hope is that this program could be delivered without requiring students to leave their remote communities. Thus, students from the South could offer great synergy in sharing collaborating, and mentoring students in the North.  This innovative dream has the potential to greatly improve the health of northern communities through the provision of competent, culturally safe care and ultimately improved health for all. 

A long-term hope for a possible outcome of the program is for students to be paired with interested local youth and adults in these communities to create an ongoing mentorship program, with the ultimate goal of inspiring Indigenous community members to consider nursing as a career option. The goal is that new relationships forged by the program could help communities recruit future health professionals to work in their regions. 

How to Apply

The Ashukin program is currently available for students in NURI 432, on hold for Fall 2021 NURI 431, and NURI 610. You can view the following documents for more information:

NURI 431 File ashukin_student_application_431_general1.docx

NURI 432 File general432_ashukin_student_application.docx

NURI 610 File ashukin_student_application_610_general.docx

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