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Cultural Safety starts with me: Best friends work for positive change for Indigenous patients at VGH


VCH Nurses Brittney Jones and Ashley Strasdin at Haida Gwaii

Patients, visitors and staff at Vancouver General Hospital may notice a series of compelling new posters aimed at increasing cultural safety and humility in our health-care system.

The Cultural Safety starts with me campaign, launched by Aboriginal Health, encourages personal change for improved health services for Indigenous people. It asks health care providers to learn more about cultural safety and cultural humility in health care, and to make personal pledges of commitment to improve their everyday practices.

VGH nurses and best friends Brittney Jones and Ashley Strasdin are both in the poster campaign. Brittney is a cardiac nurse in Cardiac Sciences and Ashley is a psychiatric nurse at Segal mental health; both participated in the Indigenous Cultural Safety (ICS) pilot project at VGH over the last year and a half with their teams to develop further understanding of cultural safety principles and how to use them in their practice. They have been positive agents of change on their teams to champion culturally safe care practices for Indigenous patients.   

Brittney and Ashley first became friends in high school in Prince George, then went their separate ways to pursue their nursing degrees. They remained friends through the years of school and living in different cities, then got even closer when Brittney also moved to Vancouver in 2013. Today, they maintain a close friendship with many shared interests, especially travelling.

Ashley works casually at VGH, Vancouver and Surrey community; this has allowed her to also work as a travel nurse to different remote communities, with various Indigenous populations. "I have the opportunity to work with these individuals, assisting them to work through some of the psychosocial trauma they have encountered in their lives. Nursing assignments can be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. I have done assignments in Prince George, B.C.; North Battleford, Sask., Fort St John, B.C., Arviat, Nunavut; and Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut."

Brittney was instrumental in helping the Aboriginal Health team with the logistics of supporting Cardiac staff to get to the multiple training sessions and workshops during the pilot project. Brittney learned as a teenager that she has Metis ancestry and she has been on her own learning journey, discovering more about Metis history in her family as well as within Canada.

Both share their reasons for joining the Cultural Safety starts with me campaign below:

"I agreed to be a part of this campaign because I wanted to share my commitment to this project and cultural safety with the rest of Vancouver Coastal Health. I feel very fortunate to have received this extra education surrounding cultural safety and awareness with Indigenous people. I hope to continue to learn and share my knowledge on the history of Indigenous people within Canada. As a registered Nurse providing direct care to patients, I strive to be open and culturally aware while providing a safe healing environment. ICS has furthered my understanding of reconciliation and I look forward to continuing to be part of this process, advocating for Indigenous patients." Brittney Jones

"Parts of my nursing career have been spent in remote Indigenous communities. ICS has provided me with knowledge, tools and a better understanding of Indigenous history. This training has enriched my role as a mental health nurse, and I look forward to more education in the future. I believe this training is a valuable resource for all health professionals regardless of their direct care with Indigenous individuals. I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of this campaign." Ashley Strasdin

System-wide change begins with every individual that works in health care. This is a journey that is just beginning — we have a long way to go. 


The 2005 Transformative Change Accord: First Nations Health Plan called for cultural competency and safety to be embedded in all Health Authorities in British Columbia. Increasing organizational cultural competency and safety is a strategic imperative of both the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and Vancouver Coastal Health.

The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) launched a campaign to support the advancement of cultural humility and cultural safety for First Nations and Aboriginal peoples in the British Columbia health system. In July 2015, all Health Authority CEOs in BC signed a Declaration of Commitment to advancing cultural humility and cultural safety within their health service organizations. This health system commitment to the declaration gives all health professionals a mandate to advance cultural humility and safety in their practices with First Nations in BC. 

Related news:

FNHA: Creating a climate for change

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