We are diverse and inclusive

Our differences are the glue that makes AHS stronger. We are diverse and we value it—our religions, the colours of our skin, our members within and outside the LGBTQ+ community—all help to create a culture of respect, of caring and of compassion

The moment Nicole Madsen stepped barefoot onto a buffalo rug, as a blanket was removed from her shoulders, her journey of spiritual rebirth as Bear Claw Woman began.

Madsen, a registered nurse at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, took part in an Cree naming ceremony—the first held at an Alberta Health Services (AHS) facility.

“I feel enlightened and have a surge of new energy,” says the 33-year-old, who notes her great-grandmothers were Métis on both her mother’s and father’s side. “I’m looking forward to learning more about my new name and being able to embrace its meaning on my spiritual journey.”

Cree Elder Wilson Okeymaw of Maskwacis was present to guide her path toward wellness. “The ceremonies we have here offer spiritual health and energy, which progresses one’s journey in life, just as Madsen will experience when she leaves the room today,” says Okeymaw.

Madsen’s new path began when, after attending several smudging ceremonies and exploring self-healing, she asked Okeymaw to be given a Cree name.

“Wilson is Cree and I want to learn more about the culture to help break down barriers, make connections and inspire others to do the same,” says Madsen.

The hospital’s Indigenous Culture room—which opened in 2014—is a place where patients, families and staff can balance traditional medicine with spiritual healing.

“Learning and expanding our knowledge of Indigenous cultures will ultimately help us provide better patient-centred care,” says Madsen. “I want to help open people’s minds, just as my mine has been opened.”

Our words

We really wanted to make it inclusive in order to build bridges. Some of the things going on in the world right now don’t reflect our beliefs. We wanted to share our true values.

Salimah Muhammad, Configuration management analyst and lead of the Eid al-Fitr committee which helped Calgary Zone IT staff throw an Eid luncheon for both Muslim and non-Muslim staff to celebrate the end of Ramadan. Muhammad is pictured at bottom right with her fellow committee members

We need you, our people, to tell us what you need to create a safe environment and inform us on the tools you need to make that possible. One example of tools we are creating is a video and poster series to help people respond to racist, sexist and homophobic comments

Marni Panas, Diversity and Inclusion senior advisor

It was wonderful that we could work together with the family to make something like this happen for Joe; something that was so important to him and to his family. I believe it truly gave him peace. To me, this was truly patient-centred care.

Colleen Turner, AHS Vice President, Community Engagement and Communications, on the Secret Santa holiday campaign Simone Empson, site manager of Bassano Health Centre, on setting up a teepee on the facility’s grounds in which a Celebration of Life ceremony could be held for Joe Old Woman, a Siksika Nation resident who was dying

Registered nurse Nicole Madsen, centre, takes her first steps as Bear Claw Woman during the first Cree naming ceremony in the Indigenous Culture room at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. Guiding her are Cree Elder Wilson Okeymaw, of Maskwacis, left, and Debra Courtoreille, Indigenous health co-ordinator.

AHS has created a culture of diversity And inclusion

We have a dedicated diversity and inclusion centre of expertise with three staff and a director to support diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Our Diversity and Inclusion Council is made up of approximately 30 members from across AHS. The council meets a minimum of four times annually and provides direction and support for diversity and inclusion priorities including:

  • Building relationships with our people
  • Improving leader and workforce awareness and competence.

We have developed a framework and governance structure to guide diversity and inclusion activities.

We offer education and resources to physicians, staff, and volunteers to provide culturally sensitive care and services on:

  • Unconscious bias
  • LGBTQ+ community
  • Intergenerational relationships.

We have implemented initiatives to reduce barriers for marginalized populations to access care and services, including:

  • Resources and education to support more inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ people
  • Gender-neutral washroom and change-room standards
  • Reflection rooms, which provide quiet space for staff to pray, meditate and reflect.

We offer resources and activities to support, develop and grow our Indigenous workforce and ensure appropriate and innovative health service delivery for Indigenous Peoples in Alberta.

We have engaged the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion to deploy the first diversity and inclusion census of our workforce.