Honoring the Work of Our Indigenous Nurses

Lucy, Indigenous Cancer Patient Navigator

May 3, 2024

Meet Lucy

Indigenous Cancer Patient Navigator

Lucy Laboucan has a unique role as one of only three Registered Nurses in the province working as an Indigenous Cancer Patient Navigator. She supports clients receiving treatment at the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital, who may be local residents from surrounding Indigenous communities, or from all over northern Alberta. As a member of Little Red River Cree Nation from Fox Lake, she is able to have an impact on the communities she grew up close to.

“My role is the only one that's located in a regional cancer center. The other two are in the major tertiary cancer centers, in Calgary and Edmonton,” shares Laboucan. “One of the things that we do as Indigenous Patient Navigators is walk with our clients through their treatment, wherever they're at, and for however long they need us for. We provide a holistic, person-centered care to our clients. We're not only here for their cancer treatment or the physical aspect. It's however they need us to help to make the journey a little bit easier. We can do referrals as needed, such as to the allied health services within our cancer centres and also to community providers and services.”

She says that speaking fluent Cree is very special for Cree speaking clients. “When I phone them, I always tell them where I'm from when I introduce myself. It does make a difference. As Indigenous peoples, we're all connected to our communities. I always find they're more relaxed and more open because I speak their language. It's an asset for sure.”

Another way Laboucan helps clients feel more welcomed is by meeting them in the lobby of the cancer center when they arrive. “Lots of times when people come here, they're very uncertain. They're not sure what's up ahead. By meeting them at the main doors, I find they do so much better. They're more relaxed. I walk them in and do a little tour. It's always intimidating when you're in a new building, in a new setting, in a new town.”

Laboucan, who started her current role in August 2021, has worked in Northern Indigenous communities in Home Care and also in rural public health. “When I was a student in high school, my Nation was doing summer job placements for us, and they had placed me in the Nursing Station. I was helping the housekeeper, so I did my janitorial work that summer, and she worked me hard!” she laughs. “But I was able to see the aspect of the nurses' and the doctors' day, and I just loved it. I went to college and came back. I've always been in health care.”

Regarding Indigenous Nurses Day, Laboucan commented, “I think we do deserve distinct recognition for sure, because working in the health care system as an Indigenous person can sometimes be challenging, so any recognition that we can receive will benefit. Hopefully it will serve to influence other Indigenous people to get into nursing.”

It’s clear how much Laboucan’s role impacts Indigenous clients and communities across the province. “We do our best to help everybody and make health care accessible as best as we can by providing resources so everybody has the opportunity to use certain services and programs that everybody has a right to.”

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