Northern Health is conducting a research project centering on First Nations employment within the organization — in part to the support from a federal pilot grant.

UNBC researcher, Dr. Sarah de Leeuw, will lead the development of the project, as de Leeuw has received $149,500 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

The funding comes as a part of a new Healthy and Productive Work – Partnership Development Grant, according to the two organizations.

“We are interested in studying the workplace in relation to Indigenous employees at Northern Health, and how to bring more Indigenous workers into the organization,” says de Leeuw, a Northern Medical Program and Geography associate professor.

“We will explore many different questions relating to all areas of the North… how can we attract more Indigenous pharmacists to the Northwest, keep more Indigenous doctors in Prince George, or bring more Indigenous nurses into northern emergency departments?” She asks.

Initial work on the pilot project will focus on building stakeholder partnerships, and knowledge sharing with an emphasis on enhancing cultural safety in northern health-care work environments, according to Northern Health.

Key partners include Northern Health, the First Nations Health Authority (FHNA), UNBC, the Northern Medical Program and both indigenous and non-indigenous stakeholders.

“We will look at how to best gather information in this area,” says de Leeuw.

“We’ll look at innovative approaches such as videos of individuals highlighting what an ideal healthy work climate could look like for Indigenous people,” she says.

The aim of the project, according to the SSHRC and CIHR, is to bring together a wide range of researchers and stakeholders from different sectors to help develop and put solutions in place improving the health and productivity of Canada’s diverse workforce.

The initiative’s partnership development stage, which is also known as phase one, is in effect until 2018, according to Northern Health.

Successful development grant applicants will be eligible to apply during phase two, which will provide funding for the implementation of a full, multiple-year study.

“Working together with First Nations and Aboriginal stakeholders to help build a strong foundation for cultural safety in our region, and across the country, is an extremely important priority,” said Dr. Geoff Payne, UNBC Interim Vice President, Research and Graduate Programs.

“The development of this project will help to further enhance our engagement with our health research collaborators across the North, as well as strengthen ongoing research partnership between Northern Health and UNBC,” he adds.

The project is being further supported through in-kind contributions, Northern Health says, valued at approximately $145,000, from various organizations including the project’s major partners, Northern Health and FHNA.