A UWindsor nursing grad has been cited as a shining example in Canada’s efforts to administer vaccines to Indigenous communities.
Sara Williams, who just graduated with her Master’s degree in nursing from UWindsor and will start her doctoral studies in nursing here in the fall, was mentioned by name in a news conference from Parliament Hill Wednesday. Marc Miller, federal minister of Indigenous services, referenced Williams’ work as a nurse administering the COVID-19 vaccine at Windsor Regional Hospital’s vaccination centre.
“We’ve been encouraged to see efforts across the country to administer vaccines to Indigenous communities in a manner that respects traditional cultures,” Miller said.
“For example, at Windsor Regional Hospital there is space dedicated for Indigenous peoples which honours traditional art and the four sacred medicines — cedar, sage, sweetgrass and tobacco — which are available for patients. Staff, including Sara Williams, a nurse who is a member of the Aamjiwaang First Nation, performs weekly smudging ceremonies. Feedback from the community has been extremely positive.”
Williams, working Thursday at the vaccination centre at St. Clair College, called Miller’s mention “the highlight of my professional career.”
Williams was recruited by the Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre to set up a space in the vaccination centre where Indigenous people would feel comfortable.
“We wanted something that would be well-received by the community and seen a safe space,” she said.
Before she opened the space, she washed the walls with cedar. She sprays the area daily with cedar and lavender. Tobacco leaves hang in the corners of the room and similar ties of cedar hang over the doorway. There are tribal curtains and Indigenous artwork on the walls.
She oversees a team that includes two Métis nursing students from the University. Another nursing student has undergone cultural awareness training.
Williams said she consulted traditional healers before embarking on her work at the vaccination centre.
“We’ve tried to create culturally aware space.”