Tracy Morrow stands outside B.C. hospital
Tracy Morrow outside the emergency room at Shuswap General Hospital in Salmon Arm, B.C.

May 30, 2024

Class of 2024: Nursing student’s research pinpoints a need to refresh lessons in cultural understanding

Tracy Morrow focuses her master’s degree study on enhancing online training in Indigenous cultural awareness in health-care settings

We often hear that education is about lifelong learning, and while that is true, education is not always about learning something new. 

Sometimes it’s important to revisit previous lessons.

This is something Tracy Morrow has been thinking about and working to change in the practice of nursing, with a specific focus on one area of online training: Indigenous cultural awareness in health-care settings.

“Nurses complete online modules that consist of embedded videos and slides which aim to inform them, and other health-care staff, about Indigenous people in Alberta,” explains Morrow, who completed her Master of Nursing degree at the University of Calgary and will celebrate at the convocation ceremonies this week.  

What bothered Morrow is that once training is completed, it was never mentioned again. “I was interested in discovering whether other nurses felt the same way as I did. I was also interested in learning about how they experienced completing the modules and how they used or thought about the education they obtained.” 

How to continue the conversation in health-care settings

Morrow says the instance of Indigenous cultural awareness training is of particular importance. She says the Indigenous population struggles with many barriers within the health-care system: There are higher incidences of infant mortality, child and youth injury, tuberculosis, suicide, and diabetes. 

“Given the long and complicated history of cultural oppression of Indigenous people, I think it is important that nurses are frequently encouraged to learn about, reflect upon, and address health-care colonization practices which are inherent within Canadian policies,” says Morrow.

“Ultimately, I wanted to ensure the conversation about cultural competency/humility is continued within health care and wanted to learn and think about ways this could be achieved.”

As a practising registered nurse since 2015, Morrow has worked in both rural and urban environments, in clinical nursing and in nursing leadership roles with most of her experience taking place in emergency departments. She’s currently a member of the emergency room team at a hospital in Salmon Arm, B.C. 

Morrow conducted her research at UCalgary, which is situated on Treaty 7 lands, and she says it’s important to recognize her position on both the land and as a settler. “I undertook this research as a non-Indigenous woman raised in a colonial setting,” she says. “My social position is accompanied by bias within colonial perspectives."

Need for more opportunities to learn face-to-face

While most of the participants in Morrow’s study felt cultural competency education was important for nurses, many felt the modules lacked opportunities to advance their understanding of Indigenous culture, and they desired more opportunities to learn the content face-to-face to develop and try out practical skills. 

Health-care professionals also told her they forgot information as time passed, and that they would like to experience more frequent and varied types of cultural competency education, as well as to have space and time to reflect on the teachings and to further consider how to integrate more culturally appropriate care into nursing practice.

Her mentor, Dr. Lorelli Nowell, RN, PhD, says Morrow’s research and leadership is an indicator of her commitment to ensuring nurses continue to recognize and address the prevalence of systemic racism inherent in current health-care systems across Canada. 

With the understanding that Indigenous cultural awareness is paramount to inclusive nursing practice,” she says, “Tracy’s research helped identify emerging opportunities and challenges, and may be used to guide adaptive changes to continuously improve Indigenous cultural awareness education offerings for practicing nurses.”

Tracy Morrow sees her role as both RN and changemaker.

“I think nurses are in a unique position, as providers of care to Canadians.”

“This gives us an opportunity to care for the population through a spectrum of illnesses, and also to see opportunities where patient care within the health-care system can be improved upon, and to advocate for change.”

Read more inspiring stories about the accomplishments and journeys of the Class of 2024.

Graduates, as you prepare to transition away from student life, we'd like to also welcome you into the UCalgary alumni community. Learn about the programs, benefits and services available exclusively to UCalgary grads, and be sure to keep in touch.

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