“A visit with a patient might consist of nothing more than having a healing cup of tea together,” Emily Nasson says. “My role is to establish that cultural connection and help them feel more comfortable in any way I can.”
Nasson is a new addition to the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq Health team as the First Nation’s Health Services Provider (Hospital Liaison). This role supports First Nations patients and families for both the IWK and NSHA.
Nasson, originally from Millbrook First Nation, now resides in Halifax, Nova Scotia. With a certificate as a Personal Support Worker/Continuing Care Assistant from Oulton College, and her unique insight as an indigenous person, Nasson explains further how she helps her community.
“Health centres can feel very foreign and make vulnerable populations feel scared,” Nasson says. “The patients I see can have intergenerational trauma. I can relate to them on a cultural level, which can put them more at ease.”
Nasson says the biggest challenge she has encountered since she started is getting the word out to indigenous patients and families that her services exist. At present, most of her clients come through community referrals or through the Friendship Centre in North End Halifax.
“I see myself as kind of like a ‘native google’,” Nasson says. “People can ask me anything about indigenous health care services and I usually have or can find the answer.”
Some of the services she provides to indigenous patients and their families include assisting with family accommodations, providing meal vouchers, arranging drives to medical appointments, and navigating health insurance.
Previously, Emily worked with the Millbrook Cultural and Heritage Centre as a Mi’kmaw Interpreter. This included educating people on the importance of Mi’kmaq peoples history, present and their resiliency. Nasson uses this experience to help health care teams, providing context and background on what patients and families might be experiencing and offering insights into their feelings. This helps inform the health care providers to assist them in offering the best care possible.
Emily has also worked with the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre as the Cultural Support worker, working closely alongside Elder Debbie Eisan as her assistant.
“Debbie is incredible and taught me so much,” Nasson says. “I learned more about my own roots and spirituality, and really grew as a person. When I saw the role for hospital liaison, I thought it was a good connector between what I have learned and what I continue to learn.”
Nasson is not a fluent Mi’kmaq speaker, but has access to interpretation and translation services. This was one of her early concerns, but she has found that it has actually opened up conversations between her and her clients. “We begin to have a conversation and I ask if they can teach me a few words. The relationship develops from there.”
While Nasson’s office is physically located at Halifax Infirmary, she has a space at the IWK she hopes to soon frequent more often. Appointments are currently by phone only.
“I am passionate and excited to move forward with the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq while continuing to gain knowledge from others.”