M. Fricke1, C. Brown1, D. Beach-Ducharme2, J. Ripat1, K. Hart2, N. Marsh1, G. Restall1
1University of Manitoba, College of Rehabilitation Sciences, Winnipeg, Canada, 2University of Manitoba, Ongomiizwin Indigenous Institute of Health & Healing, Winnipeg, Canada

Background: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada called on Canadian universities in 2015 to increase the number of Canadian Indigenous health professionals (Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action #23). Indigenous Peoples in the Canadian context include those who self-identify as Inuit, First Nations and Metis. Indigenous university students face barriers to program admission and completing their education, including experiences of systemic and personal racism. However, there is little known about the personal experiences of Indigenous physical and occupational therapy students.

Purpose: The overarching purpose of this study was to develop an in-depth understanding of the experiences of Indigenous students in entry-level occupational and physical therapy programs in order to learn how best to support Indigenous student success in relation to student recruitment, admission processes, and retention.

Methods: An interprofessional team including faculty members and Indigenous educators used narrative inquiry to elicit the personal stories of Indigenous students. They were interviewed by an Indigenous research assistant not directly affiliated with the program. Participants were invited to share their stories of learning about, applying to, and being a student in their respective program. The interviewer probed for more specific information as stories unfolded. The interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed inductively using a re-storying approach.

Results: Both First Nations and Métis participants all reported that navigating the admission process was not difficult. However, that is where the similarity between the experiences of the participants ended. Variation was noted among students in regards to attaining pre-requisite course requirements, feeling safe in the classroom, in finding or maintaining their Indigenous identity, and in the extent of their support networks.

Conclusion(s): The diverse experiences of the students in this study highlight the importance of establishing a relationship with each individual student in order to address their unique needs and context of learning.

Implications: This session will invite participants to consider the colonized position of Indigenous students within North American university institutions and the systemic racism they may experience. Potential strategies based on lived experiences that educational institutions can implement to support Indigenous physical and occupational therapy students in order to promote their own identity, safety and achievement will be discussed.

Funding, acknowledgements: University of Manitoba, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, Health Research Cluster seed funding

Keywords: Education, Indigenous, decolonizing

Topic: Education

Did this work require ethics approval? Yes
Institution: University of Manitoba
Committee: Human Research Ethics Board
Ethics number: HS22419 (H2018:499)

All authors, affiliations and abstracts have been published as submitted.

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