Accreditation Is An ‘Invaluable Process’ that First Nations Communities Should Undertake, says Esk’etemc Advanced Practice Nurse

September 19, 2017

Photo credit: Esk’etemc Health Department

Accreditation is the “most valuable” process a First Nations health centre can undertake, says Adaire Leander, Advanced Practice Nurse at Esk’etemc Health Department in British Columbia.

In March 2017, the remote Esk’etemc Health Department – located 48 kilometres from Williams Lake – underwent Accreditation Canada (AC)’s introductory Accreditation Primer program.

“It was a wonderful experience,” Leander says, adding that leading up to the Primer experience, the health department worked to create awareness in the community about accreditation and its relation to quality improvement and safety.

She noted that all community members – from unborn babies to elders – benefit from the accreditation process. “Every person in the community benefits, from the infant who’s not yet born to the elderly, who want to stay at home in their community and need support,” she says.

Leander noted that though the health department considered three accrediting bodies prior to beginning its accreditation process, it determined that AC gave the best evaluation of general health services. She added that in comparison to other accrediting bodies, AC also demonstrates a better understanding of First Nations beliefs and values.

“[AC] already made steps to communicate to First Nations people; to understand what wellness meant in that worldview and to develop standards that incorporate those particular aspects of wellness,” Leander says. She then added that AC had a Mohawk surveyor on its surveyor team. “That was a bit of a closer for us,” she said.

Leander says that AC’s Primer process allowed the Esk’etemc Health Department to evaluate its services on a systemic level. For the first time, Leander says, Esk’etemc was exposed to AC standards and could see how it measured up compared to other First Nations communities as well as non-First Nations health providers. “We were introduced to the full scope of the standards,” Leander says. “There was a real focus on the improvement of quality and safety as a process.”

Leander adds that AC’s wide scope of standards relate to various levels of health care, from the provincial government to smaller, local health centres. “[Accreditation] speaks to standards and processes that are accepted as best practices from the meta to the micro level,” she says.

AC and its affiliate Health Standards Organization (HSO) have a Leading Practices Database with more than 1,000 innovative best practices that work to improve quality and safety throughout the health care ecosystem.

Leander noted however that though there was a lot to be done during the introductory survey, AC surveyors were helpful throughout the process, sharing anecdotes from their own experiences and from those of other communities. “It was an interesting, valuable and exciting type of experience,” she says.

Leander says she hopes other First Nations communities will take on the accreditation process. “Just the journey to do it will benefit their people,” she says. “The accreditation process supports good health outcomes.” Leander adds that the accreditation experience is “invaluable.”

AC has several First Nations clients, including the Piapot First Nation in Zehner, Sask. Piapot who was first accredited by AC in 2012 and is now preparing for its next accreditation survey in April 2018.

Judy Sugar, Piapot’s Health Director, credits AC’s assessment process with enabling the Piapot Health Centre to become more organized and more in tune with the needs of the community it serves.

“It provided a good snapshot of what our community was interested in and what their health conditions were,” Sugar said. “We were able to find out their needs.”

The Esk’etemc Health Department serves a community of about 500 people and an additional 400 people who live off-reserve. The health centre offers a Home & Community Care program, Public Health services such as immunization and other infection control processes, and dental services.

“It’s a bare bones provider schedule, but we have a lovely building,” Leander says, adding the Esk’etemc Band was one of the first bands to take over the responsibility of health care in the community.

Leander notes that the Esk’etemc Health Department will now use AC’s feedback to prepare for the next step in its accreditation process, the Qmentum survey. To learn more about the Esk’etemc Health Department, visit their website.

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