As a master’s nursing student in the Global Health Concentration (GHC), Erica Sirdevan relished the opportunity to work collaboratively with the Algonquin of Barriere Lake community on a quality improvement project focused on mental health.

It’s a long way from Montreal to Rapid Lake – 381 kilometres, to be exact – but thanks to bursary funding from Dialogue McGill, Ingram School of Nursing (ISoN) student Erica Sirdevan was able to complete a rewarding global health placement in northern Quebec. As a master’s student in the Global Health Concentration (GHC), Sirdevan relished the opportunity to work collaboratively with the Algonquin of Barriere Lake community on a quality improvement project focused on improving after-care services for patients who are discharged back into the community after being hospitalized for mental health crises.

In keeping with the global health nursing mindset, the idea for the project arose from the community itself. As Sirdevan explains, community members suffering from psychosis, self-harm or attempted suicide are typically hospitalized further afield in Mont-Laurier or Manawaki and then discharged back home once the crisis has passed. “Unfortunately, because the community is very small and very isolated – the nearest grocery store is 90 minutes away – there are very few services available to address their ongoing needs or to prevent them from falling into the same patterns that led to mental health breakdowns.”

As a first step, Sirdevan consulted with community members as well as Indigenous and non-Indigenous healthcare experts in the region to identify the strengths of the community, barriers to care and opportunities for improvement. Her project combines elements of western care models and traditional Indigenous healing. For example, one recommendation is to improve communication and collaboration between healthcare services in Maniwaki with the community health centre in Rapid Lake to improve continuity of care when patients arrive home. A second recommendation is to create a healing centre in the bush to reconnect patients to Algonquin/Anishinaabe cultural practices such as hunting, fishing, beading, canoe-making and snowshoe-making.

Working under the supervision of ISoN Professors Jodi Tuck and Susan Drouin, Sirdevan expects to complete her project report by the end of the winter semester. Given the GHC’s emphasis on building long-term relationships, the goal is to have another student continue the project, refining it even further in collaboration with the Algonquin community.

As for Sirdevan’s career path, the bilingual Toronto native hopes to remain in Quebec for the next few years. She has lined up a job on the medical-surgical unit at the Jewish General Hospital with the intention of gaining more experience in bedside nursing. “Global Health is definitely something that I am passionate about and committed to,” she says. “Eventually, I would love to work up North, possibly with the Cree Health Board.”

Regardless of where she winds up, Sirdevan will remain grateful to Dialogue McGill for the opportunity to learn from and contribute to the wellbeing of the Algonquin community, and to the ISoN for emphasizing the importance of the nursing voice in the clinical setting and in the global context.

About Dialogue McGill

Funded by Health Canada, Dialogue McGill offers and supports initiatives to build and maintain the capacity of bilingual health and social services professionals in Quebec. These initiatives include Internship support for students who wish to do their clinical placements in remote areas, language training, bursaries to selected students who commit to practicing in a Quebec public health and social services institution for a minimum of 1-year full-time post-graduation, funding of recruitment and retention strategies as well as research and program evaluation. Learn more: Dialogue McGill.

About the Global Health Concentration

Offered in the master’s program, the Global Health Concentration is an enriched educational stream for globally conscious graduate nursing students, featuring curricula designed to prepare nurses for the challenges of working with diverse populations in limited resource environments. Learn more: Global Health Concentration | Ingram School of Nursing – McGill University

Canoes nestled near the water in Rapid Lake.

The exam room inside the Health Canada Nursing Station, Rapid Lake, Quebec.