Jamaicans Contributing to the Canadian Health Care System
Between 1948 and 1952, several policies were introduced that facilitated the migration of Jamaican nurses to England and the Americas.
To identify the significant contribution of Jamaicans to the Canadian health care system from 1952 to the present, the twenty first and second-generation Jamaican nurses were interviewed and they were asked about the challenges they face and the ways in which they overcame these struggles.
One of the most significant ways in which Jamaican nurses contributed to the Canadian health care system, particularly in the early years, was by taking on positions that helped Canada to overcome its nursing shortfall. Many of the individuals spoke to the fact that Jamaican nurses often took unpopular or unwanted roles and responsibilities that were nevertheless vital.
According to excerpts from Joan Samuels-Dennis, Melanie York and Dwight Barrett, who wrote about the Transformational Influences Of Jamaican Nurses On The Canadian Health Care System, when asked about the contributions of Jamaican nurses to the Canadian health care system, there was a resounding agreement that Jamaican nurses bring to their practice cultural awareness and sensitivity, a nurturing and emphatic way of being and a natural determination, all of which makes them compassionate and amazing nurse.
It is said that practicing in Canada was not without its challenges and that a number of the nurses recalled experiences ungirded by racism, discrimination, hierarchical oppression and the constant imposed idea that they were not good enough. The following are some of their comments:
- Because you have an accent you are not considered to be smart or taken seriously or people dismiss you.
- I don’t want any Black people touching me.
- It is also said that some physicians think nurses, in general, are not knowledgeable…have to keep validating that they are competent nurses to physicians.
In the face of those struggles, it is said that Jamaican nurses have used a number of strategies to resist or overcome those circumstances.
Jamaican nurses have used both formal and informal channels to resist the numerous forms of racism they experienced and in 1990, a group of nurses took their complaint of discrimination in employment and harassment to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, citing being fired, forced to resign, denied access to professional development and subjected to harassment and discipline because of their race.
At key transitional points in Canada country’s history, Jamaican nurses have contributed significantly by helping Canada to overcome its nursing shortfall and by committing to work in places and positions that Canadian-born nurses were reluctant to pursue. In general, Jamaican nurses have approached their practice with much commitment – rarely seeking recognition and often shrinking from the spotlight. Jamaican nurses have played the key role of advocate and change agent by shining light on social injustice and developing educational and clinical programs directed at enhancing the health of those most marginalized in Canadian society.
Contributed by Ashia Imani