Lakehead University nursing student wins provincial award for program assisting new mothers

Photo of Brianna Decontie and Karen Poole.Brianna Decontie, right, and Lakehead’s Director of the School of Nursing, Karen Poole, travelled to Toronto for the Council of Ontario University Programs in Nursing Awards in April.

May 8, 2018 – Thunder Bay, ON

Brianna Decontie spent from early January to mid February adapting a five-week mothers’ support group for Kitigan Zibi Health and Social Services in Maniwaki, QC.

The program, offered to new mothers, focuses on oral health care and embraces Indigenous teachings such as the Medicine Wheel and Sacred Medicines.

On Wednesday, April 25 Decontie, a fourth-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing student at Lakehead University, was honoured by the Council of Ontario University Programs in Nursing with the Excellence in Professional Nursing Practice award.

“I was excited when my professor and the director of Nursing contacted me to say they had nominated me and then I was even more excited to learn I was the recipient of this award,” she said.

Decontie was a summer student at Kitigan Zibi Health and Social Services in 2016 and 2017.

“The maternal child health nurse and I created the weekly mothers support group that happens every Tuesday as part of our programming.

“Since then the mothers’ support group has really grown and I was able to share my traditional Anishinabe health teachings and crafts with the mothers on my placement from January to February,” Decontie said.

The program was based on the Give Your Child A Health Happy Smile Ontario Ministry of Health initiative, providing oral health-care guidelines. The five-week plan demonstrates Decontie’s capacity to translate oral health care guidelines for new moms, which she nested in Medicine Wheel Teachings including the making of Sacred Bundles and Moccasins.

Decontie’s program was selected from 14 submissions.

She will graduate at convocation on June 2 and she has already started as a nurse in Sioux Lookout.

“It is truly a gift to have a student like Brianna guide us to a better understanding of the best ways to blend Indigenous and western knowledge for better health outcomes,” said Karen Poole, Lakehead’s Director of the School of Nursing.

“I see this as a strong recognition of the impact that a young Indigenous nursing leader like Brianna will have on guiding nursing practice towards improving the health of our Indigenous people. Congratulations to Brianna on her fantastic work,” Poole said.

National Nursing Week runs from May 7 to 13.


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Lakehead University has approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and 2,000 faculty and staff in 10 faculties at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead is a fully comprehensive university: home to Ontario’s newest Faculty of Law in 44 years, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and faculties of Engineering, Business Administration, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Social Sciences & Humanities, Science & Environmental Studies, Natural Resources Management, Education, and Graduate Studies. Maclean’s 2018 University Rankings place Lakehead University among Canada's Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities, as well as first in Total Research Dollars, second for Citations, and third for Scholarships and Bursaries. In 2017, Research Infosource named Lakehead Research University of the Year in its category for the third consecutive year. Visit