Hospitals are sometimes perceived as unwelcoming, unfriendly places. Visits can cause stress for patients, not only because of their own health concerns but also the unfamiliarity of the building.
Feelings of stress and frustration are even greater for those who speak and read little or no English, making it easy to feel isolated and to get lost.
Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) serves a region that is home to 69 First Nations communities and a third of Ontario’s on-reserve Aboriginal population. Aboriginal people are estimated to represent 19.2% of the population in Northwestern Ontario and 9.8% of the population of Thunder Bay. The Anishnaabe people in this part of Ontario speak Ojibway, Oji-Cree, or Swampy Cree and within these three languages are approximately 19 dialects.
Through engagement sessions with participants from many Aboriginal associations and First Nations communities in Northwestern Ontario, TBRHSC asked “What could we do to make TBRHSC a more welcoming environment?” Many respondents said that signs and help with navigating would be welcome.
In October, TBRHSC began Phase 1 of the Appropriate Signage and Wayfinding initiative by installing new signs that makes use of symbols in all entrances of the hospital. This phase, anticipated to be completed by March 31, 2015, was made possible through a grant from Amgen Canada.
“I would like to thank Amgen Canada for enabling us to make progress in our wayfinding initiative and, ultimately, to create an environment that is more welcoming to Aboriginal patients and family members, many of whom do not speak or read English,” said Chisholm Pothier, Vice-President, Communications and Engagement, Aboriginal Affairs and Government Relations.
Research shows that symbols are an effective way to communicate with people who have limited proficiency in English, regardless of their first language.
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