It’s not every day you hear someone say they have the perfect job.
For Aboriginal Liaison Worker Georgina Bird, supporting patients and families is about as close to perfect as she can get.
“Helping people find hope in difficult situations is meaningful and rewarding,” says Bird, who works at Calgary’s Alberta Children’s Hospital. “I try to show by example that one can go through a crisis and grow from it.”
A typical day for Bird begins with rounds—regular check-ins with patients and their families—to make sure they have what they need, and may help them navigate access to services and supports. She also attends medical consult meetings as necessary, and helps with discharge planning.
And as an Aboriginal health professional, Bird offers a specific viewpoint that’s valued by patients, families and the care teams she supports.
“Unfamiliar surroundings trigger fear, mistrust, and uncertainty in all of us regardless of the colour of our skin,” she explains. “For Aboriginals, such fear is heightened by marginalization and poverty—I understand those fears, and can be a familiar face and trusted counsel.”
Bird also helps care teams build awareness and understanding of Aboriginal culture, so they can better meet the needs of patients and their families.
“For example, Aboriginal families are strongly supported by their extended families, and community,” Bird explains. “Parents may come to the hospital with aunts, uncles, siblings, and even grandparents in tow. They would not expect to go through this difficult time alone.”
It’s connecting with children, however, that Bird finds most rewarding.
“Every child that comes to me gives me something back,” says Bird. “You can see the light in their eyes, even in the toughest of struggles, and you know there is a little warrior within. I connect with their spirit in whatever way seems right.”
Bird has a social work diploma and began her career with AHS as Aboriginal Hospital Liaison, working in all the acute health centres in Calgary, as well as the Elbow River Healing Lodge—a Medical Clinic providing health services to Aboriginal patients and their families.
Her advice to others pursing a similar career is to train in social work, gain life experience and be prepared to live the principles you promote.
“It’s important to be a good example of healthy living,” advises Bird. “Take care of your own physical, emotional and mental well being, and surround yourself with positive people.
“You can’t help others if you don’t first take care of yourself.”
Story by Joanne Neilsen, for Alberta Health Services