Volunteering at the North American Indigenous Games

Volunteering at the North American Indigenous Games

When it comes to caring, Hamilton Health Sciences staff often go above and beyond their day-to-day work to support health care in our community. Lauren Vanderlee, an interim clinical leader at Juravinski Hospital & Cancer Centre is a great example. Last week, she volunteered as lead nurse for the North American Indigenous Games in Toronto, which hosted more than 5,000 Indigenous youth from across the continent.

The Games provide Indigenous youth an opportunity to showcase their athletic abilities and to celebrate their heritage through numerous cultural events. The 14 different sports were held in world-class facilities not only in the GTA, but here in Hamilton as well.

As with any sports event, medical staff was required on-site across multiple event venues and athlete housing locations. Applying her clinical leadership experience, Lauren oversaw all nursing shifts to ensure that each facility was appropriately resourced at all times. The York University site was the largest which included a medical clinic that Lauren called home base for the week. This clinic saw upwards of 40 athletes each day.

“It was an amazing experience that I would do again in a heartbeat.”

clinic at the North American Indigenous Games

“Although it was a long and demanding week, it was an amazing experience that I would do again in a heartbeat,” Lauren says. “I had the opportunity to work with a great group of nurses, athletic therapists and doctors. Plus, I met some extremely talented and motivated youth. One girl came into the clinic who had rolled her ankle. We got talking and she told me she wants to become an astrophysicist!”

Any athletes that required medical attention were assessed by NAIG medical staff. If significant treatment was required, athletes were sent to the nearest emergency department. With 2,200 athletes staying on campus at McMaster University for the week, McMaster Children’s Hospital extended its emergency department age of service to 19 years (typically 17 and under) for NAIG participants. This ensured patients could receive care close to home base if needed.

“It wasn’t just about the sports, though,” says Lauren. “I learned so much about the Indigenous culture and heritage. I had the privilege of speaking to both athletes and their families who were very open about their life experiences as Indigenous people within Canada. It was an impactful week that I will never forget.”