Nursing students helping immigrant women

December 5, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

(From left to right) Fourth-year nursing students Gillian Fantillo, Brianne Southcott, Krista Rohachuk-Smith and Kathryn Hull have worked to launch a new immigrant woman's clinic in Surrey as part of a school project. (Photo by Matt Law)

Nursing students in their fourth year at Kwantlen Polytechnic University are helping to lay the groundwork for a new women’s clinic in Surrey.

The goal of the clinic is to help educate immigrant women on sexual health and their rights in Canada.

“Basically, we are a link between the woman and primary health care,” said Krista Rohachuk-Smith, a nursing student at Kwantlen. “We do birth control counselling, [and providing information on] contraceptives, housing, abortion, domestic abuse is also something we do.”

The clinic started as a joint effort between the Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS) and Kwantlen instructor Dr. Balbir Gurm.

Students began working on the clinic in January 2010, paving the way for the current group of four students to continue their work and launch the program.

Funding has been tight for the start-up organization and they have received much of their material by donation. Office space and resources were provided by PICS and the Kwantlen Student Association has provided tampons and condoms free of charge.

The clinic offers information and education on womans sexual health, rights and abuse. (Photo by Matt Law)

“We’re hoping that once our grand opening happens and some of the local politicians come out and see, they might want to start offering funding for us,” said Rohachuk-Smith.

The clinic offers both anonymous consultation over the phone and email and in-person appointments and drop-in visits. And the clinic is free and confidential.

In many cultures, there are stigmas around women’s sexual health issues that make it hard for immigrants to seek help and advice. Abuse and lack of knowledge leave many women helpless.

“You hear a lot of stories about women who don’t know that rape exists within a marriage. You have a right to say no, you have a right to go on birth control, you have the right of the woman to decide how many children you want in Canada,” said Rohachuk-Smith.

In some cultures, women are not allowed to use birth control and often are refused access to it by family and physicians.

“The thing that we were most shocked about is hearing stories about women going to a doctor or going to a pharmacist to get treatment or birth control and having that pharmacist or doctor call their husband. That was the most shocking because according to their scope of practice it is supposed to be confidential and they don’t have the right to do that, but it happens,” said Gillian Fantillo, also a nursing student at Kwantlen.

The clinic has a number of resources to help women in these situations, including lists of pharmacies that are not safe to use, connections with the RCMP and legal groups.

The clinic held its grant opening at its office in Surrey last week. Office hours are Thursdays, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
For more information on the clinic, email, or call 604-596-7525, ext. 243.