Healthy Living in the North

TeleHealth: Bringing kidney care to remote communities

Health care team watching a monitor around a table.

TeleHealth care allows the Kidney Care Team to reach more patients in remote communities!

Within Northern Health’s vast geographical area, residents in rural and remote communities have limited access to specialist care. The vision of the Kidney Care Team (comprised of a physician, nurse, dietician, pharmacist, social worker and unit clerk) is to address this challenge by regionalizing a team-based TeleHealth kidney service, investing in technology, and providing services closer to home (similar to the face-to-face model of care) where patients no longer need to travel long distances to larger centres.

The team recognizes that TeleHealth care will not completely replace face-to-face consultations, but that there is potential to reach more patients in remote communities, including First Nations, and to increase patient engagement with specialist health care services.

Why TeleHealth?

Dr. Singh, a nephrologist on the kidney care team, recalls one patient’s experience:

A new immigrant worker was urgently referred from a remote rural community with very advanced kidney disease. The referral letter stated that he was adamant he was not leaving his community to go and see a specialist. I was able to see him the next day via TeleHealth and after meeting the renal team and receiving education about his condition, he was convinced to come to Prince George on the Northern Health Connections bus for surgery to prepare for dialysis. This gentleman is now doing home dialysis at night and is able to work and earn a living during the day without moving from his community. This is a great example where, connecting via TeleHealth, the kidney team was able to alleviate his fears, avoid unnecessary travel and stress but, above all, deliver the education about his kidney disease and motivate him for home-based dialysis. As a provider, this is immensely satisfying as timely intervention to address an urgent clinical and educational need was met to provide the best care for this patient.

What does “Tele-Kidney-Care” look like at Northern Health? Click the infographic below to download a full-size PDF.

Check out the full version of this article: Northern Kidney Care Team Leads the Way in Expanding Access to Specialist Care in Northern BC


Tele-Kidney-Care at Northern Health

Justine Derksen

About Justine Derksen

Justine works for Northern Health in Medical Affairs as the Coordinator, Physician Engagement Initiatives in Prince George. Justine loves the north and enjoys the seasonal activities with her husband and adorable Bernese Mountain dog any chance she gets. Justine is currently pursuing her masters of Public Health degree, which she was inspired to pursue through her work with Northern Health. When not at work, Justine enjoys cooking, outdoor recreational activities and crafting.


“Bright Ideas” from the northeast!

Following the success of the “bright ideas” campaign in the northwest region, Northern Health’s energy team launched the campaign in the northeast region in June. Like last time, the ideas for conservation were so great and diverse that I wanted to share them with you!

Like their colleagues in northwest B.C., staff from the northeast part of our region were recently asked to contribute “bright ideas” they had for energy-saving opportunities or other sustainability-related improvements in their workplace. The diversity and quality of ideas that we received were truly impressive! I’m excited to share these ideas to inspire and motivate your own creative energy-saving thinking and want to thank everyone who contributed an idea!

All of the entries I saw demonstrated a strong awareness of energy conservation and sustainability in the workplace. How might you conserve energy at home or at work?

Pie chart displaying campaign themes

The “Bright Ideas” for conservation that Les heard from Northern Health staff in the northeast region represented nine major themes, with ideas for action on lighting, waste, and heating & air conditioning leading the way.

Here’s a summary of the results:

  • 36 total entries (many of which included multiple ideas!)
  • 9 major themes emerged: lighting, waste & recycling, heating and cooling (HVAC), water, equipment, computers, carpooling, patient care and security.

Here’s a sample of some of the great ideas that were submitted:

From staff in Fort St. John:

Have offices compete with energy use and energy savings. Quarterly, release the amount of money and energy saved per office to all sites [and] use competition as a way to reduce energy use in the office.

Replacing [our large fridge] with a smaller energy efficient model would lead to energy savings and space savings!

From a staff member in Dawson Creek:

Upgrade light switches to motion activated switches, including in patient rooms.

Have signs in rooms or on the door as we are leaving a room saying please turn out the light. I think that a little reminder as you leave the room will help remind those who tend to forget.

A staff member in Hudson’s Hope had some similar “bright ideas” about turning lights off.

From a staff member in Fort Nelson:

Turn off all computers when not in use for an extended period of time.

Composting for all food scraps.

If one is using individual air conditioning/heating, turn off when space isn’t in use or up so it doesn’t come on when one is not there.

Install foot pedals for all sinks so they turn off once one isn’t using it.

Recycling program for all facilities.

Replace all paper towel with efficient hand driers.

Require all companies that ship to us to use as little packaging as possible.

I’m wrapping up the Bright Ideas campaign for the last of Northern Health’s three areas – the Northern Interior – now. Stay tuned for the results!

Les Sluggett

About Les Sluggett

Les Sluggett is Northern Health’s energy manager, which sees him supporting facility managers in Northern Health to explore and understand energy conservation through technologies and programs. His efforts help facilities personnel to be more energy efficient so that patients are comfortable in a reliable and safe environment. In his spare time, Les attends his local YMCA or heads outdoors skiing in the winter and canoeing & travelling in the summer. At home as at work, Les tries to reduce waste and be more energy efficient.


Change Day – what’s your pledge?

Bulletin board with Change Day materials

Change Day is about trying something new or doing one small thing to improve care. Have you pledged yet?

My first introduction to Change Day was at the Quality Forum in Vancouver earlier this year. It was described as a global social movement with a simple premise: if you are involved with health, community or social care, try something new or do one small thing to improve care.

We were all invited to pledge to make just one small change that would improve the system for everyone. With the unveiling of a newly released Change Day video, there was a lot of hype and excitement in the room. However, I must admit that this was not when I truly felt inspired. That moment came when our CEO of Northern Health, Cathy Ulrich, stood up in this room filled with hundreds of people and pledged to “on a weekly basis, acknowledge a person or team who has undertaken a quality improvement initiative.” I remember thinking that this pledge was a such small act on her part, yet so powerful in terms of employee engagement!

I did not make my pledge that day; as I am, I needed some time to process what this meant for me. Several months later, I was listening to a presentation about culture and how it affects the change process when it struck me what my Change Day pledge would be. As I was learning about the importance of creating a culture of safety and how we need to lower the cost for speaking up and raise the cost for staying quiet, I had an “aha” moment. As I work with interprofessional teams to improve or develop new process, I always make an effort to hear everyone’s ideas and feedback. However, I knew that I could also create more space to encourage this. After all, they know best! Hence my Change Day pledge, “to be purposeful in seeking front-line opinions and ideas.

What’s your “one thing”? Make your pledge today!

Marna deSousa

About Marna deSousa

Marna has worked in Northern Health for 27 years. Her background is nursing and she currently works in Fraser Lake as a Care Process Coach and Practice Support Coach. In her spare time, Marna loves to be horseback riding and spending time at the cottage with family and friends.


Back to school – don’t forget a strong immune system for your child!

Public health nurse

As you support your kindergarten child through these first few, nervous weeks, it’s important to think of what you can do to prepare their immune system for long-lasting strength!

Has it really been two weeks already? It’s hard to believe that we’re busy getting everyone organized for back to school again! For our kindergarten kids, that means learning a new routine, organizing and preparing their lunches and ensuring they have everything they need to be successful in this new environment.

But don’t forget the one thing they need that might not be on your list – a strong immune system! As you prepare your kindergarten child for school and support them through these first few, nervous weeks, it’s important to think of what you can do to prepare their immune system for long-lasting strength!

The immunization program in B.C. recommends that children aged 4-6 receive their boosters of tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio, varicella (chicken pox), measles, mumps, and rubella. For some children, it’s also recommended that they boost their protection against hepatitis A. The list of diseases we need to protect our kindergarteners against seems daunting, but don’t worry! Many of these immunizations are now made into combined formulations, which means fewer injections for your child. For most kindergarten kids, only three injections are needed to protect them against all of these diseases.

You may also be wondering what your local public health nurse is doing to prepare for the new school year. We are busy collecting demographic data from your child’s school and calling you to inform you of the various kindergarten blitzes or health fairs that are happening in your community. As a public health nurse, I take pride in ensuring that you have easy access to the clinics so that your child receives all the protection they need as they enter school this year. If you can’t make it to one of these community events, don’t worry because we are happy to see you in our regular clinics, too!

So, while you are actively preparing your kindergarten child for school and hearing their exciting tales of the first few days in class, don’t forget that your public health nurses and primary health care providers are also preparing to assist you in protecting your child against many harmful diseases that still circulate today! Let us make it easy for you to do the very best for your child, because I know that’s one less thing you have to worry about – especially when you might just want to focus on the excitement of your child entering kindergarten this year!

Contact your local health unit or usual primary health care provider to find out if your child’s immunizations are up-to-date. You can also visit Northern Health or ImmunizeBC for more information on vaccine-preventable illnesses and immunizations.

Lara Frederick

About Lara Frederick

Lara is a public health nurse currently working in Dawson Creek. She is currently completing her master's of nursing and enjoys volunteering for the Canadian Cancer Society and her workplace wellness committee. Lara loves to travel and one of her favorite places has been Turkey. She loves to go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing and also loves walking around exploring the outdoors with her two dogs.


What would you change?

Person holding a pledge sign

Marlene from Northern Health has also made a pledge. What are you waiting for?

Every day, I come to work and I’m pretty happy. I enjoy the work that I do and the people I work with. But, every now and again, I notice things – small things – that could make our lives just a little better. These things are in my control, but then life gets busy or I don’t see others making an effort, so I don’t either. But … what if I did?

Every day, there are little things. Washing the dirty dishes that accumulate in the lunch room, or cleaning the fridge (I know, right?!). I also think about going out of my way to smile a little more and take a minute to say “good morning,” but I don’t want to bother people. But, would they be bothered?

Sometimes I notice things that could make a difference for the people we serve. For example, people get lost in my building regularly. When I see them wandering around looking lost, what if I went up to them and offered them directions? On this blog, we often post lots of health-supporting information developed by our experts within Northern Health, but what if I got two or more of these people together? Maybe we could develop information that is more appropriate for some of the people to whom we provide health information? Could I provide that information in a more accessible or interesting way?

What if I introduced myself by name to the next person who I respond to online? I wonder how that would make them feel? Maybe I could relieve some anxiety they may have for asking questions about our organization?

What do you need to make these changes?

Right now, there is a global movement happening to support small, helpful changes in the workplace. Started by the National Health Service in the U.K. in 2013, Change Day encourages people like me to commit to making one small change. The idea is that the movement builds on the ideas that I have about how I can make my workplace better for me, my colleagues, and those we serve. This isn’t about big, system-level change (though, who knows?! It may lead to that!). This is about changes that I can make today.

This isn’t only limited to Northern Health. This is open to all of us who work in the health, social, and community care sector in B.C. And, really, the principle is applicable to us all in our work and personal lives.

So, I took the leap. I decided to make a change. I publicly made my pledge at As of today, Northern Health has 79 pledges of a total of 864 pledges. I know that when Northerners put their hearts into something they want, there is no stopping them.

What is stopping you from pledging today?

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.


Bright ideas for conservation from Northern Health

After reviewing the survey that I shared with you on Earth Day yesterday, I learned just how committed Northern Health staff are to energy conservation! It was great to see the number and diversity of responses from all over the Northern Health region.

To move this passion into action, I recently put out a call to staff in the northwest region for “bright ideas” – any suggestions that they had for conservation improvements. The breadth and depth of ideas that we received was truly impressive and we thank everyone who participated for contributing! Staff in the northwest had some great ideas that I wanted to share to inspire your own conservation thinking! How might you conserve energy in your home or workplace?

Pie chart of survey results

The “Bright Ideas” for conservation that Les heard from Northern Health staff represented eight major themes, with ideas for action on lighting, computers, and equipment leading the way.

Here is a summary of the results:

  • 40 total entries
  • 8 major themes: lighting, computers, equipment, heating and cooling (HVAC), water, recycling, laundry and paper

Here is a sample of some of the great ideas that were submitted.

From staff in Dease Lake & Kitimat:

Replacing exterior and street lights with high efficiency LED lights.

It is estimated that lighting makes up about one-third of a typical institution’s energy consumption – think of all those thousands of dollars to save!

From Prince Rupert:

Creating a pod-based recycling system with designated spots for paper recycling and other materials.

A staff member in Houston submitted many ideas including turning off cooking equipment overnight or when not in use in kitchens and creating reminder notes to turn off taps completely to save water.

We heard great ideas from Smithers:

Looking at ways to reduce laundry use when carrying out exams, such as making gowns optional or by request, and sizing sheets to fit exam tables to reduce excess material adding to laundry generated.

Creating reminders and promotions to encourage staff to turn off lights in unused spaces to reduce energy waste.

Staff in Terrace submitted many ideas including reviewing insulation along water pipes, installing insulated foam along all water pipes to conserve energy, and installing programs to log off computers when not in use.

From Kitimat:

On a weekly basis, vacuuming registers and vents to prevent the air flow from being blocked.

From Queen Charlotte City:

Creating a comprehensive strategy to look at resource utilization at facilities focusing on heating, electricity, solid waste and water utilization, and tracking energy data across sites.

And from a staff person in Terrace:

Taking the stairs instead of the elevator to save energy and get exercise.

Stay tuned for more Bright Ideas from other regions – I’ll be launching a northeast contest in June!

Bright Ideas Contest graphic

What is your “Bright Idea” for conservation?

Les Sluggett

About Les Sluggett

Les Sluggett is Northern Health’s energy manager, which sees him supporting facility managers in Northern Health to explore and understand energy conservation through technologies and programs. His efforts help facilities personnel to be more energy efficient so that patients are comfortable in a reliable and safe environment. In his spare time, Les attends his local YMCA or heads outdoors skiing in the winter and canoeing & travelling in the summer. At home as at work, Les tries to reduce waste and be more energy efficient.


Northern Health staff conserve energy – how about you?

Infographic with survey results.In my role as energy manager, I get to hear all about how Northern Health staff members feel about energy conservation!

Earlier this year, over 1,200 staff members from Haida Gwaii to Valemount responded to an energy conservation survey – a great response that shows just how much we northerners care about energy conservation (97% of respondents thought energy conservation was important) and protecting our beautiful environment!

Here are the top 5 insights I found valuable from the survey:

  • 87% of respondents turn off all lights when possible.
  • 79% of respondents close windows and doors when heating or air conditioning is on.
  • 75% of respondents use the stairs instead of the elevator (which is a great way to sneak in some physical activity at work, too!).
  • 96% of respondents practice energy conservation at home.
  • 72% of respondents practice energy conservation at work.

I’m excited to keep tracking our progress as we work towards improving our energy conservation through increased awareness and action. The money saved from all of Northern Health’s energy conservation efforts can be moved from heating facilities to healing patients!

How do you conserve energy in your home or workplace?


Les Sluggett

About Les Sluggett

Les Sluggett is Northern Health’s energy manager, which sees him supporting facility managers in Northern Health to explore and understand energy conservation through technologies and programs. His efforts help facilities personnel to be more energy efficient so that patients are comfortable in a reliable and safe environment. In his spare time, Les attends his local YMCA or heads outdoors skiing in the winter and canoeing & travelling in the summer. At home as at work, Les tries to reduce waste and be more energy efficient.


Tips for private water systems

If you’re not on a municipal water system, private water sampling is important in ensuring your drinking water is safe to drink. Unfortunately, not all homeowners are aware that this is an important step in maintaining a safe private drinking water system. Please enjoy this short video created by Northern Health’s environmental health team for some information and tips on private water sampling!


Daisy Tam

About Daisy Tam

Daisy Tam is an Environmental Health Officer for Northern Health. She also has a background in nutritional science from UBC. Migrating up from southern B.C., Daisy has found the vast north to be full of fun and new winter and summer activities to stay busy. In her spare time, Daisy enjoys playing badminton, hiking, cross-country skiing, skating, baking, and reading as weather permits.


A healthy environment benefits all!

Booth in the hospital with energy use questions.

Northern Health is committed to reducing energy use and improving efficiency in facilities. How do you conserve energy at home?

British Columbia is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and we at Northern Health are aware of our impact on the environment. If you have been to Northern Health facilities recently, you might have noticed some of the energy-saving practices we have been implementing and, with the help of all Northern Health staff, we want to continue to be conscientious caretakers of the environment.

Where economically and practically feasible, we are continuing to search for ways to be more environmentally aware. Being considerate of the ecological cost of operations will benefit not only Northern Health as an organization, but also our communities, patients, and staff. The choices we make today impact the long term – and we want to be sure that we can keep enjoying the incredible quality of life here in northern B.C.!

Energy and environmental sustainability

Energy conservation efforts at Northern Health are supported by BC Hydro and FortisBC, both through supporting our energy management team and through incentives for equipment upgrades. The focus is to reduce energy use, reduce operating costs, and improve the efficiency of facilities.

We can see this energy management clearly in renovations and upgrades like lighting changes, boiler improvements, and improved building controls and programs. Energy improvement is also part of the design of new construction projects like the recently-opened Lakes District Hospital and Health Centre in Burns Lake.

Northern Health energy performance

The process of improving energy use in facilities typically begins with a detailed energy study. Engineers visit our facilities to review their situation and to propose energy conservation measures.

Since 2011, energy studies have been carried out at 30 facilities across northern B.C.

The biggest overall project, and one of the first, was a massive lighting upgrade across all of Northern Health. All of the incandescent bulbs and old fluorescent fixtures were replaced with more efficient fixtures and bulbs.

Since then, new technology such as LEDs, more efficient boilers, automated dampers, schedules to reduce heating at night in unoccupied areas, motion sensors in offices, and reduced lighting in hallways and stairways continue to be introduced to facilities.

The economic results

With the changes so far, Northern Health has reduced electricity consumption by 10% and natural gas consumption by 15%. This translates as dollars that can be spent on health care instead of energy.

Enough electricity has been saved each year to power more than 500 houses. Annual natural gas savings would provide enough fuel for 10,000 round trips between Prince George and Edmonton in a family-sized sedan.

With the measures we’ve implemented since January 2010, Northern Health has been able to avoid $5 million in energy costs!

What else are we doing?

  • Joining with partners and collaborating with other health authorities to reduce energy usage and implement more sustainable practices.
  • Investigating emerging technologies for possible implementation with Northern Health.
  • Remaining current on environmental trends.
  • Giving preference to using environmentally sensitive products and services.
  • Continuing with Power Smart initiatives like the Continuous Optimization Program.

What can you do?

Northern Health cares about our patients, staff and the natural resources of our beautiful province, and we want to continue to ensure the health of all!

As Northern Health continues to operate as an environmentally-conscientious member of the northern B.C. community, we ask everyone to help us achieve our goals! We want to create a sustainable future and a healthy, happy lifestyle for all, because Northern Health Matters!

Read more about Northern Health’s Green Initiatives.

Les Sluggett

About Les Sluggett

Les Sluggett is Northern Health’s energy manager, which sees him supporting facility managers in Northern Health to explore and understand energy conservation through technologies and programs. His efforts help facilities personnel to be more energy efficient so that patients are comfortable in a reliable and safe environment. In his spare time, Les attends his local YMCA or heads outdoors skiing in the winter and canoeing & travelling in the summer. At home as at work, Les tries to reduce waste and be more energy efficient.


Excellence in Northern Health nursing: Valerie Waymark & Leslie Murphy

Last week, I had the privilege of introducing you to two Northern Health nurses who received Nursing Excellence Awards from the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia in 2014. This week, I am excited to share the insights of two more award winners, Valerie Waymark and Leslie Murphy, who shared their thoughts on the award and on working in northern B.C.

Valerie Waymark holding award

Valerie Waymark, regional manager of community care facilities licensing, was one of six Northern Health nurses recognized by the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia in 2014.

Valerie Waymark, regional manager, community care facilities licensing, Prince George

What does this award mean to you?

This award carried a lot of meaning and poignancy for me. Over 15 years ago, I decided to get more involved in the professional group that was to become the CRNBC. I was elected to the board for two terms. I learned so much over those terms and my position on the board gave me the chance to be involved in past award galas. One year, I pinned corsages onto the award winners; another year, I handed the recipients their roses as they walked onstage. As I was helping out at those galas, I’d often think: “Wouldn’t it be cool to get that award?” And now, over ten years later, I was one of the nurses walking across the stage!

For me, there was so much synchronicity getting this award, this year. This is the last year that the CRNBC will be giving out the awards (the awards are being transferred to the Association of Registered Nurses of BC) so it was really poignant, given my past involvement in the CRNBC, to be part of this final group of CRNBC award recipients. It was also special to see that the awards in 2014 were presented by Rob Calnan, who was the president of the organization during one of my terms on the board. I hadn’t seen Rob since my time on the board so to be recognized by Rob and the CRNBC in the last year that this would be possible was quite special.

The award also feels special because it confirms the values that I hold near and dear. For years, I’ve been persistent about sticking to my personal values related to leadership so to be recognized by my peers feels very validating.

And, sadly, my husband passed away less than two months after the awards ceremony. He was with me for the presentation and I know he was very, very proud. That is a memory I will hold close to my heart for many years to come.

What do you enjoy most about working in northern B.C.?

I have lived and worked all over the place but have been in northern B.C. for about ten years. What I find most distinctive is the opportunity that the region provides – doors open here that may not have opened elsewhere. Also, there are unique circumstances that make the job more challenging and more fun. For me, our region’s uniqueness is proven every time that I sit in on health care discussions with representatives from around the province. Whenever I’m at these meetings, people always seem to ask: “What is the northern perspective?” To me, the reason that this question keeps coming up is because people in the north have, and are not afraid to express, different viewpoints. I value and appreciate those differences.

I also feel like there is a different camaraderie in northern B.C. People here come together unlike any other region I’ve lived and worked in. I am inspired every day by the generosity and compassion of people in the north.

Leslie Murphy holding award

Leslie Murphy, manager of maternal child services, was one of six Northern Health nurses recognized with a CRNBC Nursing Excellence Award in 2014.

Leslie Murphy, manager of maternal child services, Prince George

What does this award mean to you?

It is such an honour to be recognized by your peers! The award was very humbling and, for me, this feeling was driven home at the gala event itself. I kept seeing the other award recipients and wondering how it was that I fit amongst them! I also found it really meaningful to see the letters of support that had been written for my nomination – and even more special to be able to share those letters with my mother, who was very proud. There were letters written by students I had mentored, physicians with whom I have worked, nursing mentors, and peers who have all played such integral parts in my career.

What do you enjoy most about working in northern B.C.?

I have worked with Northern Health in northern B.C. for my entire 22-year career so I can’t really compare it to anything else! What strikes me as special about the north, though, is that despite (and perhaps because of) the huge territory that Northern Health occupies, nurses get to develop strong relationships with others across the region. We share policy, procedures, insights, and experiences. I love getting requests for information and advice from across the province. It seems to me that northern nurses are able to work together despite geography and demographics, which I see as a testament to the spirit of collaboration and teamwork in northern B.C.

What’s more, I get to be a jack-of-all-trades! I love working in small, remote regions and try to encourage students to get a taste of rural nursing, like I had in my career.

In all, six Northern Health nurses won Nursing Excellence Awards: Lisa Cox, Celia Evanson, Linda Keefe, Leslie Murphy, Barb Schuerkamp, and Valerie Waymark. Visit the CRNBC website to read their full bios.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.