Healthy Living in the North

Men: why not nursing?

men, nursing, career

Nursing is a rewarding career for everyone!

In 2012 my partner and I made a major change in our lives: we moved 4000 kms from London, Ontario to Prince George, British Columbia. Sarah had just finished her Bachelor of Education at The University of Western Ontario (where I had finished a Bachelor of Arts degree one year earlier) and she was eager to start teaching. Knowing the difficulty of finding full-time employment as an elementary school teacher, we acknowledged the need to search for opportunities across the country. School District 57 was the first school board to interview Sarah for a full-time position. As luck would have it, she started her dream job in September 2012 as a grade one teacher at École Lac Des Bois in Prince George – and I tagged along with her.

Living in northern B.C. has been a motivating and transformative way to start life on our own, even though life is especially challenging in your 20s (as most 20-somethings will agree). Having left our family and friends in Ontario, we’ve had to fend for ourselves. Sarah has had to adjust to professional life and I have had to cope with the loss of my father and both my grandmothers. Still – the end result of moving to Prince George is that we have developed new strengths, new interests, new friends, and new goals.

Like many 20-somethings, Sarah and I have always wanted to build a rewarding and meaningful life. But a year ago, this desire forced me to face a problem: I needed to reinvent myself in Prince George in order to build the life I wanted. I had to balance the reality of needing an income with my desires to live a good life and to make the world a better place.

men, nursing, career

Normalizing a nursing career for men.

So I recently decided to work toward building the life I wanted by being more vulnerable and by using my strengths. I’ve always known that, for work, I wanted a vocation – not just employment. I want to go to work knowing that I’m uniquely fit for what I do, that my skills are truly needed, and that what I do matters. It’s important to me that my actions have an immediate and obvious consequence, that they help other people, and that they relieve suffering rather than contribute to it. If I had a choice, I’d prefer not to wear a suit – definitely not a tie – and I’d prefer to be on my feet rather than behind a desk. And frankly, if I can’t have the above, then I’d rather not work at all!

Fortunately, there are people that – every day – do the kind of work I desire. They’re called nurses. When I finally recognized it – when I truly appreciated the kind of work nurses do – I wanted to do it, too. And that’s how I decided, about a year ago, that I wanted to be a nurse.

Now – for those that know me – the reason I want to be a nurse is obvious. Yet most people ask me “why do you want to be a nurse? Why nursing?” I am tempted to answer their question with another question: why not nursing? Instead, I usually answer their sense of surprise with the truth.

 

I say that I want to be active and feel needed; I want to be on my feet; I want to help others, I want to solve problems and think critically, I want to be vulnerable and brave, I want to teach others, I want to promote health and well-being, I want to advocate for basic rights, and I want to be a lifelong learner.

 

If I can earn an income doing all of the above, then that’s great. That’s my reasoning – and I won’t apologize if it’s not profound enough for a culture still unaccustomed to male nurses.

Of course, like other males in nursing, the reason I’m asked so often about choosing nursing is simply because I’m a male. Unfortunately, men are still unusual in nursing. Most males do not seem to want to become nurses (they’re just not going to school for it). However, I have a hunch that most males never even realize that nursing is an option for them.

Speaking for my gender, the idea of nursing as a viable, rewarding, and respectable career for a man just does not occur to us (at least not early enough). Most of us are still inclined to think of nursing as a woman’s job, something a “real” man has no business doing, and that’s probably just another sad result of a culture that overinflates gender differences. Regardless, speaking for males generally, nursing is rarely (if at all) recommended to us by others. The few of us that do choose nursing are finding it on our own, and I think that’s a problem.

I am writing with the hope that we can change this, and change it quickly. For the same reasons that we need more female scientists, engineers, and architects, we need more male nurses.

So the next time you have the chance to offer some career advice to a male – especially an adolescent male – I am hoping you’ll ask them: why not nursing?

What are your thoughts about men in nursing? Share your comments with us below.

Andrew Gregory

About Andrew Gregory

Born and raised in London, Ontario, Andrew has lived in Prince George for two years, where he enjoys cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, hiking, and exploring the surrounding area. He is a vegetarian who loves cooking, reading, and learning. Andrew is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario, and he is currently enrolled in the Northern Collaborative Baccalaureate Nursing Program offered by UNBC and CNC.

Share

Tales from the Man Cave: Every move counts

A treadmill acting as a clothes hanger is unplugged and unused.

The unplugged treadmill, gathering clothes, a blanket, and dust.

Our modern world is heavily weighted against movement and exercise. It’s so bad that terms like sitting disease are now a normal part of conversation.

My level of activity decreased significantly after I got my first car. Before that time, I either walked to where I was going or, at the very least, walked to the bus stop. Eventually, I began to cycle to work. Going into Glasgow and getting to the hospital (where I worked at the time) meant taking two or three separate buses. The distance cycled was around 15 miles, there and back. None of this was done out of a sense of maintaining my well-being, but rather out of necessity. The positive side effect was that I was very healthy, in spite of my addiction to tobacco, which has since been kicked.

Now, if I walk, it is a planned activity. I suspect that this is the case for most people. Winter weather tends to discourage me from walking – too cold! Unfortunately, I also find that when I plan to walk, it often falls off my agenda. I even have a treadmill that doesn’t get enough action. And before you ask: yes, I do know better.

The trouble seems to be that exercise is difficult to schedule into our busy lives, despite how vital it is to our health. Exercise does more than just help the body, it has also been shown to help fight depression and releases chemicals that make us feel good. Great for fighting the winter blues!

One tip that I find helpful: make activity part of what you’re already doing so that it works within your schedule. For instance, yard work and household chores can be done quickly to simulate exercise, parking the car a distance from your destination can help you log some extra steps, and getting together with a few friends for an indoor winter walk can help make activity more convenient.

The evidence shows that adults need 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, but don’t just play the numbers game as that can be discouraging. Instead, try to start moving slowly and then keep moving every day. If you are stuck in the office, or behind the wheel and don’t think you can do it, try standing up (or pulling over) and walking about for a few moments every hour. Before long, you’ll start feeling better and you’ll want to be moving more. Remember, every move counts.

What tips do you have sticking to an active schedule? How do you stay active around the office?

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

Share

The Grizzly Truth: Setting a Healthy Sleep Routine

Falling asleep with Netflix isn't a good idea.Happy summer everyone! First, I would like to thank Trent for doing some citation checks last month when I questioned who coined the quote I used as a leading statement in my last blog post. We may make you an honorary member of the Grizzly Truth Internet Sleuthing Department. ;)

I hope you are enjoying the added daylight hours and getting the most out of this time of year, whether that’s fishing, camping, hiking, or any important seasonal rituals you may have. See what I did there?

One drawback to the extra daytime hours is that it may interfere with our sleeping patterns. Sleep is something many of us have occasional difficultly with and research indicates this can impact our overall wellness. Studies have identified that difficulty with sleep is a common issue for people with mental health concerns, but recently it has been questioned whether the difficulty with sleep was one of the contributing factors for an illness or if the sleep problems emerged as part of the illness. Regardless, there is consensus that practicing sleep hygiene is beneficial to our health.

Now, this is something I have set some personal goals around because when you start to look into the tips and practices that are encouraged for healthy sleep habits, I recognize that I have some improvement to do. Areas that pose challenges for me are: having a soothing pre-sleep routine, avoiding night-time clock watching, and being conscientious of nighttime eating and snacking. I can think of a number of nights where I thought I would try to catch up on Game of Thrones right before bed and then found myself lying awake and cursing George R.R Martin and his fondness for killing off beloved characters. Having my phone and iPad close by while I am sleeping also creates issues as I hear my e-mail notification noise and inevitably make the mistake of “quickly checking my e-mail” before calling it a night.

In my research into this, I found a great article offering 12 tips for improving quality of sleep, from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Furthermore, there are some really great resources you can access for free on YouTube around progressive relaxation and guided imagery that help you relax and can become part of a pre-sleep routine (see some resources below). Other tips, like avoiding stimulants such as nicotine in cigarettes or coffee before bed, can cause more of a challenge for those of us with habits, but might give you some food for thought if you are thinking about making other lifestyle changes.

Do you have a pre-sleep routine, or do you have any practices around sleep hygiene that you’ve found particularly helpful? Please share in the comments below, and I hope that by next month we’ll all be feeling well rested and relaxed so we can enjoy our brief but beautiful northern summer!

More resources:

Nick Rempel

About Nick Rempel

Nick Rempel is the clinical educator for Mental Health and Addictions, northwest B.C. He posts a monthly blog, "The Grizzly Truth," which aims to shed light on men's mental wellness. Nick has lived in northern B.C. his entire life and received his education from the University of Northern BC with a degree in nursing. He enjoys playing music, going to the gym, and watching movies in his spare time.

Share

Practising Safe Boating

Canoe fishing on a lakeOkay I’ll admit it. I like to have a beer now and again. Drinking is a part of a lot of our lives, but sometimes it’s just not a good idea.

Awhile back, my wife and I went canoeing on a popular lake north of town. It was a good day, clear and sunny. During our paddle around the lake we were almost capsized by a couple of guys in a power boat. We made it back to the beach safely but it was a close call.

When we got back on land we encountered the guys from the power boat. They were not “bad people.” They apologized for almost overturning us and offered us each a beer from a cooler between the seats. There were empties rattling around in the bottom of the boat and both looked to be a little bit drunk. Now these guys would probably not drive a car after drinking but they thought of going out in a boat as something different. It didn’t occur to them that impaired is impaired or that a boat is a motor vehicle.

Because of the work I do, I know that according to the Canadian Red Cross, about 200 people will die in boating accidents in Canada this year and that 25% of those will have alcohol in their blood. About 40% of all boating mishaps involve alcohol. Operating a vessel while under the influence is a Criminal Code offence. Drinking on a boat that does not have onboard living accommodations is an offence as well.

We all want to have a good time. Part of having a good time is getting home safe.

How are you and your family staying safe on the water this summer?

Resources:

Andrew Burton

About Andrew Burton

Andrew is a tobacco reduction coordinator for Northern Health’s population health team and works to support healthy living practices in communities across northern B.C. Andrew is developing positive activity and diet practices for two reasons: to deal with his own health concerns, and to “walk the talk” of promoting healthy living. Building on his training and experience in creative arts therapy, Andrew founded and runs the Street Spirits Theatre program promoting social responsibility among young people. This work has been recognized nationally and internationally as a leading method of social change.

Share

Tales from the Man Cave: Heart Advice for Men’s Health Week

A healthy heart is essential to be a healthy man.

A healthy heart is essential to be a healthy man.

In honour of Men’s Health Week, I want to talk about things men (and everyone, really) can do to help reduce the risk of heart disease. To do the subject justice would require a book but for today I will mention only the briefest of actions that can be carried out.

Here is my list of factors you may be able to change which will help the health of your heart:

  1.  Smoking. Just quit. This is beyond doubt the number one thing you can (and should) do. It is the number one modifiable factor under your control which can help you have a longer life. About 30% of all deaths from heart disease in the U.S. are directly related to cigarette smoking.
  2. High blood pressure. Cigarette smoking injures the lining of the blood vessels and increases the risk of developing blood clots, which contributes to hardening of the arteries. Even inhaling others’ cigarette smoke has been shown to lower good cholesterol. Studies have shown that HDL levels often go up soon after a person quits smoking.
  3. High blood cholesterol. Fatty foods are a contribution to poor heart health. Check out Canada’s Food Guide for advice on eating well.
  4. Diabetes. I’m talking about type 2 diabetes which can come under your control somewhat by monitoring what you eat and engaging in physical activity.
  5. Physical inactivity. Plan to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity a week. If you work in an office make a plan to stand up many times during your working day. Remember our mantra “every move counts.” Decrease screen time and get outside as much as possible. Walk the dog or just walk.
  6. Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines

    From Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines

    Excessive alcohol consumption. Drinking too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure and contribute to the development of heart disease and stroke, among other things. Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines can help you.

  7. Stress. The direct relationship between stress and heart disease perhaps lies in all of the above. If people have stressful lives, suffer anxiety and depressed mood, these can contribute to all of the other negative behaviours and at the same time make changing behaviour much more difficult. Increased alcohol consumption, comfort eating and watching more movies on TV, may provide short-term stress relief through self-medication, but in the long run will not work well for you. It’s better to go for short walks in nature and learn some relaxation strategy such as meditation. Decrease alcohol consumption and increase physical activity to release those feel good hormones and engage with the family and community. In addition to this guys need to talk about their stressors.

No one can guarantee the health of your heart in the future but by following some simple steps you can decrease your risk and feel less stressed.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

Share

A focus on our people: Partnerships for better care

In the latest CEO video blog, Cathy is excited to highlight one of the exceptional partnerships that exist to help Northern Health provide high quality services to northerners. In this example, Cathy speaks with Christa Keating and Tanya Schilling about partnering with UNBC and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to provide men’s health screening at Maher Terminals in Prince Rupert, B.C.

Cathy Ulrich

About Cathy Ulrich

Cathy became NH president and chief executive officer in 2007, following five years as vice president, clinical services and chief nursing officer for Northern Health. Before the formation of Northern Health, she worked in a variety of nursing and management positions in Northern B.C., Manitoba, and Alberta. Most of her career has been in rural and northern communities where she has gained a solid understanding of the unique health needs of rural communities. Cathy has a nursing degree from the University of Alberta, a master’s degree in community health sciences from the University of Northern BC, and is still actively engaged in health services research, teaching and graduate student support.

Share

Men, this week’s for you!

Where are the men?

The NH men’s health program launched in 2011 with this report, “Where are the Men?”, which focused on the health status of northern B.C. men.

On June 3, the new Canadian Men’s Health Foundation was officially launched on Parliament Hill, with the mission to inspire Canadian men to live healthier lives. Along with that, their “Don’t Change Much” campaign was released, and June 9 – 15 has been declared as the first ever Canadian Men’s Health Week. This is another step in bringing much needed attention to the health issues affecting men and the challenges we face in accessing men with our current health services.

Men’s health isn’t a new topic in northern B.C. In fact, we’ve been working to support better health for our northern men since 2010, using new and innovative ways to find and connect with them about health where they live, work, learn, play and are cared for. Our northern reality is that many of our men here live and work in more rural and remote locations, hold jobs related to industry (forestry, oil and natural gas), and work long hours and shift work – often away from the family home base.

Northern Health’s men’s health program, unique for a Canadian health authority and launched in 2011, was born out of the recognition that northern B.C. men not only die sooner than northern women by almost 5 years, they also die more frequently of all causes including cancer, heart disease, alcohol, tobacco, injuries and suicides. B.C. men are twice as likely as women to be non-users of the health services and although northern B.C. makes up only 7% of the province’s population, we account for over a third of the workplace deaths, where 94% of those were men.

MANual: Men's health survival guide

Northern Health developed the MANual: A Men’s Health Survival Guide in 2012.

In the last three years, the men’s health program has done a lot of work consulting with men in communities across the north and creating resources and services to meet their needs. Most notably, we have brought men’s health screening to community events and gatherings where the men are; engaged with research partners around men’s health in the workplace; run a number of promotional campaigns (the “MAN challenge”, MOvember, MANuary, FeBROary); provided grants for injury prevention/men’s health champions to do work in the community; created an interactive men’s health website (men.northernhealth.ca); developed the very popular  MANual: a Men’s Health Survival Guide; and filmed a documentary called “Where are the Men?”.

Looking forward, our work in men’s health has only just begun! We continue to grow and improve upon the services we offer to men in northern B.C., while sharing the importance of men’s health within the health care system, as well as in communities. We’re working to improve the health of men, because men matter! Let’s celebrate the great work being done and the efforts across Canada to bring men’s health issues to the forefront. Let’s get men talking about their health!

Happy Men’s Health Week!

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is the NH Men's Health Coordinator. Previous to this, she worked as the school nutrition lead for Northern Health’s population health department. Her passion for food and health promotion drew her to the nutrition field and she relocated to northern B.C. from the east coast. Although she has fully embraced northern living, she enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She stays active by training for triathlons, and is looking forward to this year’s community garden harvest – a personal experiment that is so far succeeding!

Share

Tales from the Man Cave: World No Tobacco Day

A picture of the sun in the sky with the headline World No Tobacco Day and the subheading the sun will still shine tomorrow

Will this sunrise be the one that sees you quit tobacco?

Last year, when writing about World No Tobacco Day, I challenged you to drop the “World” and make it “Your No Tobacco Day” so that you knew exactly who’s in charge of quitting tobacco products.

I’m happy to report that a friend, and a reader of this blog, took up that challenge and successfully quit. My heart is with my friend’s family, with hopes that they may continue to live smoke free for life.

Quitting tobacco is the most difficult of tasks. There are many theories surrounding addiction. Some are brain based, centered on the mind or psyche. Some suggest that vulnerable individuals are more likely to become addicted than “normal” people. Some say we’re all addicted to something. Maybe it’s work, cleanliness, or food. Perhaps it’s control, the internet, or your own beliefs. Some research suggests there is an empty space deep within each of us that needs filling. An abyss, if you like. Others suggest that we self-medicate to reduce the pain of a stressful world.

Personally, I feel that all of these things ring true to some degree and that if you have to be addicted to something, make that one addiction something positive, like exercise. Am I correct? I don’t think it matters.

At an individual level, there is only you and the struggle you face to be free of that which harms you. There is help out there, like nicotine replacement, and informed evidence suggests that using that help improves your chances of quitting.

But, regardless of the help, the battle is yours.

Sure it’s World No Tobacco Day on May 31, but really its world with a small ”w”, your world. I hope you take up the challenge and good luck to you.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

Share

Tales from the Man Cave: Top 5 yard work safety tips

top 5 yard work safety tips

Get outside and tidy up that yard! But be safe about it.

I am sitting in my home office contemplating the grueling aspects of going out and raking the last of the leaves from Fall. The ones that I was sitting in my office contemplating raking last Fall.

I am told that contemplation is good for mental health, so as long as I keep thinking about this, I should be ok – Right?! But it looks awful, and I sense the nagging question, “What will the neighbours say?”

So I go outside, into the brisk and breezy day and as you’d expect, all that contemplation from last year is coming back to haunt me. There is a deck that needs painting and some repairs to the façade of the house and everywhere I turn there is something needing done and the angst is growing.

Then it hits me! I am suffering from one of the diseases of modern life: maintenance hysteria! It is a serious business, everywhere I look all I see is manicured lawns and perfect facades. Everywhere, that is, except mine. The only disease to take over this one is procrastination, and wouldn’t you know it, I have already returned to the TV… only to be taunted, as I furiously hit the remote, by Mike Holmes and Brian Baeumler, TV home improvement heroes.

I am sweating profusely now and my heart is pounding in my chest. I run from the TV and into the garage to find the chainsaw to fix the broken fence, but I can’t find it because of all the recycling product that I have not returned yet.

So my key message this week (besides the fact that chainsaws aren’t all that helping in fixing fences)? You know you have to do it. So do it safely. All kidding aside, there are real hazards.

Here is my list of top 5 yard work safety tips:

  1. Warm your body up by having a nice little walk in the sun or the yard before doing anything too strenuous. Stretch a little and then swing that bloody sledgehammer.
  2. Wear the right clothing for the job. Moving machinery has potential to cause serious harm even death.  Flying rocks that come off the machine or other objects can cause serious eye damage and even eye loss. Hearing can be damaged due to excessive noise levels. So wearing the appropriate clothing, such as long trousers and long sleeves as well as proper shoes or boots is a good idea. Put on the safety goggles and ear muffs and avoid any loose clothing that could get caught in machinery. You might also want a hat or ball cap too to protect your head from the sun.
  3. Don’t forget the H20! Keep yourself properly hydrated when it’s warm and you’re working hard.
  4. Be aware of who’s around you. Kids and pets have a tendency to sneak up on you, so make sure you know who’s around to avoid any potential for others to be injured.  Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands of lawn mowing accidents worldwide every year. Some fatal.
  5. Be mindful of your back and lift properly! It’s far too easy to put it out by heavy lifting of bags of soil or mulch or just plain old shoveling. Make sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew and bend those knees and use your thighs to take the wait.

So although I like to try and stay in the humour zone, I am afraid that injury is no laughing matter and with a little thought, is mostly avoidable. But certainly, don’t be afraid to get outside! Working in our yards is great physical activity, and being productive and enjoying the sun is great for our mental wellness too.

I wish you all a great summer – safe and enjoyable.

 

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

Share

Tales from the Man Cave: Immunization is the healthy option

ImmunizationNext week is national immunization week. Immunization can be a hot topic and I can be very opinionated, so, as you’d expect, here is an opinion.

We are not immune to misfortune or disease. Today there are many who oppose immunization on principle or for reasons of fear.

Celebrity has played a large role in this with scaremongering regarding immunization and sometimes well intentioned celebs put out ill-informed information with a great deal of authority, which then becomes part of societal thinking, thereby informing behaviour.

The stakes are high and what is on the table is life itself.

I had a 3-year-old who developed meningococcal meningitis. It’s no laughing matter. We were told he had a 50/50 chance. My wife took the high road and I the low road.

In my mind I was losing a son; she could not even consider such a possibility. We were 24/7 around his bedside in hospital until he pulled through and it was the most stressful thing that has ever happened to me.

Turns out she was right and for that I am forever thankful.

So from experience I am informed of the great need for immunization.

Some of the offenders have been on the planet for millions, or like E. coli, even billions of years. Some we thought were dead are reemerging.

If we look back 200 to 300 years, which in the whole scheme of things is not all that long, we will see many deaths in childhood, from scarlet fever, chicken pox, whooping cough, Polio, diphtheria and measles, not to mention Tuberculosis and others.

In fact, we only need look to the 1918-20s for the famous Spanish influenza outbreak following on the tail end of WWI, which killed an enormous amount of healthy Europeans, to see the need for immunization.

So although I know there is no point in scaremongering regarding these things I can tell you at a personal level the agony of watching a child hang in the balance and praying that the scales tip in his favor.

Be informed about immunization and take the responsibility not to pass influenza, for example, on to a more vulnerable population who might not survive it. Immunization is the healthy option.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

Share