Healthy Living in the North

Tammy Rizmayer: Everyday Champion

Photo of Tammy Rizmayer

Tammy Rizmayer goes above and beyond for the patients she works with and is now one of four finalists for this year’s BC Patient Safety & Quality Council’s Everyday Champion Award!

Meet Tammy Rizmayer, one of four finalists for this year’s BC Patient Safety & Quality Council’s Everyday Champion Award. The award celebrates an individual who shows a passion and commitment for improving quality of care, even though his or her role does not necessarily specify participation in quality improvement activities or leadership responsibilities. You can help Tammy win the Everyday Champion Award by voting for her, which I’m sure you’ll want to do after reading about the impact she’s making to northerners in B.C.

Based out of UHNBC in Prince George, Tammy has been the Renal Social Worker for Northern Health’s regional renal program since 2009. In her role, Tammy works with patients suffering from kidney disease and their families, many of whom live outside of Prince George and on low incomes. To reduce the financial burden of travel to Prince George and Vancouver, Tammy has partnered with accommodation and travel providers to help patients and their families travel to and from medical appointments at a reduced cost. She was also instrumental in establishing a $25,000 bursary fund that helps patients overcome travel cost barriers. Tammy is a tremendous resource for her patients as they navigate the medical system.

I had the pleasure of talking to Tammy about what motivates her to be such a positive influence on the lives of her patients:

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born in Quesnel and my family moved to Prince George when I was 5. I have been in the social work field for almost 30 years. I am married and have a daughter and a one-year-old grandson. I enjoy reading and my husband and I are avid snowboarders and skiers and we love ocean fishing.

I began my career as a home support worker and taught parenting skills to at-risk families. I joined Northern Health in 2007 and worked in a variety of departments. I started working in the renal department six years ago. My goal is to ensure that the patients we serve have the services and supports in place to keep them out of the hospital and off dialysis for as long as possible. I get to follow patients through the journey of their illness – from chronic kidney disease, through dialysis, and then through to post-transplant when they return from Vancouver. It’s amazing to see the difference in the quality of people’s lives post-transplant.

What inspired you to get involved in the work that you are doing?

My mom was a big influence for me getting involved in the social work field. She was a single mom raising four children and pursued her degree in social work. She was an instructor in the Social Services program at the College of New Caledonia and taught and mentored me and many of my colleagues. I was also impacted by the people that I worked with in my home support role and wanted to make a difference in their lives. I wanted to advocate for and support people that I was working with and saw getting my social work degree as a way to show them that someone was on their side and wanted them to be successful and healthy.

I’m continually inspired by the patients that I work with and I learn as much from them as they do from me. They are the experts in their own health and their medical condition. They are living their journey and need to tell us what is going on, and we use our expertise to support them.

What are some of the challenges that you have faced in your career and how have you dealt with them?

I deal with patients who are dying and I need to support patients in the clinic who have experienced that loss. Our patients develop close relationships, seeing each other multiple times a week over a number of years, and when a patient dies it has a significant impact on the other patients in the clinic, as well as the staff. It is also difficult to manage the information sharing when someone dies, as confidentiality does not allow us to share that information in the clinic. We have an excellent team of caregivers within the renal team and social work team, and we all look out for and take care of each other.

(Editor’s note –As we were speaking, Tammy realized there was an opportunity for improving the process of sharing information and she plans to work towards improving this process!)

What does being nominated as an Everyday Champion mean to you?

It means that people are recognizing that I love my job and the patients that I work with. It is quite humbling that I am being recognized this way. To have a formal recognition of my work warms my heart. Every one of my colleagues does an extraordinary job and it feels odd to be singled out when you are a member of such a great group of professionals.

If you had to choose one reason for going above and beyond, what would it be?

For me, it’s asking “how can I give back to the patients that I work with and how can I make a difference and be a positive presence in someone’s life?”

What advice do you have for someone who wants to go above and beyond to provide quality care for our patients?

Be genuine and do it for the right reasons. If you want to go above and beyond, you should not care if anyone notices what you are doing. If you are doing it because it is the right thing to do, recognition should not play a part in why you are doing it.

She may not desire recognition, but she certainly deserves it! Support Tammy as the Everyday Champion by voting on the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council website. You can vote every day, once on every device you have!

Marlene Apolczer

About Marlene Apolczer

Marlene is the Quality Improvement Lead for the Northern Interior and is based in Prince George. Marlene is a longtime health care employee and worked in a number of program areas before bringing all of her knowledge and experience to her current role. When she is not working, you can usually find Marlene in a school gymnasium or hockey arena cheering on her teenage sons!

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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.

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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 changedaybc.ca. 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.

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