Healthy Living in the North

Northern Health emergency guides spark national interest

The cover of the Relocation Guide is pictured.

The Relocation Guide, for use if your community is under evacuation alert, and NH wants to relocate patients or residents proactively.

Two unique Northern Health handbooks developed in the aftermath of the 2017 wildfires are inspiring other health organizations in BC and across Canada.

One guides hospitals and other health care facilities on how to safely relocate their patients during an emergency (for example, moving them to another community).

The other gives tips on how to receive patients being transferred from elsewhere – like when 254 hospital patients and care home residents from the Cariboo were evacuated to Prince George and Quesnel in 2017.

“Together, the two guides can help an organization cope in the face of emergency,” says Jana Hargreaves, Coordinator, Northern Health Emergency Management, who led the guides’ development. “Having clear guidelines in a crisis should result in better care for the patients involved.”

Other health authorities in BC have expressed interest in making their own versions of the Northern Health guidebooks, and there’s also been interest from Nova Scotia and the Yukon.

The cover of the Receiving Guide is pictured.

The Receiving Guide, for facilities and communities hosting evacuated patient/residents from another community.

“The concept of a quick-access document that an emergency operations centre can refer to during a crisis is unique and has been championed by Jana,” says Jim Fitzpatrick, Director, Northern Health Emergency Management. “Other organizations are requesting the information to see what we’ve done and how they could adapt it to their operations.”

The team at Northern Health likes to think of the two guides as “evergreen pathfinder” documents – in other words, they’re constantly evolving.

“It’s important to always be on the lookout to improve them,” says Jim. “There may be similar documents out there, but we haven’t found them yet. If we do, we’ll definitely review them with the intent to learn and adopt as appropriate.”

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Vaping: Not as harmless as you might think

A drawing of a youth vaping, with smoke around his head, says, "Vaping exposes you to harmful chemicals."

In 2018, 21% of all BC students reported that they vaped with nicotine.

This article is based on a presentation by Northern Health’s staff members: Lindsay Willoner, Regional Nursing Lead, Tobacco Reduction; Petrina Bryant, Regional Nursing Lead Healthy Schools and Youth; and Stacie Weich, Team Lead – Interprofessional Team 7. It originally appeared in Northern Health – Health and Wellness in the North, Summer 2019.

It’s true that with vaping, you’re not breathing in tar and other components of smoke the way you would with a cigarette, but research shows it’s still risky for your health: you’re inhaling particulate matter, nicotine, heavy metals such as lead, and other cancer-causing toxic chemicals.

“There’s metals found in vaping that are being inhaled into people’s lungs, and there’s nicotine, which puts people at risk of addiction,” says Lindsay Willoner, Northern Health’s Regional Nursing Lead, Tobacco Reduction. “Vaping has only been on the market in Canada for about a decade, so we don’t know the long-term effects on public health.”

What is vaping?

Lighting a traditional cigarette makes tobacco burn, releasing smoke that contains nicotine. The smoker breathes it in, delivering nicotine to their lungs.

With vaping, there’s no burning. Instead, the vaping device heats a liquid and converts it to a vapor that the user inhales. This vapour is often flavoured and can contain nicotine.

“Because it looks like it’s smokeless and might not give off any odour, people may think there’s really no harm with it,” says Willoner. “But really, the e-juice or vape may have addictive substances in it, so it doesn’t come without harm.”

Vaping can harm your health

Short-term effects of vaping include coughing, sneezing, increased heart rate, and worsening of asthma symptoms.

Long-term effects can include lung disease, heart disease, and some types of cancer. Also, children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing the e-juice or absorbing it through their skin.

There’s also “popcorn lung,” caused by the buttery flavouring found in some vaping products — it can cause bronchiolitis obliterans, a serious and irreversible lung disease.

Vaping is illegal for those under 19

With vaping on the rise among youth, there’s the risk of a new generation becoming addicted to nicotine. Cannabis can also be vaped with an undetectable smell.

Tobacco smoking rates continue to drop, with 6% of students reporting they were daily smokers in 2018 vs. 10% in 2008.

But in 2018, 21% of all BC students reported vaping with nicotine, and 19% without nicotine. However, as of 2018, vaping is illegal for those under the age of 19.

How to quit

The best thing you can do for your health is to quit vaping. For help, visit quitnow.ca or call 1-877-455-2233:

  • Get information and free nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, or inhalers through the BC Smoking Cessation Program.
  • You can get these products through your pharmacy.

You might be able to get financial help to buy smoking cessation medications.

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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NH staff member defends PhD thesis on First Nations identity, wins award

Jessie on convocation day, wearing the robes of a Ph.D. and a traditional cedar hat, and holding her degree.

Jessie on convocation day, wearing the robes of a Ph.D. and a traditional cedar hat.

In December 2018, we featured a story on Prince George resident and Northern Health staff member Jessie King presenting her Ph.D. thesis at an international conference in Ontario. Jessie has now successfully defended that thesis, gaining her doctorate in Health Sciences from the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC).

“When my supervisor told me my thesis defense was successful, I just started crying and shaking because it’s been eight years,” says Jessie. “It was such a personal process.”

Jessie was also awarded the Pounamu Taonga Award, which recognizes an Aboriginal student who is graduating from UNBC for their academic achievements, university service, and community involvement.

Jessie, who works in Northern Health’s Indigenous Health department as the Lead, Research and Community Engagement, titled her thesis “Niit nüüyu gwa’a: Decolonizing and Deconstructing First Nations Identity.”

The first part of the title is Sm’algyax (a dialect of the Tsimsham language) for “This is who I am.” She chose this title to acknowledge the intensive 10-year exploration of her identity and to honour her maternal ties to Gitxaala and the Tsimshian Nation.

Some of the questions that her thesis examined include:

  • Does how you disclose your identity change based on different situations and your perceived level of safety?
  • What are the implications of status on your identity?

“I had such a fantastic supervisory committee,” says Jessie, who hopes to publish her dissertation.

Her next adventure will include post-doctoral activities and teaching a course on research methods and design for the First Nations Studies department of UNBC.

“It will be nice to get my foot back in the teaching door,” she says.

For now, she’s enjoying plenty of well-deserved quality time with her family.

Congratulations to Jessie on her many achievements!

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Available now: Summer edition of NH’s public magazine

Check out the latest issue of NH’s public magazine, now available online in flipbook form: Northern Health: Health and Wellness in the North, Summer 2019.

Featuring articles on dementia care, telehealth, the Healthy Terrace program, a new Gitxsan phrasebook in Hazelton, vaping, the NH Connections bus, and more, the magazine will also be distributed soon in print — watch for it in a health care facility near you!

The cover of the summer 2019 edition of Northern Health: Health and Wellness in the North is pictured. The cover features two young boys on the edge of a lake, looking out.

Read the latest issue of NH’s public magazine!

Your feedback and suggestions on the magazine are welcome – email communications@northernhealth.ca.

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Telehealth shrinks the distance between you and your health care provider

Gord looking at a laptop with his health care specialist on the screen.

With telehealth, a health care appointment is a few key strokes away – like this appointment between Gord in Prince George and his speech language pathologist in Vancouver.

Have you ever driven to Vancouver for a doctor’s appointment that only took 10 minutes?

Apart from the time spent on the road, you probably had to miss work or other activities, and arrange care for loved ones — all while dealing with the stress and cost of travelling.

But things are changing.

It’s now possible for Northerners to visit distant health care providers from their local doctor’s office or health care centre — or even from their own homes.

Telehealth, a service that lets patients connect with health care providers over live video, is available in many Northern BC communities.

Gord Simmons, a client from Prince George, likes the telehealth option. His speech-language pathologist, Lisa, is in Vancouver, but he can now do appointments with her from his own living room.

“It’s very much a positive experience to do it from home,” he says. “It’s really convenient.”

His wife, Karen, also likes the program. “It’s a more relaxed environment just being at home,” she says. “It’s helpful for me to listen in, too, because I know what to do in ‘homework’ with him.”

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Getting ready for fire season

The NH Emergency Management team posing.

The NH Emergency Management team. L – R: Amber Frizzi, Coordinator; Jim Fitzpatrick, Director; and Jana Hargreaves, Coordinator.

Northern Health’s Emergency Management team is working hard to make sure the North is prepared for possible future fire seasons.

Using “lessons learned” from the 2017 and 2018 wildfires, they’ve created evacuation guides for hospitals, care homes, and other Northern Health facilities, and they’re reviewing and updating emergency response plans as well.

They’re also working with the City of Prince George on a mock evacuation exercise for May 2019 — this will be an annual event.

As well, they’re collaborating with the provincial emergency group and Interior Health on “mutual aid” arrangements to use each other’s emergency preparedness staff if needed.

Finally, Northern Health is taking part in “spring readiness” forums for emergency decision makers throughout the North, with the aim of ensuring everyone’s safety in an emergency.

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Northern Health staff and physicians volunteer at the 2019 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships

Laura Elsenheimer offering a tissue to Birgit Skarstein.
Laura Elsenheimer, Chief Technologist at the UHNBC Laboratory, offers a tissue to Birgit Skarstein, who had just finished the middle distance cross-country sit ski race. Skarstein, known as “the smile of Norway” won bronze. The athlete has been paralyzed from the waist down since 2009 as the result of a swimming accident in Malaysia.

World-class athletes are being showcased as Prince George hosts the 2019 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships (WPNSC) February 15 – 24 at the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club, and Northern Health (NH) staff and physicians are helping make it happen. 

Many NH staff and physicians are volunteering at the event, donating their time at the Medical and Anti-Doping site, Timing, the Volunteer Centre, Security, the Start/Finish areas, out on the course, and more. As well, Dr. Jacqui Pettersen, a neurologist with the Northern Medical Program, is the Lead for Medical Services.

The event, attended by athletes from 17 countries, is the second biggest for para Nordic sports after the Paralympics. Spectators are welcome – there’s no charge to watch these amazing world-class athletes in action.

Elisabeth Veeken, Volunteer Coordinator for the event, was invited to get involved by the local organizing committee. 

Cheryl Moors helping prep the finish area at the para nordic skiing championships.
Early morning volunteer: Cheryl Moors, RN, Interim CPL on Surgery North at UHNBC, helps prep the finish area on Day 1 of racing.

“I was honoured to be asked. If I’d known better, I would have run screaming the other way!” says Elisabeth, a casual in Recreation Therapy at Northern Health. “It’s a large and time-consuming job, but one that I know will bring me, and I hope others, great satisfaction, when all is said and done.”

Other volunteers concurred. Lory Denluck, an accountant in Northern Health’s Physician Compensation department, enjoyed the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help at such an exciting event being held in my community.”

Elisabeth Veeken standing with Collin Cameron.
Elisabeth Veeken, Volunteer Coordinator for the event, with Collin Cameron, gold medallist for Canada for the men’s sit ski sprints.

Dawn Taylor, a cook at Northern Health’s Rainbow Lodge, wanted to volunteer because she’s a lifelong cross-country skier. “Plus, I’ve also volunteered for Special Olympics and the Caledonia Club for many years,” she says.

And nursing student Melanie Martinson says it gave her “an amazing chance to watch world-class athletes competing in our own home town. It’s so rare to have such a high calibre of athletics in Prince George that it was an opportunity that I simply couldn’t pass up!”

As for Elisabeth, she’s a big supporter of the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club. Volunteering at the WPNSC was a perfect way for her to give back to the club.

“I’m so excited to be part of this amazing event!” she says. 

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Layer up your lunch!

A layered salad in a mason jar, showing multiple layers of vegetables throughout the jar!

I recently spotted this delicious-looking salad in the lunchroom at work – my colleague Melanie was the one who brought it in, and I thought it was brilliant!

There’s something about this presentation that’s just so appetizing – it seems like a great way to get in some of your daily allotment of veggies (Canada’s Food Guide recommends vegetables and fruits make up half your plate).

My interest was sparked, and after researching layered salads a little, I found this helpful post: No More Soggy Salads: A Guide to the Perfect Salad in a Jar. Basically, you put lighter, squishable stuff (like lettuce) near the top, and heartier stuff (like beans or shredded carrots) on the bottom. Add some protein of your choice, spoon on some dressing, et voilà!

Do you ever make salad in a jar? Share your tips and recipes!

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Curried Cauliflower-Kale Soup

The final product: Curried Cauliflower Kale Soup.

My husband and I recently enjoyed this savoury soup after a chilly day of outdoor activities. I love it because it’s a great way for us to get a healthy serving of veggies – plus, there’s just something so comforting about a hot bowl of soup!

It’s also dairy-free, and if you use vegetable broth, the soup can be vegan. For meat-eaters, adding shrimp, fish, or chicken is an option. And because you can make it in advance, I’ve found it also works well for potlucks.

If you use the curry powder recommended below, the flavour will be relatively gentle. I prefer offering a milder curry unless I’m 100% sure that everyone likes it hot. Those who want to spice things up can always add a dollop of hot sauce.

Modified from a recipe at Savory Lotus
Makes 4-5 large servings, 6-8 small ones

The ingredients for Curried Cauliflower Kale Soup.

Ingredients

For the soup:

  • 3 Tbsp Madras curry powder (I like Sun Brand)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin seeds
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small head cauliflower, blended or processed into a rice-like texture (detailed instructions below) – a total of 3-4 cups “riced”
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • A 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 4-5 cups broth (bone broth or vegetable broth). If using bone broth, I recommend chicken or turkey – beef would overpower the flavours in this dish
  • 2 or 3 large leaves of kale, ribs removed, leaves torn into 2 or 3 large pieces each
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk. I prefer brands made of only coconut extract and water – no guar gum or carrageenan — but this is just a personal preference. If your coconut milk has guar gum or carrageenan, the recipe will still be fine.
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Salt to taste

For the garnish:

In the well-known vegetarian cookbook My New Roots, author Sarah Britton advises that almost any dish can be improved by the addition of three things: minced fresh herbs, grated citrus peel (lemon, lime, or orange), and toasted nuts or seeds. I’ve taken that advice to heart here; to garnish, you’ll need:

  • About a ¼ cup minced chives
  • Grated peel of ½ a lemon
  • ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds or toasted almond slices
Nutrition Facts table for Curried Cauliflower Kale Soup.

Method

  1. Peel and chop the onion, garlic, and carrot and set aside, keeping them separate – you’ll need them at different points in the recipe.
  2. Stir the curry powder, ground cumin, and pepper together in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Wash the cauliflower and discard the woody stem. Chop the florets into large chunks, then pulse in small batches in a blender or food processor until you achieve a rice-like texture. Repeat until all the cauliflower is riced.
  4. Grate the ginger and set aside.
  5. Heat the coconut oil in a large pot over low-medium heat.
  6. Add the onion and cook slowly, stirring often, until it’s translucent and just starting to brown. This will take 10 – 15 mins.
  7. Add the garlic and spices and cook for 30 seconds to “bloom” the curry powder. Stir constantly – burnt garlic will harm the flavour.
  8. Add the riced cauliflower, chopped carrots, and grated ginger. Stir well to coat them with the spice-onion-garlic mixture.
  9. Add the 3 cups broth and stir well.
  10. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the carrots and cauliflower are tender, about 10 minutes.
  11. Add the kale (don’t chop it), cover the pot again, and simmer for about 7 more minutes until it’s cooked – you may need to push the kale leaves down into the soup. Leaving the kale unchopped makes it easier to scoop out for the next step.
  12. Scoop out the cooked kale leaves, plus about 1/3 of the remaining soup, and pulse briefly a few times in the blender or food processor until the kale leaves are chopped into small pieces (but not pureed).
  13. Add the mixture back into your soup pot and stir.
  14. Add the coconut milk and lemon juice and stir well.
  15. Simmer for 5 minutes to blend the flavours, then add salt to taste.
  16. Just before serving, stir in the lemon peel and sprinkle with the chives and toasted nuts or seeds.
  17. Have hot sauce available for anyone who likes a bolder flavour.
Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Terrace Health Unit: Better patient care through integrated practice even extends to how medical supplies are organized

Shelves of medical supplies at the Terrace Health Unit.
Newly organized storage shelves for medical supplies at the Terrace Health Unit.

Patient care is a priority, and little things matter. Kristen Gogag, a Primary Care Assistant at the Terrace Health Unit, and her colleague Hayley Lessard, Health Unit Aide, recently reorganized the storage room at the Terrace Health Unit, combining three storage rooms into one.

The reorganization reflects Northern Health’s new integrated approach. “We’re no longer Adult Mental Health, Home and Community Care, and Public Health. We’re all as one, integrated into one department called Community Health,” says Gogag. “So all the supplies we order are for everyone.”

The integrated practice that the storage room now reflects has also resulted in improved patient care. The extra space gives nurses room to fill baskets or bins with supplies needed for client visits ahead of time. “There’s no searching – it’s faster service for clients,” says Gogag.

As well, items that are used the most often, such as catheters and dressings, are stored where they’re easy to find, also resulting in faster service for clients. Additionally, everything is stored with the oldest items (closest to expiry) at the front of the shelves, to ensure supplies are used in time and not wasted.

“It’s been an absolutely amazing thing for our staff,” says Gogag. “Nurses love it – it’s easier for them to take a look at what we have in stock. It looks clean, it’s clutter-free, and it’s easier to maintain. It’s also so much easier to train people. I can tell them an item’s on the second A cart, 2nd shelf, and they can go right there and find it.”

One shelf of medical supplies.
Now everything is stored with the oldest items at the front, to ensure supplies are used in time and not wasted.

There have also been cost savings: Gogag notes that there has been a significant decrease in the amount of supplies they order.

“We used to have double orders and there would be massive overstock,” she says. “Some stock items would be stored in two different places, but now it’s all organized.”

One of the old storage rooms, which she describes as a former “dumping ground,” is now a large office for all the health care workers, and they love it, says Gogag. “They now have enough space. Now our staff room is for everyone — it makes us want to have coffee together,” she says.

The reorganization was facilitated by Marcia Bertschi, a Quality Improvement Advisor at Northern Health’s regional offices in Prince George. It was based on the “Kanban” system developed in Japanese industry, which features cards and other visual cues to organization and ordering.

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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