Healthy Living in the North

Why getting a dog was the best thing I ever did for my mental health

Haylee smiles for the camera as her dog sniffs the side of her head. A meadow is in the background.

Having a dog has been great for my mental health.

I recently became a “dog mom” and I’ve noticed that it’s been great for my mental health!

Like life, my mental health has highs and lows. Stress, not sleeping properly, not moving my body enough, and not taking the time to feed myself nutritious meals can all contribute to my mental-health lows. When I make an effort to take care of these things, it improves my mental health and I generally feel much better. Lately, my mental health has had a boost, and it’s thanks to my dog! Let me tell you a little bit about her.

My rescue dog

I’d been thinking about getting a dog for a while when the opportunity to adopt came up. Growing up, my family always had dogs, so I knew I wanted one of my own one day. Scrolling through Facebook one afternoon, a post by my local SPCA caught my eye — they had dogs available for adoption! I went down to see them at once.

Dogs and “pawsitive” mental health

I ended up finding my perfect dog at the SPCA: a sweet girl named Paris. They say having a dog changes your lifestyle — in my case, it’s been for the better!

A white poodle walks through a meadow.

Walking my dog gets me outdoors and moving – both are linked to positive mental health.

Here are my three reasons why dogs are great for your mental health:

  1. Dogs get you outside and active
    Any responsible dog “parent” knows that dogs need daily exercise and stimulation. Since getting Paris, daily walks outside have become part of my routine! Studies show that being in nature positively effects your mental health. Whether we’re walking in our neighborhood or at the park, I’m outdoors when walking my pooch. This helps me clear my head and calm down if it’s been a tough day. Research also shows that physical activity, like walking, is linked to positive mental health. Sometimes Paris and I walk for ten minutes, sometimes for an hour — it all counts toward my physical activity goals and helps me feel better.
  2. Dogs encourage you to be social
    Social connectedness, or feeling close or connected to others, is linked to positive mental health. Since getting Paris, I’ve met more of my neighbours and met other people at the dog park. These little interactions bring a smile to my face and make me feel more connected to my community.
  3. Dogs provide comfort and companionship
    Dogs seem to have a sixth sense that tells them when their humans aren’t well. If I’m sick or sad, Paris is at my side, ready to cuddle until I feel better. And if my friends are busy or cancel plans, I know I have a companion to count on. Being alone can make me feel lonely sometimes, but no matter what, I know there’s a wagging tail waiting for me at the end of the day.

Do you have a dog or pet? How do they help your mental health? Let me know in the comments below!

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Our People: Spotlight on Kyle Smith, Audiologist, Fort St. John

Kyle standing on a riverbank.

Kyle Smith, Audiologist in Fort St. John.

For Kyle Smith, it was his interest in language and communication that led him to a career in audiology. Growing up off the grid, he developed a love for the outdoors which made his move to Fort St. John with his fiancée a great fit! Before choosing audiology as a career, he completed a culinary degree and was a tree planter and self-professed “ski bum” before he decided to go back to school for creative writing. This ultimately led him to audiology.

May is Speech and Hearing Month, so I spoke with Kyle to learn a little more about him and what it’s like working as an audiologist!

In your own words, what does an audiologist do?

Audiology is a big field! It involves communication and hearing health, as well as balance. It includes what you might typically picture an audiologist doing — things like hearing tests and helping people with hearing devices. But it also includes things you might not picture, like occupational noise testing: walking around with a sound level meter and determining whether there’s a dangerous amount of sound or not. I’m part of a community health team in Fort St. John. Along with hearing tests, I also help little kids learn to use their ears. That could mean teaching families about communication strategies, or using hearing aids, or helping make homes and schools hearing-friendly places. Basically, I work on the hearing or input side of speech and language development.

Audiologists also help adults with balance disorders — these can be complicated to test! There’s a complex interaction between our inner ear, eyes, and the mechanical receptors in our feet and leg muscles. They work as a team to tell us if we’re standing upright or not. When these aren’t in balance with each other, people can get queasy and lose their balance.

Can you tell me about your career so far?

I’m pretty new to my role. I started in October 2018. Since I started school six years ago, the field has already changed in huge ways. There are little computers in hearing aids themselves. If you think about the advances in smart phones and cameras and how far that technology has come — hearing aids are similar. You can get hearing aids that are controlled by apps. From what I understand, the next generation may even connect to the internet!

How are speech and hearing related?

They’re very connected — basically they’re two sides of the same coin. We don’t learn speech on our own. Hearing our guardians’ voices as babies, we eventually make sense of the “blurbs” they’re saying as syllables and words and then sentences. We need practice to get good at it. It’s the turn taking and the conversation when we’re communicating that counts towards learning language. If someone isn’t getting input, they won’t understand that sounds have meaning and are connected to people moving their faces around. There are little cues — for example if someone is missing their “f’s” and “s’s,” that may indicate hearing loss, as in they may not have ever heard the sound to know it.

What kind of education is needed to be an audiologist?

In Canada, you need a master’s degree. I did a Master of Science in Audiology and Speech Sciences at the University of British Columbia. It takes a four year undergraduate degree and volunteer work to get in. The master’s program is about two to three years long — it depends if you do a thesis or go on to complete a doctorate afterwards. After school, you don’t stop learning! I’m going to a conference in May. Things are always changing and updating in the field, especially with the technology.

What does a regular day look like for you?

Every day looks a bit different which is one of the things I enjoy about my job! A lot of my day involves patient care. I mostly see kids aged nine months to 19. I try and determine what they can hear, and if they’re having difficulties, then I figure out where the break down is and how to fix it, so to speak. For some kids, I’m trying to figure out how they can hear better in the classroom or in daily life. I get to work with new and cool technology. There are some fun gadgets like bone conduction hearing aids; they vibrate the skull so that sound can be interpreted that way, rather than through the outer ear.

What’s your favourite or most rewarding part of your role?

I love those “Youtube moments” when a baby hears their parent’s voice for the first time. I also love being at the intersection of health care and cool new gadgets — I get to troubleshoot problems and fix things in real time which I enjoy. I also love helping kids access the sounds and conversation around them so they can keep up with their hearing peers. Hearing loss can really isolate us from people.

What sort of collaboration is there in the audiology field?

I’d like to give a shout out to the BC Early Hearing Program. They’re a global leader in the detection of hearing loss in newborns, with amazing follow through to coordinating medical or technological interventions when needed. In a recent national survey on early hearing detection and intervention, all the different provincial programs were ranked and BC was a shining star!

I work closely with the BC Early Hearing Program, mostly with kids aged nine months to five years. If they’ve had hearing loss, we work in tandem to coordinate services, whether that’s getting funding for devices or using a team approach to get a speech pathologist, or sign language instruction for deaf infants born to hearing parents, if they choose that route.

How are kids screened for hearing loss?

Just about every newborn baby is screened at birth. If there’s risk factors identified, then they’re followed up and checked on. When kids are school-aged, they do a Kindergarten screening and language assessment. There’s more information on the NH Hearing Program website.

How can someone see an audiologist?

Seeing a public health audiologist requires a referral. These can come from a variety of sources depending on the concerns and the community:

  • Registered nurses and allied health professionals
  • Doctors and medical specialists
  • Child development centres
  • Teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in the school districts

Learn more

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Angus the C. difficile Canine Scent Detection Dog visits UHNBC

Angus and Theresa looking at each other.

Angus the C. diff detection dog and his handler and owner, Theresa Zurberg visited UHNBC this week.

UHNBC had a visit from a very special four-legged worker this week. Angus, a four year old English springer spaniel, is a certified Clostridium difficile (C. difficile or C. diff) detection dog who works in the Canine Scent Detection Program at Vancouver Coastal Health.

C. difficile is the most common cause of acute diarrhea in hospitals and long-term care facilities in North America and is an extremely resilient superbug, making it very difficult to eliminate. The challenge lies in knowing where the contamination exists in order to take the necessary steps to keep health care facilities safe – hence where Angus comes in!

“Right now there’s no logistically feasible technology that can do what the dogs can do. We can’t go and do swabs because the cost and the resources involved just makes it not feasible,” says Angus’s handler and owner, Theresa Zurberg. “[The dogs] are quick and they’re accurate. They also open up conversations – they create engagement. They create excitement. [Staff] want to talk about it. Patients ask us questions. It makes it tangible.”

Angus the dog lying on the floor.Angus and Theresa paid UHNBC a visit as part of an expansion of the Canine Scent Detection Program to help other health authorities and agencies to better detect C. difficile. Angus has been to several hospitals in the Interior Health region; this year he is visiting UHNBC, as well as hospitals in the Ottawa area.

Besides being able to detect with 97% accuracy, there are other benefits to using the dogs:

“You can put up as many wash your hands posters as you want and people will eventually just ignore them. But when they see the dog work and alert on something, it makes it really tangible and that’s one of our best features of using the dog and using the program as a baseline assessment tool.”

Angus is the first certified C. difficile detection dog in Canada.

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Health Care Hero and long-time nurse retires: spotlight on Nancy Viney

Editor’s note: May 6-12 is Nursing Week! This story is one of several we’ll post this week to celebrate and showcase the many different types of nursing roles in Northern Health in honour of Nursing Week!

Nancy sitting in her office.

Nancy Viney, Regional Nursing Lead for Tobacco Reduction, is retiring after 40 years in a variety of nursing roles.

When it comes to choosing a career, some know exactly what they’re meant to do!

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a nurse,” says Nancy Viney, who is retiring from Northern Health this year. For the past 40 years, she’s worked as a nurse in a variety of places and roles and in Nancy was recognized as a Health Care Hero for her relentless dedication to improving the lives of Northerners through reducing tobacco use.

After high school, she went straight into nursing school and on June 8, 1979 she graduated from the University of Western Ontario (now Western University). Starting in Toronto, she worked her way west, living and working in Sarnia, ON; Calgary, AB; and finally Prince George; it’s been 22 years since she made the move to Northern BC. In 2008, she took on the role of Regional Nursing Lead for Tobacco Reduction for Northern Health.

In your role, what has a typical day looked like?

Kelsey, Nancy and Sabrina posing outside.

L-R: Kelsey Yarmish, Director of Population and Preventive Public Health; Nancy Viney, Regional Nursing Lead Tobacco Reduction; Sabrina Dosanjh-Gantner, Regional Manager, Healthy Living, Chronic Disease Prevention & Public Health Practice.

There isn’t a set day! You’re looking at ways to engage with internal and external partners to help develop systems to reduce tobacco. You go where you’re invited. It’s really important as a regional lead to keep current with evidence that helps people quit smoking and prevent them from smoking to begin with. In this role, it’s important to connect with people who are interested in tobacco reduction – whether that’s provincially, nationally, or even internationally.

What do you like about your job?

I’ve worked in a variety of settings including acute care, intensive care, labour/delivery, home care case management, public health nursing… I’ve also taught nursing! Being a regional lead in population health, you can help people live healthier lives so they don’t need as much acute care.

How does your role impact patients?

By working with internal partners, we can develop systems to ensure that we talk about tobacco use with every patient. We can try to protect them from second-hand smoke and try and prevent them from using commercial tobacco – especially those who are dependent on commercial tobacco products. It’s everyone’s job to do this, not just the regional tobacco lead. There needs to be simple systems in place so it’s easy for staff to have these conversations, without adding more work. We need to address tobacco with every patient in the same systematic way that we ask about other risk factors such as allergies.

Video: In 2017 Nancy was recognized as the Northern Health Health Care Hero for her relentless dedication to improving the lives of northerners through reducing tobacco use.

This year’s Nurses Week theme is “Health for All” which means not just the availability of health services, but a complete state of physical and mental health that enables a person to lead a socially and economically productive life. What are your thoughts?

I like the approach that we want to help people have healthy lives. In the NH strategic plan, one goal is healthy people in healthy communities. I think the theme is in line with that. If we help people and their families avoid health risk factors, it will positively impact their health. This includes helping them avoid substances like commercial tobacco that are hard on their bodies and their relationships. People don’t love to smoke, they love to relieve their withdrawal. Tobacco robs people of their health and their money – I could go on and on!

Would you recommend the nursing career?

Yes, I’d recommend nursing as a career! Throughout my career, it’s offered me access to secure employment, good wages, and lots of variety if you want to try something different. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a nurse. I was mesmerized by the hospital and the uniforms and Dr. Kildare. This year is the 40th anniversary of my graduating class and a lot of us are retiring. I’ve been to a couple of our grad class reunions – it’s nice to get together with old nursing friends. I’ve got friends all over, including one who lives in San Francisco that I’m planning on visiting this fall. We may have aged a little but nothing’s changed! Looking back, I’m really happy with my career decision.

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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In focus: Robyn Turner, Clinical Dietitian, Vanderhoof

Robyn Turner standing on a hill above a valley and river.Robyn Turner never thought she would have the career she’s had working as a clinical dietitian in Vanderhoof. Learn what it’s like to work in a rural Northern BC community and what kind of work she’s most passionate about.

Tell me about your career as a dietitian.

I never really anticipated coming to the North, let alone a rural community. My career turned out different than what I first had in mind. Nonetheless, it’s been very exciting!

By taking the opportunity to come North, I’ve been able to be myself as a dietitian and get my feet wet in a lot of areas – including working with individuals admitted to hospital through one-on-one nutrition counselling, and those living in complex care.

I’ve been able to use creativity and initiative to improve nutrition in my area, and because it’s not as congested here in Vanderhoof, I can do more things than I could in a bigger centre. When I was just starting as a dietitian, I thought I would be working casual for a few years, filling temporary roles, and then naturally work in a specific area. That’s definitely not the case with my work now, which I enjoy. I like being able to do a little bit of everything.

What’s your take on what dietitians do?

A dietitian supports individuals where they’re at in reaching their health goals. Doesn’t matter if they’re told to go see a dietitian or are self-motivated to change something about their health. Wherever they’re at, a dietitian is there to help support them and achieve their goals to improve their overall health.

Could you describe a day in your life as a dietitian?

There is no “regular” day. Generally my day starts with rounds, or I might go to another community. In a day I may see someone for a diabetes consultation, or modify a tube feed or do a swallow assessment. Sometimes I see children who are having challenges with eating or chronic constipation. My day always varies!

I pull a lot of areas of nutrition together when I’m working. I never know if I’m going to be doing acute care, or focusing on quality and enjoyment of life in complex care, or advocating for someone. I have to be ready to use all my nutrition knowledge. Sometimes I’m pulled into community practice meetings, quality improvement initiative meetings with the hospital kitchen staff, or community projects with schools or local First Nations.

For example, I was working on a family food skills project at the Men’s Shed in Vanderhoof. The Shed is a space for men in the community with a kitchen and a place to hang out. I was part of a food skills program there for men who were living alone for the first time or had partners with a change in health. These men were all of a sudden having to cook for themselves for the first time and didn’t know where to start. If people don’t have food skills, it’s something they need to build. Building those food skills is something I’m really passionate about.

Basically in my job you never know what hat you’re going to be wearing – it could be a counselor or advocate hat or a clinical dietitian hat. It’s always different, which keeps it exciting.

What’s one thing someone might not know about your role?

People often don’t realize that advocacy is a big part of my job. I’m not always seeing individuals one-on-one. I spend a lot of time helping people understand nutrition issues. My role involves a lot of nutrition awareness and advocacy. There’s a lot of collaboration and quality improvement involved in the different health improvement projects I’m a part of. If there’s a primary care community project focused on health and I don’t go – that’s a big part of health that’s not present. I represent nutrition and health and can provide education to other people on my health care team.

What part of your role is the most rewarding?

When you have those moments of success – those clients who are dedicated to change, who come to all their appointments with you, and take your recommendations and apply them to their life and see positive results in their health – that’s rewarding. It might take six months or a year for them to see those results. When you have clients who can get off medications or see their numbers come down – that’s when you know the stuff you’re saying and the recommendations you’re giving are working.

It’s nice too, when there are people in the community that show appreciation for my work, especially in a small town. I’ve had people recognize and draw on the importance of my role. There’s also a lot of doctors I work with who are appreciative and will advocate for me. When I came to the North I didn’t expect to have as much interaction with doctors as I do. They’re present and invested and actually want to hear my opinion. Overall, it’s been great being in Vanderhoof. Three years later and I’m excited to see where else I can go in this job!

 

How to see a registered dietitian

Do you think you, your patients, or someone you know could benefit from talking to a dietitian?

  • There are dietitians in various communities across Northern Health – you might need a referral. Talk to your health care provider to learn more.
  • BC residents can also access Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC, by calling 8-1-1 (or 604-215-8110 in some areas) and asking to talk to a dietitian.

 

Nutrition Month Eating Together contest

During Nutrition Month throughout March, we want to see how you eat together! Organize a date to eat together, show us, and be entered to win an Instant Pot! This could mean grabbing a coffee and scone with a colleague, organizing a lunch date with a friend, having a potluck with family – whatever this means to you! Set a date, eat together, and show us to win! See our Eating Together contest page for complete details.

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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In focus: Allie Stephen, CBORD Quality Improvement Dietitian, Prince George

Allie Stephen sitting at her desk with a mug that says "Dietitians (heart) food."

After interning with Northern Health in June 2018, Allie Stephen, originally from Ottawa, worked in many different areas of nutrition. I recently talked to her about why she loves being a dietitian and how food services and quality improvement projects can create positive change for staff and patients.

Tell me about your career as a dietitian, and what is CBORD? 

After my internship, I started working at UHNBC [the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George] as a casual clinical dietitian, and got to work in different areas of the hospital with inpatients and outpatients.

In September, I started at the Northern Health Regional Diet Office in my current role as the CBORD Quality Improvement Dietitian.

CBORD is a food and nutrition computer system used in healthcare – it’s used to facilitate food services in all our hospitals and long term care facilities. Using CBORD, the Regional Diet Office maintains menus, patient/resident diet and allergy information, and supports other CBORD users (including Food Services staff, dietitians, speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists) in managing patient/resident dietary needs.

I really enjoy the variety this position offers, from training CBORD users to enhancing dining experiences in long term care, to implementing international safety standards.

What’s your take on what dietitians do?

There are so many places you can find dietitians! They’re in food service, public health, on primary care teams and in hospitals, but also in grocery stores, private practice, education, and government.

In food services, a dietitian uses scientific evidence to build/manage menus and meet general nutrition needs, with the understanding that there will be (and should be!) adjustments made to further meet individual needs.

No matter where they are, dietitians help make nutrition information practical and meaningful. Being a dietitian comes down to being an advocate for wellness through food.

Could you describe a day in your life as a dietitian?

Every day is different. Usually my day-to-day involves some troubleshooting with CBORD users to make sure patients and residents are receiving meals that are appropriate and safe, while aligning with their preferences and recommendations made by their dietitian or health care team. Often I’m trying to think like the computer – it’s kind of like detective work!

Another big part of my day is regional food/nutrition project work. Right now, for example, my team is working to implement the International Dysphagia Diet Standardization Initiative (IDDSI).  Dysphagia means “difficulty swallowing,” and IDDSI is a global initiative to standardize how food and beverages used in dysphagia management are named and described. This will help make sure we’re classifying them consistently, which ultimately promotes mealtime safety and quality of care.

A constant in my role is working alongside the Regional Diet Office, food services, and dietitian teams to look at innovative ways of providing enjoyable meal service to residents and patients.

Food is, after all, a big part of our lives and being able to enjoy our favourite foods is important!  

What’s one thing someone might not know about your role?

I support a lot of the day-to-day use of CBORD, but I also support teams to take on food and nutrition related initiatives and projects. Most of these initiatives have to do with improving services and patient experiences. I love seeing all the initiatives that come to fruition.

What part of your role is the most rewarding?

At every Northern Health location there are people and team members who are so invested in the services they provide to patients and residents – they’re proud of the work they do. At the Regional Diet Office, we support them so they can take on projects that are important to their teams and communities.

For example, in Masset, they recently transitioned to a core menu where they’re doing more scratch cooking and home-made recipes. A lot of care was put into the transition – their dietitian, kitchen staff, recreation staff, and residents were all on board. The change was very well received and everyone involved was very excited to be a part of it.

It’s a great example of how our people are invested in providing the best care they can for patients and residents. I’m really happy to be able to support these kinds of projects and interact with different people across the North. The dietitian and food services teams in particular are great – I have a lot of respect for everyone I’ve been able to learn from and work with. I’m proud to be a Northern Health dietitian!

~

How to see a registered dietitian

Do you think you or your patients could benefit from talking to a dietitian?

  • There are dietitians in various communities across Northern Health. A referral may be required. Talk to your health care provider to learn more.
  • BC residents can also access Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC, by calling 8-1-1 (or 604-215-8110 in some areas) and asking to speak with a dietitian.

Nutrition Month Eating Together contest

During Nutrition Month throughout March, we want to see how you eat together! Organize a date to eat together, show us, and be entered to win an Instant Pot! This could mean grabbing a coffee and scone with a colleague, organizing a lunch date with a friend, having a potluck with family – whatever this means to you! Set a date, eat together, and show us to win! See our Eating Together contest page for complete details.

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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In focus: Amelia Gallant, Primary Care Dietitian, Fort St. John

Amelia Gallant sitting at a table with a balanced meal and Canada's Food Guide.

From Newfoundland to British Columbia – nutrition has literally brought Amelia Gallant far and wide in her work as a dietitian. Making what she calls a “risky move,” she left the East Coast to pursue nutrition work in B.C. a year and a half ago. She now works, lives, and plays in Fort St. John. Get a sneak peek of what it’s like to work as a primary care dietitian in a health care team setting and learn why she loves the nutrition work she does.

Tell me about your career as a dietitian

I’ve been a dietitian for about five years now. I started in Newfoundland working in food services in a hospital kitchen setting. Later, I moved to the Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s to work for a for-profit food services company. It definitely had a different scope than my previous work. I ran a few different programs in the dining hall and across campus but my role was largely around food service management. I decided I wanted to move out of that role and into more of a health services role – that’s how I ended up in Fort St. John! Now I work as a primary care dietitian at Northern Health. I’m part of a health care team which means I work closely with nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, mental health and substance use professionals, as well as doctors and nurse practitioners, to support patients.

What dietitians do: Amelia’s take

I think a dietitian loves food and loves science, and uses both to help people create and achieve health goals. In primary care for example, a dietitian can help people to understand what to eat to manage their chronic disease. Dietitians understand that food is more than nutrients and that the how to eat part is just as important. Dietitians use strategies that can help a patient understand their food environment and how they react to it, or to understand their own attitudes towards food and eating.

A day in the life of a dietitian

No day is the same, really! Some days I work with patients in back-to-back appointments. Some days I’m out in the community visiting patients in their homes. I work with other health care professionals to help them understand what dietitians do and how we can help patients together. I also try and further my own knowledge on new nutrition topics – I may call my other dietitian colleagues at Northern Health with questions or to get their opinion on a topic. I’ve got a great network of support!

What’s one thing someone might not know about your role?

Sometimes people can have expectations about seeing a dietitian that aren’t necessarily true. When you come to see me I won’t ask you to step on a scale or give you a diet plan to follow. Dietitians are invested in the ways we can help a patient improve their health and we try to do that in the most sustainable way. What I will do, is help you identify small changes that you’re ready to make, and offer support along the way to help you meet your long-term nutrition goals. Dietitians ultimately want patients to succeed – whatever that might mean for them.

What part of your role do you find the most rewarding?

Working with people is very rewarding. When I work with someone and they feel supported in their health journey – that’s very rewarding. Sometimes patients feel shameful when it comes to their health or nutrition – I love when someone has a moment of “this isn’t what I expected” and realizes that I’m on their side. It makes them feel more confident in their ability to reach their goals – it’s great to be a part of that!

How to see a registered dietitian

Do you think you or your patients could benefit from talking to a dietitian?

  • There are dietitians in various communities across Northern Health. A referral may be required. Talk to your health care provider to learn more.
  • BC residents can also access Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC, by calling 8-1-1 (or 604-215-8110 in some areas) and asking to speak with a dietitian.

Nutrition Month Eating Together contest

During Nutrition Month throughout March, we want to see how you “eat together!” Organize a date to eat together, show us, and be entered to win an Instant Pot! This could mean grabbing a coffee and scone with a colleague, organizing a lunch date with a friend, having a potluck with family – whatever this means to you! Set a date, eat together, and show us to win! See our Eating Together contest page for complete details.

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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March is Nutrition Month: Eat together to win an Instant Pot or join us for a live Facebook chat with NH Dietitians!

Two people at a table excited to eat pizza and salad.

This March’s Nutrition Month theme is “Unlock the Potential of Food.” Food is so much more than nutrients: it brings us together, fuels us for activity, and is a world of discovery – for children and adults alike. This month we have two exciting features:

Eating Together Contest

During Nutrition Month throughout March, we want to see how you “eat together!” Organize a date to eat together, show us, and be entered to win an Instant Pot! This could mean grabbing a coffee and scone with a colleague, organizing a lunch date with a friend, having a potluck with family – whatever this means to you! Set a date, eat together, and show us to win!

Eating together has so many benefits. It brings us together and allows us to celebrate each other, our relationships, and the food we’re sharing. It also helps create social connectedness which is good for our overall health!

To enter:

See official rules at http://bit.ly/EatTogether2019 for complete details!

Ask an NH Dietitian! Facebook Live Chat March 14

Save the date! On March 14 we’ll be hosting a Facebook live chat during the lunch hour with a panel of two NH dietitians. This is an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about important nutrition topics. Thanks to feedback from our social media followers, topics covered could include:

  • Tips for meal planning
  • Planning around dietary restrictions
  • Feeding infants and children
  • Exploring the new 2019 Canada’s Food Guide
  • Other

Check the NH Facebook page for more information. We hope you’ll join us!

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Adulting 101: How to eat properly

A selection of snacks and handouts from the dietitian.
Speaking to a dietitian made me re-think the way I snack. Combinations of protein and carbohydrates help me stay full and focused between meals. These are some of my favorite snacks for at work or on the go.

Most adults will agree: sometimes “adulting” is hard. Day-to-day tasks like walking, running, and eating can be hard to do! During the summer, I was feeling tired all the time which wasn’t the norm for me. Worried something was going on, I went to see my doctor. She recommended I see a registered dietitian (RD). Surprised and a little bit embarrassed, I wondered, was it that simple? Had I failed the most basic of tasks — feeding myself properly?

Learning how to eat — again

So off I went to see a dietitian for the first time. I had no idea what to expect but I figured that it couldn’t hurt. I knew that speaking to a dietitian is free (thanks Canadian health care!) and that they are highly educated on all things nutrition.

My appointment day arrived and I found myself fidgeting in the waiting room. My dietitian came out to greet me and as soon as I walked into her office, all my nerves disappeared. She was warm and non-judgmental and made me feel like she was really listening to my concerns. This helped ease my discomfort. It felt strange to discuss my eating habits and patterns to a total stranger. I’d never realized how personal my eating choices felt.

My experience seeing a registered dietitian

To start, we went through an extensive list of questions, some slightly mortifying. She asked about bodily functions, including the process of food exiting one’s body. I cringed but answered as best I could. She made talking about poop seem like the most normal thing in the world. I laughed later just thinking about it.  

She took a moment to analyze my answers jotting down a few notes here and there. Next she asked what a typical day of eating looked like for me. For the rest of my visit, we discussed some of my eating challenges and some ways to overcome them.

Haylee holding her bike above her head.
Thanks to my dietitian’s advice, I’ve learned that fueling my body properly helps me perform my best – both at work and during activities I love – like cycling!

What I learned

The biggest take away for me was that I wasn’t eating frequently enough. I was letting my body go into starvation mode between meals. I also learned I wasn’t eating the right things to feel full. We talked about protein and carbohydrate balanced snacks and meals. These suggestions seemed obvious but clearly I wasn’t identifying them myself. Having an outsider’s perspective helped me understand my eating patterns better. Plus, my dietitian gave me advice that was tailored to my needs. For these reasons, I found the visit very helpful!

Here are my five reasons why you should consider seeing a registered dietitian:

  1. Seeing a registered dietitian gives you free, evidenced-based advice on nutrition. In the era of information overload, I feel like I’m constantly bombarded on social media with harmful diet culture messages. It’s hard to know who to trust! A dietitian can help set the record straight with evidence-based nutrition advice.
  2. Registered dietitians are highly educated and regulated. The RD designation is protected and regulated in Canada. In BC, they’re regulated under the BC College of Dietitians. For this reason, you shouldn’t trust just anybody on nutrition advice. RD requirements include the following: completing a four year undergraduate degree, doing an approved internship, and successfully writing a registration exam. Plus each year, RDs must complete continuing education that is recorded and submitted to the College of dietitians. Talk about thorough!
  3. Registered dietitians personalize solutions for you. Doctors are amazing champions when it comes to your health but the reality is they’re limited in how much time they can spend with you one-on-one. An RD can spend much more time with you than your family doctor can in a ten minute visit. This means they can look into your case more thoroughly and offer solutions that are personalized to you and your health needs. I’m thankful my doctor recognized this and referred me.
  4. Registered dietitians look at nutrition holistically. One thing that surprised me during my RD visit was the scope of questions. We talked about things I didn’t expect to talk about ­– like my physical activity and bodily functions. I didn’t realize it, but all these things are connected. She never said “thou shall eat this and not eat that,” but instead helped me identify foods I enjoyed and how to enjoy more of them in a way that meets my needs.
  5. Registered dietitians can give you great resources. Another helpful thing I took away from my visit was some great handouts on snacking and fueling before and after exercise. RDs are trained to look at the latest research with a critical eye. In other words, they can help you find good sources of information for your nutrition needs.

How to see a registered dietitian

Do you think you or your patients could benefit from talking to an RD?

  • There are dietitians in various communities across Northern Health. A referral may be required. Talk to your health care provider to learn more.
  • BC residents can also access Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC, by calling 8-1-1 (or 604-215-8110 in some areas) and asking to speak with a dietitian.
Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Adulting 101: Running safely in winter

Haylee in her winter running gear.

What comes next after learning to “adult” and walk safely? Why, running of course! Until recently I would’ve never considered going for a run at night in the winter. Why would I leave my warm house to gallivant in the snow and ice? One of my goals is to do a triathlon so I decided I needed to break it down and work on one piece of it: you guessed it – running!

So there I found myself: running outside in the winter. I realized that contrary to my old beliefs, life and being physically active doesn’t stop because it’s winter! I’ll admit the cold and darkness didn’t encourage me to jump out the door, but I do know I felt really good once I was out there. In fact, there was a whole group of us that felt pretty darn good in the snow! I decided to join one of my local running groups, the PG Road Runners, for a Wednesday night group run and even made some friends while tromping through the slush. Other perks: I learned snow is weirdly satisfying to crunch under my feet and I got a much needed dose of vitamin N (nature!) from being outside! Plus, it was fun to try something new and I felt so good after!

Are you interested in taking the icy plunge and running outside this winter? Here are five things I recommend for winter running.

Five tips for winter running:

A selection of gear for winter running.
  1. Stay safe and wear reflective gear! Making sure you’re seen is really important when out running in the dark. Nearly half of all crashes with pedestrians happen in the fall and winter due to the dark and low visibility! Leave the all-black clothing at home and stay safe by wearing bright, reflective gear!
  2. Get a grip. My biggest worry about running in the winter was slipping and falling. I’d heard that wearing ice grippers over your running shoes could help, and when I showed up to my running group, everyone was wearing them! I tried running in them and felt much more sure-footed. That said, you still need to be very careful and watch your step! I thought they might be uncomfortable but they were barely noticeable for me. If you do get a pair, I’d recommend them for walking too!
  3. Light your way. I didn’t have a headlamp for my first winter night run and I wish I did! I thought the street lamps would do the trick but I didn’t account for the dark spots between the street lamps. Oops. I picked one up for my next night run and it made a huge difference being able to see where I was stepping. If you do decide to invest, you could use it for other winter activities like snowshoeing!
  4. Don’t get cold feet. Thanks to the freeze and thaw weather in Prince George lately, I ran through a lot of slush puddles. My feet were wet but they stayed warm thanks to my wool socks. Unlike cotton, wool helps trap heat and keep it close to your body so you stay warm. I’d highly recommend a pair.   
  5. Dress lighter than the weather feels – I learned this the hard way. It gets hot when running! I didn’t check the weather before my first run, dressed too warm and overheated halfway through. Make sure you check the weather before you go and then choose your layers accordingly.   

As an amateur runner I’m probably just skimming the surface when it comes to advice. Are you part of a running group? Do you have any winter running tips? Leave your comments below! Stay safe and happy running!

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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