Healthy Living in the North

I came for… I stayed because… with Robyn Turner

Robyn Turner skating on a frozen lake.I’ve recently noticed that many of the conversations I’ve had with multiple Northern Health staff have uncovered a common theme! These staff members were anticipating coming to the North for a short amount of time, but have stayed for a lot longer. I’m capturing some of these stories in a new series! See our first story, on Andrea Starck, here!

Robyn Turner, a Dietitian for Vanderhoof, Fort St James and Fraser Lake, is another person who never intended to stay in the North, but now calls it home! Robyn is from Victoria, BC and started at Northern Health in February 2016.

What brought you to Vanderhoof?

I was a newly graduated dietitian living in Victoria and there weren’t many opportunities for full time jobs. I started looking at available positions in other towns. I wasn’t actively looking for positions in the North, but I noticed the posting for a temporary dietitian for Vanderhoof, Fort St. James, and Fraser Lake. On a whim, I decided to apply for it.

Why have you stayed?

I have really appreciated the small team environment at work; everyone is friendly and welcoming. Team members are on a first name basis which makes working together easier. I also have a lot more opportunities here than I would elsewhere. The team appreciates my work and people are willing to help me when I ask.

Living in Vanderhoof, I have tried a lot of different activities that I never thought I would: I have learned how to snowmobile, attended a quilting retreat, and even walked in a local fashion show. There is a strong sense of community and a commitment to the citizens, which I really appreciate.

My position is now permanent and I don’t have any plans to leave. I enjoy it so much that I have even started trying to recruit my friends to come here as well!

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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I came for… I stayed because… with Andrea Starck

Andrea standing on the shore of a beach at the ocean.

Andrea on the beach in Masset during one of her trips to Haida Gwaii.

I’ve recently noticed that many of the conversations I’ve had with multiple Northern Health staff have uncovered a common theme! These staff members were anticipating coming to the North for a short amount of time, but have stayed for a lot longer. Meet one such person, Andrea Starck, Regional Director, Education and Training based in Prince George. Andrea is from Vancouver, BC and came to Northern Health in 1989.

I came for…

I had recently gotten married and we were looking to move out of the Lower Mainland. At that time, housing prices were increasing and we couldn’t afford to buy. My husband is an engineer and he was looking for employment in the pulp and paper industry. I was an experienced pediatrics nurse working in the emergency department at BC Children’s Hospital. Once we knew we were moving to Prince George, I called the pediatric floor at what was then Prince George Regional Hospital [now, the University Hospital of Northern BC]. After speaking with the head nurse, I was hired!

Andrea and her husband posing in the snow with their snowshoes on holding trekking poles.

Andrea and her husband Olaf snowshoeing by UNBC.

I stayed because…

I have had so many opportunities for career growth at Northern Health that I may not have had elsewhere. Throughout my nearly 30 years here I have worked in multiple nursing positions including pediatrics, maternity, labour and delivery, neonatal intensive care, public health, home care, and wound care. Using that knowledge and experience, I have been successful moving to different leadership positions including home care educator, professional practice lead, policy coordinator, regional manager of clinical education, and now my current role as regional director of education and training.

Through my different roles, I have been fortunate to travel across the region. I have visited nearly every hospital, health centre, long term care facility, and health unit operated by Northern Health. This has connected me with staff and shown me how they provide care in their community. It’s allowed me to understand what is happening in each community and what makes each community special. Along the way, I’ve built friendships with staff; now, when I travel to a community I’m always welcomed and shown people’s favourite things about their community.

Prince George has been a great place to raise our two children. We are close to nature and can easily go for a hike or snowshoe. Never having lived in such a small place before, it took me a while to get used to not having big city amenities. Over the years we embraced the North and have made this our home.  We’ve found that Northern BC’s wide open spaces, pristine lakes, and large tracts of wilderness are like nowhere else in the world – no traffic, no crowds, and salt-of-the-earth people.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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Where can nursing take you? Discover Erin Wilson’s journey

Erin Wilson in the bushes, hiking.Nursing is one of the most rewarding careers in health care: You can work in a variety of areas and the opportunities for career advancement are endless. Erin Wilson’s nursing career of nearly 20 years has taken her across Western Canada and down many educational paths.

Growing up in rural Saskatchewan, Erin had an experience that helped shape her career choice: “A man with an intellectual disability worked with my dad. He was the most kind and generous person. He went to the hospital with calf pain and was sent home — his concerns were not validated. He ended up dying because of an undiagnosed blood clot. The unfair feeling of not being heard when asking for help has never left me.”

The many different career options available to nurses also appealed to Erin. “I wanted a career with a lot of opportunities. With nursing, you can work in hospitals or rural communities. You can also teach and conduct research.”

After graduating with her Bachelor’s degree in Nursing, Erin worked in Red Sucker Lake, Manitoba. This was a valuable learning opportunity for Erin on the inequalities and inequities faced by many First Nations communities.

“It was a fly-in community where only 30% of the residents had running water. We had to take a boat to get to the store,” she said. “I learned a lot about access to care, safe housing, and how systems impact people.”

After leaving Red Sucker Lake, Erin worked at other two-nurse stations in BC and in tertiary care in Manitoba. Tertiary care is a high level of hospital care that requires specialized equipment and knowledge.

In 2004, Erin enrolled in a Master’s of Science in Nursing – Nurse Practitioner (NP) program at UBC in Vancouver, while living and working in the Yukon during the summer months. She registered as a NP in BC in 2006, but didn’t move back to the province until late 2007, becoming one of the first nurse practitioners hired by Northern Health, where she worked at the Central Interior Native Health Society in Prince George.

In 2011, looking to further her research capacity, Erin was accepted into the first cohort of UNBC’s PhD in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences. She defended her dissertation in 2017 and is currently an assistant professor at UNBC’s School of Nursing. She also continues to practice one day a week as an NP.

“Practice is an essential link between teaching and research. It allows me to be engaged with what’s happening in our community and patient experiences while maintaining my practice,” said Erin. She’s currently involved with research studies examining NP practice, rural nursing, health inequities, and implementation science.

Not all nursing careers are the same, and Erin’s is a prime example of that. Her education and experience have taken her to various roles across Western Canada. What will she do next? Only time will tell!

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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On-site health clinic provides a range of services to students at UNBC

Kara Hunter posing at UNBC.University students are in a unique situation. For most, it’s the first time they’ve lived away from home. On top of that, they’re trying to navigate their studies, and most don’t have a local health care provider. Simple health concerns can become more serious while they try to figure out where to get help.

To help keep students healthy, the on-site Health Services Clinic at the University of Northern British Columbia’s (UNBC) main campus in Prince George has a strong team of health care professionals that can meet most student health care needs:

  • Counsellors
  • General practitioner physician
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Occupational therapist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Registered nurses
  • Registered psychiatric nurse

Among the services the clinic provides are physical and mental health assessments and treatment, immunizations, health care for sexual and reproductive issues, and chronic disease management.

One of the dedicated team members is Nurse Practitioner Kara Hunter, who has worked at Northern Health for over 20 years. Most of her career was spent as a registered nurse in critical care. After completing her master’s degree, she starting work as a nurse practitioner in 2015.

“In this clinic, we can make a huge impact with students and their overall wellness,” says Kara. “Typically each provider sees between 15 and 20 students a day. On extremely busy days we can see up to 25. Appointments are scheduled, and twice a week we offer drop-in times.”

Due to the recent opioid crisis, the team has devoted a lot of time to training students to use naloxone kits. Kits were distributed to students so they could administer the drug to anyone potentially overdosing.

“This past September and October, we trained over 100 students and residence advisors on how to administer naloxone,” says Kara. “We want to make sure that if someone does overdose, students know how to help.”

Another area Kara works in is sexual and reproductive health: “In 2019, we’re trialing group appointments, specifically targeting contraceptive counselling and the use of intrauterine (IUD) devices,” she says.

There’s no limit on the number of students that can attend each group appointment. Students who want more information after the group appointment can book a follow-up appointment at the clinic.

Thanks to the on-site clinic, UNBC students have one less thing to worry about when they arrive in Prince George. For more information, visit the Wellness Centre Health Services website.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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Who are nurse practitioners and what do they do?

Helen Bourque, Northern Health Nurse Practitioner Lead.
Helen Bourque, Northern Health Nurse Practitioner Lead

You’ve arrived at the medical clinic for an appointment. Staff are helping other patients. You’re not sure what their role is on the health care team. Someone calls your name; you’re led into a room and told someone will be in to see you shortly.

A few minutes later, in walks someone, who says, “Hi, I’m the nurse practitioner. How can I help you?”

Who are nurse practitioners and what do they do?

The BC College of Nursing Professionals defines them as “registered nurses with experience and advanced nursing education at the master’s level, which enables them to autonomously diagnose, treat, and manage acute and chronic physical and mental illness. As advanced practice nurses, they use in-depth nursing and clinical knowledge to analyze, synthesize, and apply evidence to make decisions about their clients’ healthcare.”

This advanced level of education gives nurse practitioners the skills and knowledge to give you a wide range of health services, including:

  • Doing complete physical and mental health exams
  • Ordering blood work and diagnostic imaging (e.g., x-rays, ultrasounds), and interpreting the results
  • Diagnosing and treating physical and psychological diseases and conditions
  • Prescribing and monitoring medications and treatments
  • Referring patients to a specialist or to other health care professionals

At Northern Health, we have 35 nurse practitioners (NPs) providing care in 26 communities across the region.

“NPs provide care for patients in a number of different settings. This includes primary health care clinics, First Nations health centres, family practice offices, and more,” says Helen Bourque, Northern Health Nurse Practitioner Lead. “They provide clinical care, but they’re also committed to education, research, and leadership. As a member of the health care team, they work with many people in a variety of ways. They also help prevent illness or disease by providing health education and counselling to patients.”

NPs are a valuable part of the health care team, and they can treat patients with a variety of concerns. The next time a member of your health care team introduces themselves as a nurse practitioner, you’ll have a better understanding of their role and how they can help you.  

For more information on Nurse Practitioners, visit the Northern Health, British Columbia College of Nursing Professionals or British Columbia Nurse Practitioner Association websites.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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Clinical simulation helps nursing school instructors provide better training

Simulation Debriefing Training Workshop Facilitators and Attendees.
Simulation Debriefing Training Workshop Facilitators and Attendees. L – R: Michael Lundin, Coordinator, Northern Clinical Simulation, Northern Health and Workshop Facilitator; Joey Zeller, CNC Instructor, Quesnel Campus; Suzanne Betts, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Shelby Montgomery, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Danielle Brandon, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Stacey Conway, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Lyndsy McFadden, Yvonne Mott, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Tara Green, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Lizann Schultz, CNC Instructor, Quesnel Campus; Liza Voliente, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Nancy Esopenko, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Anita Muchalla Yeulet, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Tanya Barrett, Clinical Nurse Educator, Northern Health and Workshop Facilitator; Crystal Patenaude, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Renee Peterson, CNC Instructor, Quesnel Campus.

For health sciences students, clinical simulation is an important part of learning. It lets them practice on realistic mannequins known as simulators without risk to patients. And of course, their instructors’ knowledge of simulation techniques is key.

On January 11, Northern Health’s Clinical Simulation Program hosted 16 nursing instructors from the College of New Caledonia (CNC) for a simulation training session.

The all-day session took place at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia (UHNBC) in Prince George, and instructors from CNC’s Prince George and Quesnel campuses participated.

The training focused on the debriefing part of simulation education. This is when the instructor and students discuss the simulation session after it’s over, discussing what went well and areas for improvement. This is the first time a debriefing workshop has been offered by Northern Clinical Simulation.

“This session is part of the evolution of simulation use in year 2 at the CNC campuses,” says Nancy Esopenko, a CNC instructor in the Northern Collaborative Baccalaureate Nursing Program. “In 2018 we began a pilot project for students around simulation. We wanted everyone to take part in simulation during their medical or surgical rotations at UHNBC and GR Baker Hospital in Quesnel. Before this, the students’ exposure to simulation varied. We wanted all our students to learn using simulation.”

By taking this training, instructors are increasing their knowledge around simulation. This makes the sessions with students even more valuable.

“Debriefing is a very important part of simulation training and overall learning. It enhances the experience for both instructors and students. This training has given our instructors the tools to have difficult conversations,” says Nancy, who’s also Year 1 & 2 Coordinator in the nursing program. “It was very valuable to watch experienced instructors word their questions. We appreciated the chance to practice before teaching students.”

The experience has been beneficial for both new and experienced instructors: “They’re more confident in their approach and communication style,” says Nancy. “All the instructors learned new ways to engage in conversations and provide feedback. They liked playing the student role during the simulation scenarios, too – it let them see things from the student perspective.”

The commitment shown by the CNC instructors in taking part in these workshops will a go a long way in training future nurses for years to come.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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UNBC PhD student awarded national fellowship to study stroke care

Daman Kandola with Northern Health supervisor Jessica Place and academic supervisor Davina Banner.
L-R: Dr. Jessica Place, Executive Lead, Regional Chronic Diseases; Daman Kandola, recipient of the HSI Fellowship; and Dr. Davina Banner, academic supervisor.

UNBC PhD candidate Daman Kandola was recently awarded a 2018/2019 Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Health System Impact Fellowship (HSIF). She’s one of only three PhD fellows in BC, and 20 from across Canada. Daman’s research focuses on the delivery of stroke-related care across the Northern Health region.

Daman is the first person from UNBC to be awarded a CIHR HSIF fellowship and is excited to be recognized.

“It’s amazing to have the importance of this work recognized on a national level and to celebrate some of the research we are doing at UNBC,” she said.

This 1-year fellowship supports Northern Health’s mission of promoting health and providing health services to Northern and rural populations. The fellowship is funded jointly by Northern Health and CIHR’s Institute of Health Services and Policy Research. The goal is to train the next generation of scientists in hybrid research and policy careers to work in health systems to address challenges in health service delivery, clinical care, and innovation.

Broken into three phases, Daman’s study looks at the different ways to arrive at the hospital and the time taken to receive stroke care. Sites she’s studying are ones with computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans — they include the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George, GR Baker Hospital in Quesnel, Dawson Creek and District Hospital, Fort St. John Hospital, Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace, and Prince Rupert Regional Hospital. The study is expected to finish in fall 2019.

To understand patient experiences, Daman’s interviewing stroke survivors and their family members.

“This information is very meaningful to learn about each person’s experience. Numbers don’t tell the full story, so hearing directly from those affected is important,” she said. “Findings from this study may be relevant to similar small urban, Northern, rural, and remote regions. We hope that this work will improve health services for acute and time-sensitive conditions including stroke.”

Daman also said she’s grateful for the expertise of her mentors, including academic supervisor Dr. Davina Banner, Northern Health supervisor Dr. Jessica Place and cardiac and stroke lead Kristin Massey. “We’re fortunate to have a wonderful team support this fellowship including patient partners,” says Daman.

If you’d like further information about this work, or if you or someone you know has had a stroke in the last two years and is interested in sharing their stroke experience, contact Daman at kandola@unbc.ca.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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Clean hands are your best defence against the flu

Hands washing with soap.
The most effective and easiest way to prevent the spread of the flu is to have good hand hygiene.

Flu season is once again in full force. Influenza, or the flu, is a virus that causes fever, cough, headache, sore muscles or joints, fatigue or weakness, and a sore throat.

It’s spread through contact and fluid transfer, including breathing in the virus if someone sneezes or coughs, and doesn’t cover their mouth. It can also be shared by dirty surfaces and dirty hands. The most effective and easiest way to prevent the spread of the flu is to have good hand hygiene.

There are two ways to keep your hands clean. The first is just to… wash your hands. The soap and friction together wash the germs down the drain. Hand-washing tips:

  • Use regular soap, not antibacterial soap. Antibacterial soap can help create antibiotic-resistant germs.
  • After soaping your hands, sing a song like Happy Birthday (twice) or Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star while you rub your hands together. (Dancing in place and harmonizing with the person at the neighbouring sink: optional!) Both songs give you the ideal scrub time of about 20 seconds.
  • Make sure to wash the back of your hands and in between your fingers.
  • Rinse well and gently pat your hands dry.
  • To stop your hands from drying out, use lotions as needed.

The second way to keep your hands clean is to use hand sanitizer. Things to consider:

  • The sanitizer should be made up of at least 60% alcohol.
  • It’s convenient to use and you can keep it in your car or purse.
  • Use enough to keep your hands “wet” for 20 seconds. Rub your hands until it evaporates.
  • If your hands are visibly dirty, don’t use hand sanitizer. Instead, wash your hands. If this isn’t an option, use a wipe or towelette to get rid of dirt, then use hand sanitizer.

When should you clean your hands?

  • Before and after eating.
  • Before and after feeding someone else.
  • Before preparing food and after handling raw meat.
  • Before and after caring for someone who’s sick or injured.
  • Before inserting and removing contact lenses.
  • Before flossing your teeth.
  • After using the washroom or helping someone use the washroom.
  • After sneezing, coughing or using a tissue.
  • After handling pets or animal waste.
  • After cleaning.
  • After handling garbage.

80% of common infections, including the flu, are spread by our hands. Keep others safe, and keep yourself safe – clean your hands!

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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Research and Quality Conference recognizes northern researchers and quality improvement work

Aashka Jani accepts the student prize from Martha MacLeod.

Aashka Jani (left), accepts the student prize from Martha MacLeod.

The 2018 Northern BC Research and Quality Conference, held in Prince George November 6 to 8, celebrated northern research and quality improvement work.

As part of the conference, a group of judges and conference attendees chose the best student poster, research poster, and quality improvement storyboard. (Storyboards are a way to show detailed information in an easy-to-read format.)

UNBC student Aashka Jani and her team won the student award for a research poster titled, “Cardiometabolic Risk and Inflammatory Profile of Patients with Enduring Mental Illness.”

The research poster award was won by Dr. Erin Wilson, Family Nurse Practitioner and UNBC Assistant Professor, and Dr. Martha MacLeod, Professor, School of Nursing and School of Health Sciences at UNBC. Their research project was titled, “The Influence of Knowing Patients in Providing Comprehensive Team-Based Primary Care.”

Denise Cerquiera-Pages, a Primary Care Assistant and Practice Support Coach from Masset, and her team won the quality improvement storyboard award for a project titled, “Decreasing the Number of Failed MSP Claims in MOIS Using Correct Codes and Patients’ Information.”

Erin Wilson and Martha MacLeod receiving the research poster award.

Erin Wilson (left) and Martha MacLeod receiving the research poster award.

Denise Cerquiera-Pages accepts the quality improvement storyboard award from Martha MacLeod.

Denise Cerquiera-Pages (left), accepts the quality improvement storyboard award from Martha MacLeod.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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IMAGINE community grants win quality award!

Rock with the word IMAGINE on it.Northern Health’s IMAGINE Community Grants were recognized by the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council as the winner in the Staying Healthy category. Since they started in 2009, IMAGINE has awarded $2.5 million to community organizations, Indigenous organizations, schools, municipalities, and other community partners to support projects which help prevent illness and injury, and reduce health care costs.

Grant applicants identify their communities’ health needs and propose projects which address them. Overall, more than 860 projects have been funded, including:

  • The Doig River First Nation bought walking shoes and pedometers to get their Elders moving and walking. More than half the Elders in their community participated in the walking program.
  • The Tumbler Ridge Community Garden and Composting Society helped 125 elementary school students and their teachers grow vegetables at the community garden. Students not only grew food for their families, but also got in some physical activity by walking 1.5 km between their school and the garden.
  • The Fort Nelson Mental Health & Addictions Services Advisory Committee hosted a two-day event to raise awareness around mental health and health care services available in the Northern Rockies region.

In 2017, 49 communities in the Northern Health region received grants, more than double the total of 24 funded in 2009. In 2016, Northern Health introduced a map on the IMAGINE webpage showing all the community projects that have received grants, plus details on the projects.

The success of the IMAGINE Community Grants shows that when communities can identify not only their challenges, but potential solutions, they can keep people in their communities healthy. For more information on the IMAGINE grants, visit their webpage.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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