Healthy Living in the North

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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Local physician recognized for an innovative workplace culture

Garry Knoll standing in front of a lake in the woods.

Dr. Garry Knoll was recently recognized by the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council with the Quality Culture Trailblazer Award.

Local Prince George family physician Dr. Garry Knoll was recently honoured by the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council, winning an award for Quality Culture Trailblazer. Dr. Knoll is the President, Board Chair, and Physician Lead of the Prince George Division of Family Practice, and has been a family physician for over 35 years. He was recognized for creating a culture of quality improvement where staff are empowered and encouraged to innovate.

He has transformed care in Prince George by helping implement a renowned practice coaching program, championing team-based care and primary care homes, and supporting physician recruitment and retention. He is a leader, role model and mentor to many, caring for his patients in the hospital, visiting long-term care patients, and providing palliative care in his practice and at the Prince George Hospice House.

Dr. Knoll mentors new family physicians in Prince George through his role as a clinical assistant professor with the UBC Family Medicine Residency Program, where he is known for emphasizing the importance of person-centred care, and by recruiting them to join his practice.

Although he is nearing retirement, Dr. Knoll continues to work tirelessly to improve care practices, ensuring the legacy of his work will inspire health care providers in years to come. He will receive his award February 2019 during a reception at the Quality Forum 2019 in Vancouver.

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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Sharing stories: “What matters to you?” events help improve health care

Andrea Goodine, NE Quality Improvement Coach, and Edwina Nearhood, Patient Partner, celebrating What Matters to You Day.

Andrea Goodine, NE Quality Improvement Coach, and Edwina Nearhood, Patient Partner, celebrating What Matters to You Day in Fort St John.

Asking patients “What matters to you?” can lead to valuable feedback that helps improve health care.

When Edwina Nearwood, a patient partner with Patient Voices Network (PVN), heard about the “What matters to you?” initiative put on by the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council (BCPSQC), she knew it was the perfect opportunity for patients and care providers to share their stories.

In the words of the BCPSQC, “when providers have a conversation about what really matters to the people they care for, it helps them ensure that care is aligned with patient preferences and provide more patient- and family-centred care.”

With the support and guidance of Northern Health Quality Improvement leads and former PVN Engagement Leader Anthony Gagne, Edwina arranged an event at the Fort St. John Hospital in June 2017.

“People came to the hospital specifically to share their stories,” she says. “They wanted Northern Health to learn from their experiences and update practice.”

The event was attended by many patients and care providers, who talked about what was important to them, as well as any concerns they had.

Northern Health leaders in Fort St. John were extremely receptive to the feedback, and created an action plan with quality improvement initiatives. One example of improved service was a better system of prioritization in the radiology department that resulted in more timely service to patients.

Viva Swanson, Patient Partner, and Andrea Goodine, NE Quality Improvement Coach, with a cart full of swag for What Matters to You Day.

Viva Swanson, Patient Partner, and Andrea Goodine, NE Quality Improvement Coach, preparing for What Matters to You Day in Fort St John.

Continuing the success from 2017, Edwina and other patient partners, including Viva Swanson, hosted their own “What matters to you?” event in Fort St. John in June 2018.  Once again, the response from patients and care providers was very positive.

“Patients, residents, family, visitors, staff, and physicians were quite curious and interested in hearing the story behind it,” says Swanson. “The branding of the campaign inspired people to ask what was going on and the ‘why’ behind it.”

Patient partners are tremendously important in improving the way Northern Health delivers care. Events such as “What matters to you?” open the dialogue and improve communication between health care providers and patients.

While Edwina has already had great success in hosting these events, she knows there’s still room to grow. Her goals are to collaborate with doctors and other health care providers to grow “What matters to you?” conversations to the point where they become second nature.

For more information on “What matters to you?”, visit the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council website at www.bcpsqc.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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In Photos: Medical students meet “Simbaby”

Three medical students taking a simulated learning session with a baby simulator.Medical residents are shown taking a simulated learning session on how to help a baby breathe and make its heart beat. Respiratory Therapist Nicole Hamel led the training with them at the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George. The three are (L-R): Dr. Manpreet Sidhu, Dr. Jess Valleau, and Dr. Christine Kennedy. They’re using a realistic mannequin called a simulator to represent a newborn baby.

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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Hemodialysis Collaboration During the 2017 Wildfires

A group of hemodialysis staff.On July 8, 2017 the hemodialysis unit at the University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC) in Prince George received a call from the charge nurse at Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake. The town had been placed on evacuation alert due to the wildfires, and they may need to transfer 18 patients to Prince George. That call started a sequence of events which brought together two hemodialysis units from different health authorities and showcased the collaboration and dedication of health care practitioners.

Later on July 8, Iqwinder Mangat, the head nurse for hemodialysis, spoke with a director at Interior Health where she learned that transferring the patients to Prince George was plan B, and Kamloops was their plan A. A teleconference at 6:30pm on July 9 confirmed that they were proceeding with plan B and 18 hemodialysis patients were being evacuated to Prince George. An evacuate order for Williams Lake was imminent and they needed to evacuate patients as soon as possible.

By the time Mangat got off the teleconference call, the hemodialysis unit at UHNBC was already closed. She came in to the unit to look at the patient schedule for the next day to free up spots for the Williams Lake patients. A renal tech also came in to assist with moving dialysis supplies to prepare for the additional patients. The next morning, Mangat received calls from the Williams Lake patients to schedule their dialysis treatments, and they were slotted into available spots. Their quick thinking and planning made it so all scheduled patient treatments could carry on as normal.

The hemodialysis unit at UHNBC welcomed staff deployed from the Cariboo Memorial Hospital hemodialysis unit to work with them on the unit. Due to the difference in dialysis machines used in the two hospitals, they first had to undergo training on the machines. Once the Williams Lake nurses were comfortable using the machines, one UHNBC nurse was paired with them to help troubleshoot and support the Williams Lake staff.

By moving UHNBC patients into the main room and moving overflow patients to the Parkwood Independent Dialysis Unit, they set up a small dialysis unit within the hemodialysis unit operating five chairs from 7:00am – 7:00pm to support the Williams Lake patients. Accompanied by one UHNBC nurse, the nurses from Williams Lake staffed the unit, allowing them to work with patients they were familiar with. It was a welcome sight for both staff and patients and brought back a sense of normalcy in such a stressful time.

The entire team worked together collaboratively and offered support and assistance where they could. Managers took on administrative duties, emergency operation centre meetings, and HR tasks usually designated to clinical practice leads or head nurses. Nursing unit clerks were shared between the kidney clinic and hemodialysis unit, and staff were more than willing to work extra shifts when needed to ensure patients were receiving treatments.

Numerous staff and physicians brought in food, cards, flowers, and treats to thank everyone for their contributions and make the Williams Lake nurses feel welcome and part of the team. Staff’s extra support and dedication helped to make the hemodialysis unit function effectively despite the additional patients and pressures. They were willing to cancel vacation, work overtime, assist other facilitates, and work together in any way they could.

One telephone call changed the entire course of the 2017 summer for the hemodialysis staff, managers, and physicians. They welcomed 18 additional patients, and new staff all within a matter of days with no disruption to services. It demonstrated the strength of their resolve and showcased their collaborative nature, and was an experience that left a lasting impression on everyone involved.

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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Happy retirement to Fort Nelson Head Nurse Betty Asher

Headshot of Betty Asher.For 38 years, Betty Asher has been a constant presence at the Fort Nelson Hospital as the nurse manager, caring for staff and patients. At the end of March, Betty closed this chapter of her life and retired from Northern Health.

Born in the Philippines, Betty and her family moved to Vancouver in 1966 when her father was appointed as a diplomat to Canada. Her parents, sister and two brothers all moved to Canada on 4 year diplomatic passports. Living in Canada was a shock to the system for Betty. Not only was the weather colder than she was used to, but adapting to the different culture proved challenging. Betty was not equipped for the cold Canadian winters only owning jackets designed for the warm Philippines climate.

Betty started her career as a registered nurse in 1967 by enrolling in the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) nursing program. This provided an opportunity for her to make friends and immerse herself in Canadian culture. After completing nursing school, Betty was able to apply for a work visa, and later obtain Canadian citizenship. From 1971 – 1979 she worked as a nurse at Vancouver General Hospital on a surgical floor caring for patients and increasing her nursing knowledge and experience.

Betty welcomed her first child, daughter Leah, in 1976, followed by her son Jason in 1979. Betty’s parents, and two younger brothers moved to Ottawa so her father could progress his diplomatic career in the nation’s capital, while her sister went on to become a doctor.

Betty began her career Fort Nelson in 1980 when she moved there with her former husband so he could pursue business opportunities in the area. Fort Nelson quickly became home to Betty and her family. She became the consistent face at the hospital while they transitioned through a variety of administrators during her 38 years there. Betty was responsible for 27 staff at the hospital, a majority of which have been there for anywhere between 30 and 5 years.

Betty has had many accomplishments during her time in Fort Nelson that she is proud of including the development of the home support program, home care program and diabetes educator role. All of which are still going strong to this day and have contributed to delivering quality health care to the citizens of Fort Nelson. She was also instrumental in changing the pediatric unit to a multilevel unit, the chemotherapy program, and the integration of the interprofessional team.

Ensuring a sense of community at the hospital was always important to Betty. Whether it be the Christmas craft fair, raffles, spring events, or potluck dinners at the multilevel care facility. Workplace culture at the hospital was a priority for her as was ensuring the involvement of patients and their families in events and gatherings. Betty also spent time as the Chairman of the Hospice Society in Fort Nelson that has raised lots of money over the years, furthering her contributions to the community.

For 25 years, Betty was married to Dr. Ayalew (Al) Kassa until he passed away in 2013. A native of Africa, Dr. Kassa was only anticipating staying in Fort Nelson for 6 months, but ended up staying until his passing. They had a strong love of travelling, classical music, cooking, golfing, and the community of Fort Nelson.

Retirement is not going to slow Betty down, but instead may keep her even busier. She is scheduled for a knee replacement in Vancouver, and after she has recovered, she is planning on traveling to Africa to see family in Ethiopia, and visit the continent she has fallen in love with. She will continue living in Fort Nelson and will also spend time at her second home in Vernon and visiting her daughter Leah in Sicamous. Betty would like to take piano lessons to further advance her existing musical talents.

On behalf of everyone that has had the pleasure of working with Betty over the years, we wish her well in her retirement and are excited for her to embark on this new phase in her life.

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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