Healthy Living in the North

I came for… I stayed because… with Clare Hart

Clare smiles into the camera. Her brown and white horse is directly behind her. Mountains and forest is further in the background.

Clare with her horse, Graffiti.

If you’ve been following this series, you’ll be familiar with the common theme I’ve uncovered among many Northern Health staff: many of them had planned to come to the North for a short time, but have stayed for a lot longer! Meet one such person, Clare Hart, Director of Specialized Services for the Northwest, based in Terrace. Clare is from England and came to Northern Health in 2009.

I came for…

I was born in a coal mining village in the Northern part of England. It’s an industrial area that is not very clean. Growing up, I always dreamed of living somewhere green, with fresh air and nice woodlands.

I studied to become a registered nurse and had worked in different emergency room positions in England. When we were looking to move, there were a few different countries that needed nurses. English is the only language I speak, so that eliminated quite a few countries. Another big factor was that I wanted the time difference to allow me to talk to my family in England at somewhat normal times.

At that time, I had three children and wanted them to grow up in an area with different opportunities and be close to nature. We chose Terrace because of the job opportunities and natural beauty of the area. We’re surrounded by mountains, rivers, lakes, and an abundance of fresh air.

On top of a mountain, Clare smiles in front of a helicopter. She is surrounded by snowy mountains.

Taking a helicopter ride around Terrace to see all the scenery.

I stayed because…

My children have easily settled into life in Terrace. The schools are smaller and my children felt very welcomed from the moment we arrived. Community members have embraced us, and we have built a network of friends that feel more like family.

I really enjoy the outdoors and in the winter I like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. I love that I can pack a picnic and drive in any direction and have quality time outdoors with my family. We have a dog, horse, and a variety of other animals that are a huge part of my life.

I have been able to advance my career in Terrace. I started out as an emergency room nurse at Mills Memorial Hospital and have transitioned to a psychiatric nurse, team lead, manager of mental health and substance use, and now director of specialized services. I feel extremely appreciated by my team and other colleagues. I really appreciate that they always make me feel welcome, like I was born and raised here.

 

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 Cathy Czechmeister

A young Cathy Czechmeister smiles in front of the camera, wearing a blue and white nursing uniform, including cap, from 1978.

Cathy in 1978 during her first year as a student nurse in the United Kingdom.

If you’ve been following this series, you’ll be familiar with the common theme I’ve uncovered among many Northern Health staff: many of them had planned to come to the North for a short time, but have stayed for a lot longer! Meet one such person: Cathy Czechmeister, Lead, Professional Practice Nursing, based in Prince George. Cathy is from Edinburgh, Scotland and came to Northern Health in 1992.

I came for…

We came to Prince George two weeks after my husband and I got married. He was a teacher and had just graduated from university. At that time, teaching jobs were few and far between. He applied to positions all over the world, and was fortunate to get a job in Prince George. I am a nurse and I had been working as an acute care head nurse in Scotland. We planned on staying for a year or two, then move on to somewhere else.

I stayed because…

My husband and I learned to love the North and all of the outdoor activities we have access to! I enjoy hiking and kayaking. As a family, we cross-country ski and one of our daughters has competed in biathlons. The quality of life is so fantastic here and you have more time for yourself and family.

Two women sit on a wood structure high atop a mountain. They are high above forest and a body of water in the distance.

Cathy and her daughter, Sophie, hiking Mount Pope near Fort St James.

After having children, we made more friends and became engaged in the community. We have found people to be very friendly. Plus, everything is so convenient. Since we have been in Prince George, the community has grown so much: we have a great university, cultural activities, shopping, and much more!

I’ve had lots of opportunities for growth and education. Throughout my time at Northern Health, I’ve held multiple positions in community care including team lead, manager, and educator. I don’t think I would have had the same career and leadership opportunities if I had lived somewhere else.

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… and I stayed because… with John Short

John sitting on a log on the beach, petting his dog.

John and his dog Pipyr enjoying a visit to one of the local beaches in Masset.

Recently, I noticed a common theme in my conversations with Northern Health staff! Many staff members planned to come to the North for a short time, but have stayed for a lot longer. Meet one such person: John Short, Site Manager for the Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital & Health Centre in Masset. John is from Toronto, Ontario, and he first came to Northern Health 10 years ago.

I came for…

I was working as a temporary nurse with a staffing company in 2009 and was placed in Masset for three weeks. Two days into the placement, I had a feeling that I was supposed to be here. It felt like home. I discussed future opportunities with the nurse manager. I worked in nearby communities for the next few months, but came back to Masset. I officially started as a Northern Health employee May 1, 2010.

John posing at the beach, holding a starfish.

You never know what sort of sea creatures you are going to find on Haida Gwaii. John found a starfish on one of his adventures around the island.

I stayed because…

I fell in love with the community and people on Haida Gwaii. Living in a small, rural community was very new for me and I quickly became appreciative of the relationships I was building. My partner relocated with me and was creating his own experiences. We’ve been fortunate to have developed many meaningful relationships. By chance, we developed a strong friendship with a local Haida elder (matriarch) that led to both of us being adopted into her clan. We continue to have a close relationship with her and her adult children and many cousins. We had a naming potlatch and I was given the name dangid giigang, which means “always smiling.”

There was a lot of potential for career advancement in Masset. The nurse manager that hired me recognized my leadership potential. She invested time to orientate me to her role so I could cover her vacations and provide support to the department. This motivated me to further develop my leadership skills. After she retired, I was hired as the nurse manager. I was in that position for two years until the opportunity to be the site director came up.

Moving to Masset has been a great adventure. I look forward to coming to work every day. I love seeing when others develop their own connection to Masset. After getting our matriarch’s blessing, we acquired property outside of town and we plan to build our forever home while we live off-grid on the property. We are settlers here and don’t see ourselves ever wanting to leave Masset. This is home. I am very thankful that a temporary nursing assignment brought me here.

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… and I stayed because… with Davey MacLennan

Three men standing next to the river with fishing rods.

Davey fishing with his dad and brother during one of their trips to Canada.

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, Davey MacLennan, Regional Manager, Clinical Education based in Terrace. Davey is from Elgin, Scotland and came to Northern Health in 2004.

I came for…

My wife’s father is from Newfoundland and we were looking to move to Canada. I am a registered psychiatric nurse and at that time only western provinces recognized my profession. We found the Lower Mainland too busy, and my wife wanted to live by the ocean. Northwestern BC was our obvious choice. I was alerted to a position at the psychiatry unit in Terrace, and was successful! The lifestyle in the area appealed to us. I could fish, hunt, and enjoy outdoor activities.

I stayed because…

Davey and his family.

Davey, dressed in his Scottish kilt, attending a celebration with his wife, son, and daughter-in-law.

We were only intending on staying in Terrace for two years, then we wanted to move on to somewhere else for a new Canadian experience. In 2005, we were on vacation and quickly realized that although Terrace may not have everything you want, it has everything you need. It is a great place to put roots down. Over the years I have built fantastic friendships and gotten involved with different things in the community.

I have received a lot of support from Northern Health with my career development. I have had great leaders who have provided valuable mentorship; having supportive leaders makes it easy to come to work every day. Staff are dedicated and have a “can do” attitude no matter the situation. They step up to the plate and help when asked. I enjoy being part of the Northern Health family and the professional relationships I have built.

We are very settled in Terrace. My wife works at Mills Memorial Hospital as a booking clerk in nuclear medicine. We have property and raise pigs, chickens, and turkeys. Our youngest son lives in Terrace with our granddaughter and we enjoy spending time with them. Terrace is our home and we are happy to have settled here!

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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What brought you to the North? A Q & A with Shannon McRae, Nurse Practitioner

Shannon posing at UNBC.

Shannon at UNBC in Prince George for the Nurse Practitioner Face-to-Face Gathering in April 2018. “It was a great opportunity to connect with my colleagues from across the region,” she says.

Shannon McRae, a family Nurse Practitioner (NP), is a relatively new graduate, having been an NP for over a year. She works in Fort St. John in a private family practice with a team of physicians.

What do you like about being an NP?

I initially went to school to be a registered nurse, then worked in the emergency department for seven years. You don’t spend a lot of time there getting to know your patients — you treat the ailment that brought them in, then send them home. I wanted the opportunity to be more involved in the long-term care of patients.

As an NP, I get to spend more time with patients, getting to know them and helping keep them healthy. It lets you have an impact in their lives, and you feel like you’re improving the overall health of the community.

Shannon standing on a cliff above the river with a fishing pole.

Shannon fishing in the Besa River in Redfern-Keily Provincial Park, a remote area north of Fort St John that can only be reached on horseback or by using all-terrain vehicles.

What made you choose Fort St. John?

I’m from Fort St. John and I grew up here. I enjoy the size of the community and the type of lifestyle you have living here.

You have quick access to lots of outdoor activities including camping, hiking, cross-country skiing, and river boating. Our airport has multiple flight options so if you like to travel, you can easily get to your destination. Plus, my commute to work is only five minutes!

What do you like about working in Fort St. John?

I’m fortunate to work with a great group of health care providers!

Our physicians are really supportive, and they’re a great group of people. I enjoy working with our interprofessional team too – it’s a group of nurses, dietitians, social workers, and mental health professionals.

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 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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