Healthy Living in the North

No chimneys, no problem: be Santa for PG’s long-term care residents

The Christmas tree in the Prince George London Drugs store is decorated with tags containing seniors' gift wishes.

The tree at London Drugs in Prince George, where you can get a tag for

Thanks to the London Drugs Stocking Stuffers for Seniors program, Santa doesn’t need chimneys to find residents at Northern Health’s (NH) long-term care facilities in Prince George!

The program lets seniors from Gateway Complex Care, Rainbow Lodge, Jubilee Lodge, and Parkside Care provide a wish list, which goes on tags that are put on a Christmas tree at London Drugs. Community members can visit the store, grab a tag, buy the items on the wish list, and return them to London Drugs before December 14 for delivery on Christmas morning.

“Needs are addressed in long-term care,” says Louise Parkes, Recreational Therapist at Jubilee Lodge and Parkside Care. “It’s the ‘wants’ that get missed. This creates a more personal connection. For instance, we have a resident who loves writing notes to staff or whoever she wants to acknowledge. In past years, she would use plain paper; now, she’ll receive special stationary or blank cards.”

London Drugs in Prince George reached out to Northern Health to start the program at Gateway Complex Care a couple years ago, and it has continued to grow since – this is the first year that four facilities will take part. As it’s expanded, so to has the impact on residents and staff, especially on Christmas morning when the stockings are delivered.

“Everybody talks about it, everyone wants to participate,” says Lynn AuCoin, Recreational Therapist at Gateway Complex Care and Rainbow Lodge. “It’s also a great time to remember Christmases gone by. Staff are so excited; they love hearing the stories of their residents.”

London Drugs does a lot of sorting and organizing on their end, then NH staff set up their own version of Santa’s workshop, where they review the list (checking it twice), ensure there’s a gift for everyone, and organize the gifts for Santa’s elves to deliver on Christmas morning.

Louise says that on Christmas morning, each resident gets the chance to feel like a kid again: the centre of attention, opening their gift in front of their long-term-care family.

“We take time with each individual as they open their stocking and we present it to them, looking at each gift with them. It’s undivided attention. They feel special in that moment. It shows that people in the community really do care.”

You can pick up a Stocking Stuffer tag from London Drugs in Prince George today! Remember, they must be returned to the store by December 14, 2019.

Thanks for making Christmas morning special for our seniors in long-term care!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.


Helping Patients Achieve Surgical Success

A side angle shot of a woman in a green sweater sitting at a desk in front of a computer screen that says "Surgical Patient Optimization Collaborative."

Nicole Dron, Surgical Optimization Nurse.

Some health care professionals compare having a surgery with running a marathon; would you run a marathon without any training?

Running a marathon can be stressful – even traumatic – for your body, and so can major surgery. But by preparing your body for those events, you can help make sure they’re successful.

Some patients already know that preparing for surgery helps ensure success:

  • “They said I would be staying in the hospital about four days and returning to work six weeks later after the surgery. I stayed in the hospital three weeks and returned to work six months later because I developed complications. Much of my everyday life was put on hold. If I had known that getting healthier before the surgery could have helped me to avoid this, I would have done something about it.” (patient report)
  • “They were worried about a couple of things in my health condition right before surgery, so they had to cancel at the last possible minute. I wish there was a way to catch those worrisome things much sooner, so that I didn’t have to wait months again for a much-needed surgery.” (patient report)

Doctors and other health care professionals have long recognized that a patient who’s fit for surgery is more likely to have a good surgical result. This means minimal, if any, complications in the short or long term, a short hospital stay, no readmissions to hospital, and a smooth transition back to everyday life.

Four sites in Northern Health and 13 other hospitals in BC are taking part in an exciting pre-surgical optimization project to help patients become as healthy as possible before major surgery.

The project is the Surgical Patient Optimization Collaborative (SPOC), and it’s a priority of the BC Ministry of Health. The organization Doctors of BC, in partnership with BC health authorities, is leading this project.

The four Northern Health sites are Dawson Creek and District Hospital, the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia (UHNBC) in Prince George, Prince Rupert Regional Hospital, and Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace.

Working from evidence-based studies, project leaders have established 13 areas of focus:

  • Diabetes management
  • Heart health
  • Nutrition
  • Mental health
  • Anemia management
  • Exercise
  • Preventing blood clots
  • Frailty
  • Pain management
  • Stopping smoking
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Social supports
  • Sleep disorders

Each site will focus on two to five components. For example, UHNBC will start preparing patients who are scheduled for urologic and gynecologic surgeries by focusing on diabetes management, frailty, social supports, and smoking cessation.

Other sites have chosen other areas of focus. What all sites have in common, however, is the goal of helping patients succeed in their surgical journey.

Pre-surgical optimization nurses will be reaching out to doctors and primary health care teams that have patients booked for major surgery at any of the four NH sites. These nurses will work with doctors and interprofessional teams to ensure patients are prepared for their surgery.

Nicole Dron

About Nicole Dron

Nicole is a registered nurse with the pre-surgical optimization collaborative in Prince George. She is specifically passionate about aspects that focus on health promotion and prevention, and system improvement in rural, acute, and community nursing. Nicole is hoping to use her professional interests towards supporting the Prince George community to become more healthy and active. Nicole raises her three kids with her spouse, and enjoys exploring local and surrounding communities, reading, and various sports.


UHNBC doing 33% more MRIs

An MRI machine in a dark room.

UHNBC acquired this MRI machine in 2017.

The University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC) in Prince George has done 1,360 more magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRIs) so far this fiscal year, a 33.2% increase over last year.

MRI scanners use strong magnetic fields to make images of the brain, heart, liver, arteries, and more, helping doctors diagnose and treat disease.

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

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


Northern Health perinatal clinical practice standard adopted nationally

A screenshot of the announcement from SOGC, recommending the adoption of Northern Health's Misoprostol Induction of Labour clinical practice standard.

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) recommends the adoption of Northern Health’s Misoprostol Induction of Labour clinical practice standard to support induction of labour.

For a relatively small health authority in Northern BC, receiving national recognition is a big deal. Having their clinical practice standard adopted by a national organization is an even bigger deal.

In 2015, a team of doctors, nurses, and health care professionals from across the region worked together to create a suite of standards to provide options for the induction of labour. The team was responsible for creating guidance for appropriate and safe patient care known as a clinical practice standard for Misoprostol Induction of Labour. The drug is one of the options physicians may choose to induce labour. The end clinical practice standard gives instructions on how to administer the drug and how registered nurses monitor the patient.

“As an organization, it’s important to have different clinical practice standards in place to make sure we are providing the safest care possible and applying evidence with consideration to resources available,” shared Linda Axen, Regional Manager, Policies & Clinical Practice Standards. “The creation of this clinical practice standard shows the importance of collaboration between different professions, and what can happen as a result.”

Everyone’s hard work was recognized as a best practice for the entire country. In October 2019, The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) shared their recommendations to adopt Northern Health’s Misoprostol Induction of Labour clinical practice standard to support induction of labour. This recommendation is highlighted as an alternative protocol to Oxytocin due to a current national Oxytocin shortage.

SOGC promotes excellence in the practice of obstetrics and gynaecology to advance the health of women through leadership, advocacy, collaboration, and education. Their members include obstetricians, gynaecologists, family physicians, nurses, midwives, and allied health professionals working in the field of women’s sexual and reproductive health.

“It’s a tremendous honour to see the Northern Health clinical practice standard has been chosen by SOGC as an example for the entire country,” said Vanessa Salmons, Executive Lead, Perinatal Program. “It make us proud and validates the quality of our work, and the expertise of our staff and physicians.”

Congratulations to all of the physicians, nurses, and health care staff that contributed to creating this clinical practice standard. It’s a well deserved honour.

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.


The Boon Docs: Halloween

A halloween comic from is pictured.

About the Boon Docs:

The Boon Docs is a comic about practicing medicine in a small town. It’s about raising chickens and having sheep instead of a lawnmower. It’s about being nice to your neighbours (or else). But don’t be fooled: it is not always simple or idyllic. There are hungry bears and peckish raccoons out there. Rumors get around faster than the ambulance, and the store often runs out of milk.

Caroline Shooner

About Caroline Shooner

Originally from Montreal, Dr. Caroline Shooner joined the Queen Charlotte medical team in 2007 and has been living and practicing as a family physician on Haida Gwaii ever since. Caroline is interested in how the arts and humanities can help promote health and allow us to look more critically and meaningfully at how we practice medicine. In 2015, she completed an MSc in Medical Humanities at King’s College London. During that year, she was introduced to the field of Graphic Medicine and started creating a series of cartoons inspired by the comic side of small town medicine: The Boon Docs.


Emergency Drills in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek

NH staff in vests sitting at a meeting room table talking.

Dawson Creek Drill. L-R: Jennifer Dunn, Dawson Creek Director of Care (green vest); Cheryl Danchuk, Manager of Support Services, NE (orange vest); Blaine Curry, Chief Technologist (blue vest); Dean Gagnon, Maintenance Supervisor (yellow vest).

Talk about being proactive! Teams in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek took part in training scenarios that simulated major emergency events in each community. The scenarios train Northern Health (NH) staff in emergency procedures that would be followed during events with mass casualties. Northern Health’s Health Emergency Management of BC (HEMBC) Team thought up the scenarios and in no way are predicting future incidents; they’re simply training exercises.

“The Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) training includes code drills and functional exercises that help to provide leadership with foundational knowledge,” says Mary Charters with the NH HEMBC team. “This knowledge would be used to effectively respond in an event where an EOC may be activated for an event that overwhelms daily operations of a department or facility.”

Two women look at a Google Earth view of a building on a projection screen.

Fort St. John Drill. L-R: Tanya Stevens-Fleming, Inpatient Unit Leader; and Bianca Krezanoski, Manager of Business Support, NE

Feedback received from the group included: “The exercises were excellent in getting me thinking about what I need to do for my part to ensure I’m ready to step up!”

A big thanks to everyone who participated and to the NH Health Emergency Management team for putting on the training sessions!

People stand around a meeting room table wearing vests and holding papers.

Fort St. John Drill. L-R: Bianca Krezanoski, Manager of Business Support, NE; Kathryn Peters, Director of Care; Corinna Fugere, Admin Assistant, NP Admin; and Teresa McCoy, Clinical Nurse Educator.

Brandan Spyker

About Brandan Spyker

Brandan works in digital communications at NH. He helps manage our staff Intranet but also creates graphics, monitors social media and shoots video for NH. Born and raised in Prince George, Brandan started out in TV broadcasting as a technical director before making the jump into healthcare. Outside of work he enjoys spending quality time and travelling with his wife, daughter and son. He’s a techie/nerd. He likes learning about all the new tech and he's a big Star Wars fan. He also enjoys watching and playing sports.


Recruitment on the road: Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Montreal

Northern Health Medical Staff Recruiters have been having a blast meeting everyone at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Montreal this week! Be sure to visit them at the Northern Health table (booth 202) for some awesome swag and to learn more about rural physician opportunities in northern B.C.

The Montreal Observation Wheel in Montreal Quebec.

The iconic Montreal Observation Wheel.

A Northern Health recruitment booth set up.

Our Recruitment team is ready to answer questions and dole out the NH swag!

The Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Montreal.

The very busy Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in beautiful Montreal!

Karoline Doyle

About Karoline Doyle

Karoline Doyle is the Northern Interior Medical Staff Recruiter for Northern Health. Raised in the lower mainland, Karoline has been back and forth to Prince George throughout her high school and university years. She’s called Prince George home again for the past five years. In her spare time, Karoline enjoys being active outdoors on the trails, mountains, and water, and spending quality time with her friends and family.


Eats, meets, and greets at Prince George physician social

Adults and children sit and eat at picnic benches.

Physicians and their families at Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park.

Karaoke, free childcare, kids activities, and a BBQ set the stage for new Prince George physicians to have a fun and casual afternoon at the park among friends and colleagues.

On August 10, 2019, the Prince George Division of Family Practice and Northern Health partnered to host another successful physician social at Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park in Prince George, B.C. This event welcomed new physicians to Prince George, and brought them together with existing physicians, residents, students, their families, and Northern Health staff.

These socials are great opportunities to socialize with colleagues and their families outside of the workplace, and for physicians to gain a better understanding of the work that other physicians in the community are doing. The casual, family-friendly atmosphere creates an ideal space for physicians to break down barriers and strengthen relationships between students, residents, physicians, and Northern Health.

This is the third physician social event since they started in 2018. The first was a family-friendly event hosted at the Exploration Place, and the second was an evening out at CrossRoads Brewery, complete with free childcare, fantastic food, and great company.

Northern Health looks forward to continuing to work together with the Prince George Division of Family Practice to integrate new physicians into the fold of their community and fostering a deeper sense of togetherness in Prince George for every physician and their families.

Karoline Doyle

About Karoline Doyle

Karoline Doyle is the Northern Interior Medical Staff Recruiter for Northern Health. Raised in the lower mainland, Karoline has been back and forth to Prince George throughout her high school and university years. She’s called Prince George home again for the past five years. In her spare time, Karoline enjoys being active outdoors on the trails, mountains, and water, and spending quality time with her friends and family.


Reflecting the communities we serve: Northern Health’s Aboriginal Self-ID Initiative

An Aboriginal Self-ID graphic is shown. It says, "A workplace that supports the community supports a culturally safe health care system for everyone!"

A culturally safe health care system is a top priority for Northern Health.

Making sure that the health care system is culturally safe for Indigenous Peoples is one of Northern Health’s (NH) top priorities.

What is cultural safety?

The goal of cultural safety is for all people to feel respected and safe when they interact with the health care system.

Culturally safe health care services are free of racism and discrimination. Cultural Safety means that people have support to draw strengths from their identity, culture, and community.

What is the Aboriginal Self-ID Initiative?

One of the ways that NH is working to make the health care system more culturally safe is through our Aboriginal Self-ID Initiative, which asks NH employees to identify as Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal. The goal of the initiative, which first began in 2016, is to see if the NH workforce is representative of the people that we serve.

To achieve this goal, we need an ongoing understanding of what our workforce looks like. This will help us make informed decisions, to remove any barriers that may exist, and to promote inclusion. It also helps us set realistic goals around recruiting and retaining Indigenous professionals.

The Aboriginal Self-ID Initiative and Truth and Reconciliation

Northern Health’s Aboriginal Self-ID initiative aligns with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

The TRC is a part of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement and its mandate was to inform all Canadians about the truth of what happened in residential schools. In 2017, the TRC released ninety-four Calls to Action, seven of which are specifically related to the field of health care.

These seven recommendations range from addressing gaps in health between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians to bringing change within the health care system. Two sub-recommendations address all levels of government, pointing out the need to:

  1. Increase the number of Aboriginal professionals working in health-care.
  2. Ensure retention of Aboriginal health care providers in and serving Aboriginal communities.

This work is guided by the Northern Partnership Accord, which was signed in May 2012 between NH, Northern First Nations, and the First Nations Health Authority. One of the main purposes of this agreement is to involve First Nations leadership in the planning, delivery, and monitoring of health services that impact First Nations peoples and communities in the Northern region.

Where do staff self-ID?

Completing the Self-ID form is simple and staff can complete it in five short steps:

  1. Log into i-Site
  2. Navigate to the left-hand menu and click “Request/Change My Information”
  3. Select “Change Aboriginal Identity”
  4. Choose between: “Aboriginal”, “Non-Aboriginal”, or “No Response” from the drop-down menu
  5. You’re done! Go grab a coffee!

Is asking someone to self-ID discriminatory?

Sometimes people wonder if being asked to self-ID is a discriminatory act.

Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, it’s not a discriminatory practice to collect information if it’s intended to be used to eliminate discrimination of certain groups of individuals.

NH understands that the act of identifying can be uncomfortable for a variety of reasons. The Aboriginal Self-ID Initiative is voluntary and your status can be changed at any time. Self-identifying will not affect employment with NH.

Learn more:

If you have any questions or concerns about the Aboriginal Self-ID initiative, please reach out to the Indigenous Health, Northern Health team at:

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.


Tech. Ed.: When tech support comes to physicians

Pads of paper and a pen are on a wood surface.

UPIC, an initiative of Facility Engagement, recently hosted a lunch and learn at UHNBC to help demystify the use of Northern Health IT tools.

Technology can be a tricky thing. No matter how intelligent the user, sometimes things just don’t work like they seem like they should. That’s where Northern Health’s (NH) Information Technology Services (ITS) comes in.

Over the week of September 16, 2019, Prince George played host to the first series of ITS “lunch and learns.” This joint event, put on by the UHNBC Physician Initiative Committee (UPIC) and Northern Health ITS, gave physicians a chance to sit down face-to-face with members of the ITS team and ask questions. Representatives of third-party technologies and applications that NH and physicians’ offices use were on site (i.e.,Telehealth, Dragon Medical One, Powerchart, and Secure Texting).

“The hope was to assist and educate those wishing to know more about services in Telehealth, Microblogging MD, and the New Dragon dictation service,” says Ky Leischner, Nursing Analyst/Specialist Telehealth with NH.

“Physicians are often lacking time to find the new innovations that could save them time, stress, or to improve patient care. If we can help answer their questions during convenient times, then we’re doing what is required as a support service.”

Over the week, Northern Health ITS and physicians had over 100 face-to-face conversations to help explain how the technologies that they’re using can help physicians be more efficient in their job.

“I found it very informative and appreciated the fact that the session was hosted by the people who understand how to make the technology work for my daily workflow,” says Dr. Neary, Family Physician.

“In particular, having the technology team offer to come to not just our medical building, but specifically offer to sit down with the office staff and myself to improve access to [applications] is a great opportunity to help us be more efficient and improve patient care and access.”

Mark Hendricks

About Mark Hendricks

Mark is the Communications Advisor, Medical Affairs at Northern Health. He was raised in Prince George, and has earned degrees from UNBC (International Business) and Thompson Rivers University (Journalism). As a fan of Fall and Winter, the North suits him and he’s happy to be home in Prince George. When he's not working, Mark enjoys spending time with his wife, reading, playing games of all sorts, hiking, and a good cup (or five) of coffee.