Healthy Living in the North

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.


10,000 likes on Facebook! GIVEAWAY time!

Thank you to all of our followers for helping us reach this awesome milestone! The more followers we have, the further we can spread health messaging into the North!

To celebrate, we’re giving away a Fitbit Inspire HR!

To enter:

  • LIKE the Northern Health Facebook page
  • LIKE the post with the 10,000 likes video
  • COMMENT where, in Northern BC, is your favourite place to get 10,000 steps in!
  • BONUS ENTRY: add a photo (picture of the place where you get your steps) with your comment!
  • Appreciated, but not required: tag a friend who helps you get to 10,000 steps! SHARES are also appreciated.

Contest begins October 7, 2019 and ends at 4 pm PST October 21, 2019. Winner will be announced within 72 hrs. Winner will be drawn randomly; one person will win one (1) awesome Fitbit Inspire HR. No purchase is necessary. This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Facebook and they will not be held responsible or liable for anything related to this giveaway. Void where prohibited by law. Open to Canadian residents 18 years of age and older. NH staff are eligible to enter, but will not be granted preferential treatment.


How Northern Health is changing the way it communicates in emergencies

Four of five members of the team that implemented SnapComms is pictured.

The Northern Health SnapComms team. Left to right: Laura Johnson, Project Coordinator, Service Delivery; Jim Fitzpatrick, Director, Health Emergency Management BC, North; Anne Scott, Regional Manager, Corporate and Program Communications; Brandan Spyker, Intranet Specialist. Unavailable for photo: Amber Frizzi, Coordinator, Health Emergency Management BC, North.

During the 2017 wildfires, Northern Health facilities in Prince George and Quesnel took in more than 300 evacuees over a six-week period.

After the evacuees returned home, many departments in the organization went through a strategic review of what worked and what we could improve on if a similar situation occurred again. While there was a lot to celebrate around the unprecedented effort, one area for improvement was our communication to frontline staff and doctors. Northern Health’s leadership sent many updates by email during the wildfire situation, but staff and doctors may rarely check emails because of their other duties.

To help solve this problem, Northern Health has started using innovative third-party technology to keep patients, staff, and doctors safe in emergencies. The technology, called SnapComms, is used by more than 150 health care organizations worldwide, and can send alerts that make emergency messages almost unmissable.

An article on Northern Health’s use of SnapComms was recently featured in Canadian Healthcare Technology, a magazine with over 12,000 readers across the country. We even made the front cover! Check it out to learn more about how SnapComms will help Northern Health staff during an emergency.

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.


Northern Health emergency guides spark national interest

The cover of the Relocation Guide is pictured.

The Relocation Guide, for use if your community is under evacuation alert, and NH wants to relocate patients or residents proactively.

Two unique Northern Health handbooks developed in the aftermath of the 2017 wildfires are inspiring other health organizations in BC and across Canada.

One guides hospitals and other health care facilities on how to safely relocate their patients during an emergency (for example, moving them to another community).

The other gives tips on how to receive patients being transferred from elsewhere – like when 254 hospital patients and care home residents from the Cariboo were evacuated to Prince George and Quesnel in 2017.

“Together, the two guides can help an organization cope in the face of emergency,” says Jana Hargreaves, Coordinator, Northern Health Emergency Management, who led the guides’ development. “Having clear guidelines in a crisis should result in better care for the patients involved.”

Other health authorities in BC have expressed interest in making their own versions of the Northern Health guidebooks, and there’s also been interest from Nova Scotia and the Yukon.

The cover of the Receiving Guide is pictured.

The Receiving Guide, for facilities and communities hosting evacuated patient/residents from another community.

“The concept of a quick-access document that an emergency operations centre can refer to during a crisis is unique and has been championed by Jana,” says Jim Fitzpatrick, Director, Northern Health Emergency Management. “Other organizations are requesting the information to see what we’ve done and how they could adapt it to their operations.”

The team at Northern Health likes to think of the two guides as “evergreen pathfinder” documents – in other words, they’re constantly evolving.

“It’s important to always be on the lookout to improve them,” says Jim. “There may be similar documents out there, but we haven’t found them yet. If we do, we’ll definitely review them with the intent to learn and adopt as appropriate.”

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!


Welcome to the Kalum Café at Terraceview Lodge

A group of seven female staff stand and smile into the camera.

Some of the dedicated staff and volunteers that contributed to bringing the Kalum Cafe to life. (Left to right: Marivel Operana, Activity Worker; Hazel Lechasseur, Activity Worker; Amber Brown, Rehabilitation Assistant; Linda Lacasse, Activity Worker; Bonnie Casault, Recreation Coordinator; Gail Gyger, volunteer; Cheryl Block, Occupational Therapist)

Terraceview Lodge in Terrace is embracing changes to make it an environment that feels like home for residents. The facility recently transformed its lobby space on the second floor into a place for residents, families, visitors, and staff to gather. The result is the Kalum Café, an inviting space to socialize and enjoy a cup of coffee.

It took a lot of planning and teamwork between all of the Terraceview Lodge departments to work out the different aspects of the café.

“We were lucky to have a lot of support and people who wanted to contribute and see the café come to life,” says Bonnie Casault, Recreation Coordinator at Terraceview Lodge.

The space that would soon become Cafe Kalum, with four large recliners and a side table.

A view of the space before being transformed into Kalum Cafe.

“Part of the planning involved finding ways to engage residents, families, visitors, and staff in the creation of the café. We offered an opportunity for people to vote on the café’s name. We narrowed it down to two choices and residents, families, visitors, and staff voted on their favourite name. After the votes were counted, Kalum Café was the winner.”

“We’re so excited about this space becoming a new gathering spot that everyone can enjoy,” says Cheryl Block, Occupational Therapist at Terraceview Lodge. “It has vaulted ceilings with large windows that face west with views of the mountains. It’s the perfect place to experience seasonal changes including flowers blooming, trees changing colours, and snow falling.”

Several round tables with flowers on them, and chairs around them, are shown. The back wall has several coffee-themed signs hanging.

The space after being transformed into Kalum Cafe.

“The Kalum Café is furnished with chairs and tables that serve multiple functions,” continues Cheryl. “We have comfortablechairs with foot stools and tables with adjustable heights so they’re accessible for everyone. We used bright colours and included art on the walls to make the space even more inviting. Residents created a decorative wreath using coffee filters that they painted. It was a way we could have them contribute to the café’s design.”

Cheryl also notes that the Kalum Café serves more than a social purpose – it has clinical benefits as well.

“During occupational therapy, we work on resident’s mobility. This can be either walking or using a wheel chair. The café gives us a purposeful destination to go to rather than just going up and down the halls. We can also use it as a place for our different programming groups to meet.”

Kalum Café had their grand opening celebration on August 28, 2019. Residents, families, staff, community groups, and local government officials all attended the celebration.

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.


IMAGINE Community Grants: Keeping safety simple in Houston

The installed Public Access Lifering is beside a sign that explains how to use it.

A Public Access Lifering was installed in Houston, BC in May 2019, after the District of Houston applied for and received an IMAGINE Community Grant.

The beach at Irrigation Lake is a popular destination for residents of Houston to cool off in when the weather gets hot, or to do some ice fishing when the mercury dips low. Located just West of town in a thriving forest, the beach is one of those hidden gems that makes a community special. The park features picnic tables, fire pits, and change rooms, but doesn’t have lifeguards on duty. To address this, Tasha Kelly from the District of Houston’s Leisure Services department made a plan to install a Public Access Lifering. As part of her plan, she applied for and received IMAGINE Community Grant funding.

A Public Access Lifering, or PAL, is exactly what it sounds like: a buoyant plastic ring that’s accessible to the public. It’s a safety measure you hope you’ll never have to use, but in an emergency, it could mean the difference between a happy ending and a tragedy. The ring that’s installed at Irrigation Lake features durable, weather-resistant housing. Its presence will help aquatic activities at the beach stay safe for years to come!

Northern Health IMAGINE Grants

Every year, the IMAGINE Community Grants program supports a wide variety of projects that help make Northern communities safer, healthier places. Projects like this one in Houston help to keep communities active by keeping them safe. Northern Health is proud to partner with communities to make the North a healthier place to live!

Apply for an IMAGINE grant in September

The application window for IMAGINE Community Grants opened on September 1 and closes September 30, 2019. The program accepts applications that promote health in a wide range of areas, including:

  • Physical activity
  • Healthy eating
  • Community food security
  • Injury prevention and safety
  • Mental health and wellness
  • Prevention of substance harms
  • Smoking and vaping reduction
  • Healthy aging
  • Healthy schools
  • …and more!

For more information, visit the IMAGINE Community Grants webpage today!

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.


The Mountainview Lodge Carnival: bringing fun to residents

Two women, who are dressed as clowns, are on either side of a male resident.

Jane McIlwrath (L) and Martha Flores (R) cheesing it up in some party hats with resident Timo Paivio.

Popcorn, ring toss, squirt guns, and clowns… all that was missing was the bumper cars and tilt-a-whirl – maybe next year!

Last month, the Mountainview Lodge in Kitimat, BC hosted its 2nd Annual In-house Carnival for about 20 residents. Organizers and Northern Health staff members Jane McIlwrath, Long-term Care Aide, and Martha Flores, Activity Worker, are already looking forward to next year.

“The residents really believe they’re at a carnival,” says McIlwrath. “It’s a lot of fun for them. We put this on because it’s exciting. The first one was little smaller, so we added more for this year. Next year, the grandkids are invited!”

Thank you to Jane and Martha for your creativity, and for bringing fun to and creating connections for the residents you work with! We’re looking forward to seeing the third carnival next year!

Check out the carnival pictures below!

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.


Pet Smart PG donates to paeds!

Thank you to Pet Smart in Prince George for donating brand new stuffed animals to the Medical Imaging Department at UHNBC! Our paediatric patients are loving them, and the technologists are loving handing them out!

A hospital bed is covered in stuffed animals.

Furry friends for UHNBC’s paediatric medical imaging patients, donated by Pet Smart.


Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.


Fort St. John Intensive Case Management team helps client get identification

Intensive Case Management team smiles for a photo.

The hard working and dedicated members of the Intensive Case Management team (left to right: Tiffany, Lily, Sonia, Todd, Cindy, and Bridgette).

Intensive Case Management teams (ICMs) serve people with substance abuse challenges, the mentally ill, and the homeless through a team-based approach. Members of these health care teams provide more than direct patient care – they’re advocates for their clients, helping them any way they can. In Fort St. John, when a client named Peter needed help getting identification, his ICM team was there to help him.

“Shortly after his birth in the United States in the 1960s, Peter was adopted by a Canadian family,” says Todd Stringer, Support Worker with the ICM team in Fort St. John. “He didn’t have any documentation or identification to prove who he was. This was common for kids from the Sixties Scoop. Over the last couple of years, we’ve worked closely with Peter to help him get the documentation he needs. This involved getting a Louisiana birth certificate, filling out paper work, and working with multiple government agencies.

Peter is pictured.

The Fort St. John Intensive Care Management team’s client Peter.

“It’s been such a pleasure working with Peter and helping him overcome this hurdle. Advocating for clients is an important part of our job, and it’s always nice to have a positive outcome.”

Peter recently applied for his Canadian citizenship certificate, and they expect it will arrive shortly. Once it arrives, Peter will be able to receive his primary identification and finally prove his identity.

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.