Healthy Living in the North

Learning on the job: finding wellness as a professional physiotherapist

For Christina Conrad, a newly minted physiotherapist based in Prince George, life and wellness can be thought of like a tree.

“It’s important to have lots of different branches on the tree. If each branch represents a facet of your life, then it’s important to have more than one branch. If something upsetting or challenging at work happens (which can happen in health care!), it’s not your whole life and there are other things in life that balance you out. It doesn’t shake your tree that bad.”

I had the opportunity to chat with Christina about life in physio, and how she finds wellness as a professional and as an individual. Here’s what she had to say.

Tell me about life as a new physiotherapist.

woman riding a bike through a desert .I’ve been in my current role for a year and a half at the University Hospital of Northern BC. As a physiotherapist, I’ve worked in many different areas of the hospital. A lot of my day-to-day work involves helping people do the things they need to do daily. Getting out of bed, standing, walking, that kind of thing. It can be very hands-off or very hands-on with someone who is very ill or who has just had a major surgery.

What are your thoughts on wellness?

I learned during my student years about how not to incorporate wellness into your life. Being a student, you don’t necessarily take conscious breaks and I realized I needed to create space outside of work for myself and not necessarily fill that time with more work. I knew if I were to stay in this type of practice long-term, I’d need to be strong physically. The stats show that young workers are at the highest risk for injury, so it’s important to be conscious of that while working. The way I think of it is you need to strengthen your body outside of work so you can be strong at work.

Tell me about a time you had to focus on personal wellness at work.

There was a time at work where I was transferring a patient, when I realized that if I was going to do other transfers safely, I needed to be a lot stronger. In my profession we have a lot of equipment to assist so we’re less likely to be injured, but in that moment I realized, wow I need to join a gym!

After that experience, I realized that I needed to be well in order to help others. You’re not able to do your job well if you’re not taking care of yourself.woman skiing with arms raised high.

How do you incorporate wellness into your work and personal life?

At work I wear a pedometer that tracks my steps. If I haven’t met my step goal by lunch, I make a point to go for a walk. Sometimes I’ll walk or bike to work. Outside of work, I like to go running and mountain biking. We’ve got some great places in Prince George! In the winter, I like to downhill ski, or cross-country ski. I even took lessons this winter! I think living in the north, you have to find ways to enjoy all the seasons. From the physio perspective, there’s a big emphasis on exercise but community and creativity are also important for your wellness. I realized I was lacking creativity in my life so I joined the PG Potters guild. I think it’s important to develop communities outside of work.

Do you have any tips for those looking to enhance wellness on or off the job?

Wearing a pedometer or smart watch to track my steps has been helpful for me. It helps me measure my physical activity and gauge how I’m doing that day. Learning how to balance, the skill for separating work from the rest of life, has also been helpful. I knew starting out that if I wanted to be in this profession long-term, I’d have to learn how to balance. When there are challenges at work and you bring it home, it can carry over into the rest of your life. One of the things that helps me avoid this is walking home. For me it’s about a 30-minute walk. It gives me time to debrief and acts like a timer so that when I get home, I can move on with the rest of my day.

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

A Northerner since childhood, Haylee has grown up in Prince George and recently completed her Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Northern British Columbia. During university Haylee found her passion for health promotion while volunteering heavily with the Canadian Cancer Society and was also involved with the UNBC JDC West team, bringing home gold as part of the Marketing team in 2016. Joining the communications team as an advisor for population and public health has been a dream come true for her. When she is not dreaming up marketing and communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or enjoying a glass of wine with friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Dr. Knoll’s Recipe for Wellness

How does someone in the world of medicine and healthcare manage their own wellness? I think many people just assume, “Hey, she’s a doctor, she must be healthy – she’s so involved in supporting wellness that it must be just easy!”

The fact is, it’s not that easy.

Yes, doctors help patients with their health every day, from stitches to prescriptions and everything in between, but the reality is often overlooked. They are people too! They’re individuals who, like everyone else, need their own wellness and support systems, inside and outside the busy healthcare system.

This past month, I had a chance to speak with Dr. Susan Knoll, a family practitioner, someone who, among many other wonderful traits, has incorporated wellness throughout her life. Here’s her story.

Dr Knoll cross country skiing with her husband.

What did your road to practicing medicine look like?

Helping people has always been a passion of mine, and when I was in high school I enjoyed biology and physics. Truthfully, my mother suggested medicine and got me thinking it might be possible. If you were pointed in the sciences direction out of grade school when I grew up, the choices were a little more limited than they are now!

I completed my two year pre-medical and my full medical program at the University of Saskatoon, and then went on to residency for a year each in Saskatoon and Regina. Once my residency finished, I moved to La Ronge, Saskatchewan, a town of 5,000 people, where I spent nine wonderful years!

What inspires your personal wellness?

Wellness for me comes down to what I preach to my patients. Life is a pie, and each piece represents an important component. Each slice needs to be addressed or the pie will have a hole.

These are my life’s seven pie pieces:

Family. My relationship with my husband Garry is key. Having medicine in common, we’ve been able to provide each other with support inside and outside of work. Other common interests allow us to do lots together outside of work too! One of these is our family, and now grandkids, who live down the street from us!

Faith. Before I attended the University of Saskatoon for pre-med, I attended a year of bible school – my faith has had a large role in my wellness to this day. It’s truly special to be involved in a dedicated community of people who are like-minded, accountable, there for you in the tough times, and celebrate with you in times of achievement. This another thing that Garry and I share.

Friends. I’ve got great colleagues and peers. I’ve always believed that, in many ways, successful office-partner relationships are like a marriage. They take effort to maintain – and don’t get in a relationship you don’t think will work! Even though I have amazing friends inside the world of medicine, I’ll admit sometimes this line of work can be overwhelming. It’s important to have friendships with people outside the medical community so you can take a breath, reset, and keep perspective.

Exercising. I use a Fitbit! Any encouragement to get up and move is good, but I’ve always thought the more outside the better: cross-country skiing, biking, walking, and gardening are some of my favourites! I don’t always achieve my daily goal, but when I do, I feel much better.

Dr Knoll standing on a cliff by the ocean.Finances. Finances are a major stressor for a lot of people and there is a lot of pressure to live beyond our means. I think the better you manage your money, the less stress it is. Simply said, but not always as easily done!

Holidays. We try to always have a holiday planned. It doesn’t necessarily have to be right away, but it gives us something to look forward to! By the time you finish a holiday, I think you should have another one in the works, even if it’s six months away! Change is good.

Fulfilling work. I find much joy in my work. We often think of work as a necessary evil, a kind of drudgery. But I think being able to do meaningful work, making the world a better place, and having some positive impact on those around me is important to my sense of well-being.

If you could pass on one wellness tip to another person, what would you say?

Balance. As I tell my patients, moderation is the key. Not too much of anything, but get enough of everything!

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Views: The 2018 Northern Healthcare Travelling Roadshow

The Healthcare Travelling Roadshow was conceived as a grass roots initiative to address rural healthcare workforce shortages. It brings together a multidisciplinary group of health-care students from post-secondary institutions around B.C. to showcase career opportunities to rural high school students. Since 2010, the roadshow has connected with more than 8500 students in 43 communities across the province. There are now two roadshows run each spring through the Northern Medical Program, as well as one through the Southern Medical Program (Kelowna).

Nope. It’s not a blog on Drake’s 2016 album – not even close. It’s better! Check out some of the amazing things the travellers of the 2018 Northern Healthcare Travelling Roadshow got to see and experience!

A big thank you to Ellen Kaufman, nursing student, for the wonderful pictures and captions!

Mayor of Smithers on a bike showing off city.

The Mayor of Smithers, Taylor Bachrach, met with the 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow participants to show them around this beautiful northern community. Here, he explains the skiing options available at Hudson Bay Mountain.

brewery with wood bar and chairs

The Bulkley Valley Brewery opened in the summer of 2017. Here, the 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow participants learn about entrepreneurship in Smithers.

hospital parking lot with front lawn

The Bulkley Valley District Hospital (BVDH) is a 25-bed acute care facility in the community of Smithers, BC. The participants of the 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow were given a tour of the facility and learned about what makes this hospital such a positive team environment with modern technology and equipment.

bugwood bean wood storefront

The Bugwood Bean is a wonderful, locally-owned coffee shop on Main Street. Make sure you stop by for a fresh cup of your favourite coffee or tea!

library with mountains outside

A view of the Smithers Public Library and Hudson Bay Mountain from Main Street.

group standing in front of big wood sign

The 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow participants are excited to be heading north on the scenic Cassiar Highway. The journey continues!

last frontier lodge outside

Located at the second crossing of the Bell-Irving River, Bell 2 offers fuel services, full restaurant, general store, cabin rentals, and most excitingly, a helicopter ski lodge (pictured here). The Last Frontier Heli-Skiing Lodge boasts some of the most extensive back country skiing options in the world!

huge mountain with a white peak

Leaving behind the beautiful mountains of the Bulkley Valley as the 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow heads northwest.

wood lodge with trees behind it

The 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow participants spent the night at the Tatogga Lake Lodge, located approximately 100 km south of Dease Lake. This lodge has a very rustic feel to it and friendly staff who will make you feel at home in the wilderness. Coffee is always on!

Some of the 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow participants warm themselves by the fire in the Tatogga Lake Lodge. This lodge sports several different species of taxidermy animals such as moose, caribou, wolverine, grizzly bear, and timber wolves.

icy cold lake with mountain in the background

Tatogga Lake and the surrounding mountains are truly breathtaking, especially at sunset. Make sure to spend some time outdoors as you explore the great north!

lunch with the team on a cold day

After visiting the small community of Dease Lake, the 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow participants enjoy a hearty outdoor lunch of soup and sandwiches. At this time of year, the weather is still cool and rainy, but some hot soup keeps you feeling toasty!

black bear walking across highway

The Cassiar Highway (HWY 37) is abundant with wildlife. Here, a black bear saunters casually across the roadway near Dease Lake, BC.

raw jade being sold outside

Here, raw pieces of jade can be seen before they are polished and carved into statues, jewelry, and/or figurines.

jade jewelry on table for sale

Although the community of Cassiar is now a ghost town, the Cassiar Mountain Jade Store still flourishes. Here, members of the 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow look at various pieces of jade jewelry and trinkets that are available in the store. Free coffee is also offered!

herd of bison standing in field

A herd of 2,000 bison lives in the Liard River area. They can often be seen grazing peacefully along the highway. At this time of year, you might be lucky enough to spot some newborn calves amongst the herd.

liard hotsprings

The Liard River Hot Springs are the second largest natural hot spring in Canada. With waters temperatures at a lovely 36oC, come enjoy a nice soak and relax! Well maintained change rooms and toilets are available for your convenience. The 2018 Healthcare Traveling Roadshow participants can be seen here enjoying the warm waters after a long day of traveling.

The waters of the Liard River Hot Springs are clear, warm, and inviting. So stay a while and enjoy the nature that surrounds you.

Bridge with signs from all over the world on it.

In Watson Lake, Yukon Territory, there is an impressive “Sign Post Forest” that has over 83,000 signs from all over the world! Some signs indicate the name of the traveler who placed the sign and how far they had to journey from their hometown to arrive in Watson Lake. Other signs simply indicate various road or city names from around the globe.

trail with a lot of signs around it

Come take a walk in Watson Lake’s “Sign Post Forest” and see how many different countries you can count. Don’t forget to bring a sign to contribute to the collection!

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World No Tobacco Day: five facts you need to know

May 31st is World No Tobacco Day! Interested in learning how quitting commercial tobacco can improve your health? Check out these five facts:

  1. Quitting improves your health right away. If you quit smoking or chewing commercial tobacco, your health will improve right away! Your heart and lungs will be healthier within 24 hours of your last cigarette and your body will be stronger. You will reduce the chance of having a heart attack and developing lung disease.
  2. Quitting for one day could win you $250. Not quite ready to quit? Maybe commit to quitting for a day. You could stop smoking or chewing tobacco for one day and enter to win the $250 cash prize. On June 5th and the first Tuesday of every month you can enter to win at Tobacco Free Tuesdays!

    Quitting pays off! Enter to win a $250 cash prize on the first Tuesday of every month at QuitNow.ca.

  3. Food will taste better. Food will taste better and you will feel more energetic. You may be interested in developing a healthier lifestyle with better food choices and exercise. Check out the Northern Health Matters blog for healthy ideas!
  4. Physical activity will help you manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms. You may have tried to quit before and had difficulty dealing with the urge to smoke. Physical activity will help you manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  5. Free support is available. Nicotine patches, gum, lozenges or inhalers can also help reduce withdrawal. You can access 12 weeks of nicotine products through the BC Smoking Cessation Program. Talk to your pharmacist to get your first 4 weeks. You can also access free counselling through QuitNow services by phone, text, or email. Check out QuitNow.ca for resources and an on-line community.
Nancy Viney

About Nancy Viney

Nancy is a registered nurse working in Northern Health’s population health team. She often imagines a day when no one in northern British Columbia suffers from the harmful effects of tobacco. In her time off, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, especially her two little grandchildren! Nancy also enjoys quilting, knitting, crocheting and many other home spun crafts.

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Occupational Therapist on Board: the 2018 Cassiar Travelling Road Show

What do you get when you give thirteen enthusiastic health care students a microphone, a Powerpoint slide, a table of equipment, and four secondary school gymnasiums full of students considering life after high school?

The group with a big sign showing towns.

The answer’s easy – The Healthcare Travelling Roadshow!

On April 29th, 2018, thirteen students and two UNBC staff piled into a roomy, Northern Health Connections bus and headed from Prince George to Smithers. By May 5th, our crew had covered over 2400 kilometers, travelling through Smithers, Dease Lake, Watson Lake, and Fort Nelson, visiting four high schools along the way.Looking out the bus window viewing bison.

As a second-year occupational therapy student at UBC, I am well-versed in the shortage of not only occupational therapists (OTs) in northern and rural communities, but all health care professionals. I’ve seen postings for long-empty positions in rural hospitals and community-based teams, and I’ve met hospital administrators waiting for qualified OT and other health professionals to hit send on an email with cover letter and resume attached.

The Healthcare Travelling Roadshow is a grassroots initiative born of a firm belief in the proven concept: ‘train-and-remain’.The Northern Health Connections bus in a mountainous pass. If a student from a northern, rural community, becomes a health care professional, that student is more likely to return to the north to practice than a student from a major urban centre. The question is – how do eligible ‘train-and-remain’ students learn of all the various, much-needed professions, such as OT?  Well, who better than current health care students to provide interactive demonstrations with equipment and tools, and to share with high schoolers all aboutWoman standing on a mountain. OT standing at display table.the application process, why the career is exciting and rewarding, and what a day in the life of a health care professional looks like? An added bonus to all of this touring, is the health care students learn more about their future colleagues, increasing their capacity for interdisciplinary practice.

I was honoured to share my passion and commitment to OT and challenge students to think of creative uses for adaptive equipment, to consider the amazing rehabilitative neuroplastic powers of the brain, and to engage in discussion about inclusion and even the social model of disability. I asked students if they had any plans for careers after high school, and I heard, “Well, I had thought about being a nurse, but this is pretty cool.” Another student replied, “I have so many ideas now!”

Thank you to everyone who made this week possible; to the creative minds that saw a solution to workforce shortages and made it a reality, to the organizers of the Roadshow, to Northern Health Connections for the wonderful bus, and especially to the students at each high school who asked such thoughtful questions, and showed genuine care for both individual and community health! Thanks for the opportunity to showcase OT!!

 

The Healthcare Travelling Roadshow was conceived as a grass roots initiative to address rural healthcare workforce shortages. It brings together a multidisciplinary group of health-care students from post-secondary institutions around B.C. to showcase career opportunities to rural high school students. Since 2010, the roadshow has connected with more than 8500 students in 43 communities across the province. There are now two roadshows run each spring through the Northern Medical Program, as well as one through the Southern Medical Program (Kelowna).

Catherine Lloyd

About Catherine Lloyd

Catherine is currently finishing her 5th and final placement for the Master of Occupational Therapy program at UBC. She’s split her final fieldwork placement in Prince George between 3NE at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia, and at a role emerging placement at Central Interior Native Health Society. In the spring of 2018, Catherine was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit many remote communities during her placement via the Healthcare Travelling Roadshow, and through an outreach program delivering rehab services in Takla, Nadleh and Stellat’en. Catherine is dedicated to deepening her understanding of how occupational therapy and allied health can answer the Calls to Action that address our healthcare system in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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Supporting each other: mother-to-mother support for breastfeeding

On Mother’s Day, we celebrate the mothers in our lives. While we recognize the important roles they play in the lives of their children and families, today I want to reflect on how mothers also support each other.

In particular, I have benefitted greatly from my connections with other breastfeeding mothers. I remember a time, a few months before my baby arrived, that I shyly peeked over a friend’s shoulder to watch how her baby latched onto her breast. I recall swapping stories and laughs (and maybe tears, too) with friends who also nursed their children. And then, there came a day when I was the mother who nursed her toddler while a pregnant friend looked on, and she shared with me that she planned to breastfeed her baby, too.

While support for breastfeeding can come in many forms, I found that connecting with other breastfeeding parents was especially important for me. It was so great to share and connect with others who understood some of the joys and realities I was experiencing – they got it, they understood. Simply knowing other parents who breastfed their children in the toddler years, in public, and on the go, helped me to feel comfortable doing the same.

group of mothers breastfeeding.

Mothers and families can benefit greatly from connecting with other breastfeeding mothers and families.

Like me, mothers might be able to get this type of support through family and friends. Parents may also get similar support from programs or volunteers in their communities. For example, La Leche League (LLL) is an organization that is founded on peer-to-peer support:

LLL Leaders have breastfed their own child(ren) and …enjoy talking with other parents, sharing information, and helping others resolve challenges.” -Sue Hoffman, Coordinator of Leader Accreditation in BC, LLL Canada

Leaders don’t just have valuable personal experiences to share; they also receive training from LLL in order to better support parents and to provide accurate information. Leaders might provide support via phone, email, or in-person visits, or through monthly informal group meetings. One leader described these meetings as “safe place(s) where any breastfeeding parent can get practical information about breastfeeding in a non-judgmental and supportive environment.”

Group settings provide the bonus of participants being able to connect with other families:

It’s so wonderful to have a group of parents come together and support one another. Each parent attending has valuable experiences to share with the next parent.” -Rowena, LLL leader

Whether through personal connections, or through an organization like LLL, breastfeeding parents benefit from connecting with other breastfeeding parents. One parent shared:

We have found a community of other breastfeeding mothers, a community which supports us as we support it…I encourage every pregnant or breastfeeding momma to join.” -Hayley, northern BC mother

Families who are expecting a new baby and those who are breastfeeding or chestfeeding* can connect with LLL for support, through the La Leche League Canada website, by finding a group in BC, or by calling the LLL central telephone lines.


*Some parents may prefer the term chestfeeding. For more information, see LLL Canada’s Transgender/Transsexual/Genderfluid Tip Sheet.

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health team, where her work focuses on nutrition in the early years. She is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. Her passion for food extends beyond her work, and her young family enjoys cooking, local foods, and lazy gardening. In her free time, you might also find her exploring beautiful northwest BC by foot, ski, kayak or kite.

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Oral Health Month: think mouth, think health

The most rewarding parts of my day-to-day work happen when I have the opportunity to really make a positive change within a family. While this may not happen all the time when it does, it is truly motivating. I’ve been a practising Dental Hygienist for 29 years and have been very fortunate to have worked in different practise settings that have provided a variety of experiences.  I’m privileged to work with many caring people from different disciplines, all who assist families to access services that help to make healthy changes in their client’s lives.

In the dental program at Northern Health, we provide penlight oral assessments and fluoride varnish as well as information and education on oral health, with a focus on children up to 5 years of age. I’ve met many wonderful children over the years but one encounter in particular stands out for me.

A preschooler at one of the programs that the dental team attends was very reluctant to let us see inside their mouth because it was sore and the teeth were sensitive. Once the child allowed us a look, we saw that there were areas of decay and infection. The Speech Pathologist who worked with the child was also concerned as the child did not speak often or clearly and seemed withdrawn, so we contacted the family to ask if we could assist with finding a dentist. The family had encountered many barriers and had been unable to obtain the care the child needed. Fortunately, we were able to assist and the child received treatment, which was rewarding in itself, as the family was appreciative and the child was out of pain. But the true gift was when the Speech Pathologist told us that the first clear word the child spoke was their infant sibling’s name, along with a huge smile.

mouth graphic brushing teeth.

The health of your mouth affects your overall health!

 

As you can see from this story, the health of your mouth affects your overall health, speech included! If your mouth is not healthy it can also affect your appearance, confidence, social acceptance, ability to eat and sleep, and have negative impacts on chronic diseases such as diabetes. Baby teeth are especially important for speech development, eating, overall health, and are often overlooked as they fall out. The good news is that you can follow basic steps to maintain good oral health! At the Canadian Dental Association you can learn more about Oral Health Month and how to keep your mouth happy and healthy.

If there’s one thing to remember after this April: think mouth, think health!

Lynn Barager

About Lynn Barager

Lynn has been a practicing dental hygienist for 29 years, during which she has had the wonderful opportunity to work in a number of different practice settings. As a community dental hygienist with Population and Public Health, Lynn works with young children and their families to promote a lifetime of healthy smiles. Prince George has been Lynn’s home for the majority of her life and when not at work, Lynn enjoys spending time with her family and volunteering with the local synchronized swimming club.

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Dietitians share their Pro Tips!

To celebrate Nutrition Month this March, my colleagues and I had a potluck. The theme was “Throwback Thursday,” where we prepared foods that were important to us during our childhood. During the potluck, we gathered and shared stories about the different foods and their significance in our lives.

This Nutrition Month, Northern Health dietitians are highlighting the potential of food. This includes celebrating food’s potential to bring us together; exploring food as an important part of a child’s discovery of the world; and in  one colleague’s case,  reflecting on the dietitians she has met throughout the years and how they have influenced her (and others) both personally and professionally.

group shot of dietitians together.

Dietitians from across Northern Health at a meeting in Prince George; September, 2017: a group of passionate advocates for the role of food in health!

We are lucky to have a group of dedicated and passionate registered dietitians who work for Northern Health in a variety of capacities. Whether it’s in the hospital, in food service, or population health, dietitians are committed to their work in supporting the health and well-being of the people and communities they serve.

Celebrating Registered Dietitians across our northern BC region!

Officially a Northern Health tradition, March is when we ask our dietitians for nutrition “pro tips.” So, what did they have to say about food and nutrition?

This #nutritionmonth, what pro tips would you like to share with northerners?

Judy (Dawson Creek):  Grow a little food in your yard, balcony, or a sunny window sill in the winter! Discover the joy of nurturing the food that can nurture you!

Flo (Terrace): Be a good eater. Be aware of and respond to, your body’s cues of appetite, hunger, fullness, and satisfaction; be open to trying new foods and expanding the variety of foods you eat and feel good about eating. Good eaters have good health!

Allie (dietetic intern): Frozen vegetables can be a great alternative to fresh vegetables. They’re just as nutritious, keep well in the freezer, and can be cost-effective!

Lise (Terrace): Consider activities that allow kids to see, touch, smell, taste, and talk about food. This helps them to build familiarity with a variety of foods.

Laurel (Prince George): Spring is coming! Consider sharing a meal with family or friends at your local park or picnic site. 

Emilia (Terrace): Consider healthy school fundraising! Some ideas include seedling sales or school-made calendars. Check out the Fresh to You Fundraiser to sell bundles of locally grown produce!

Christine (Terrace): All foods can be part of a healthy eating pattern. Refrain from labelling foods; food is not inherently “good” or “bad.”

Flo (Terrace): Eat well and be active for the sake of health, pleasure, and well-being. Care for your body at whatever size you are now. All bodies are good bodies!

Laurel (Prince George): Food has the potential to connect us! Whether it’s a quick snack at coffee break, on a road trip with friends, or a Saturday morning family breakfast, mealtime is a chance to tune in and connect with loved ones.

Lise (Terrace): Preparing food and eating it together can be fun for all! Have you considered cooking with kids?

Interested in reading pro tips from years gone by?

  • Nutrition Month 2016: Dietitians share their knowledge in the first-ever “Pro Tip” blog.
  • Nutrition Month 2017: Dietitians contribute to the second annual “Pro Tip” blog!

Food has so much potential. It connects us all. Through food, we can discover so much: new tastes, new traditions and cultures, new stories and new relationships. Registered dietitians promote health through food and nutrition, but we also recognize that there is so much more to food than nutrients. Food shapes us all. Happy Nutrition Month!

Laurel Burton

About Laurel Burton

Laurel works with Northern Health as a population health dietitian, with a focus on food security. She is a big proponent of taking a multi-dimensional approach to health and she is interested in the social determinants of health and how they affect overall well-being, both at the individual and population level. Laurel is a recent graduate of the UBC dietetics program, where she completed her internship with Northern Health. She has experience working with groups across the lifecycle within BC and internationally to support evidence-informed nutrition practice for the aim of optimizing health. When she is not working, Laurel enjoys cooking, hiking and travelling. She is looking forward to exploring more of the North!

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Poison prevention: can you spot the difference?

Take a look at this photo.

side by side comparison of nicotine and chewing gum.

Can you spot the difference between these two types of gum? Hint: one is safe for school-aged children, one is not.

Stumped? The gum on the left is chewing gum and the gum on the right is nicotine gum. Easy to tell the difference right? For an adult, yes. Now put yourself in the shoes of a toddler. Easy to confuse the two, isn’t it?

I’m sharing this photo (and others below) to bring awareness to Poison Prevention Week, which falls on March 18 – 24 this year. Poisoning can happen at any age; however, children are at particular risk of injury. Looking at the photo above, it’s easy to see why! Children between the ages of 1 and 3 years are at the highest risk because of the way they explore the world around them. What do toddlers do best? Put things in their mouth! They like to taste test everything!

That said, the risk of poisoning is not limited to toddlers. I have a 6 year old, who, despite my best efforts, still absentmindedly licks many items not fit to eat! Ick!

The good thing is that this reminds me that even as my children age, I need to remain watchful and always keep medications out of sight and out of reach. Generally, as parents, we do a really good job of creating safe spaces and home environments, but we can’t control everything. Visiting guests with purses or toiletry bags, or new unfamiliar spaces are a part of life and sometimes kids just can’t recognize the risk. The good news is that poisoning is preventable.

Spot the difference: poison prevention edition

Take a look at the following products. Can you spot the difference? Take a guess and share with a friend. Poison Prevention Week is a great opportunity to remind ourselves how mistakes can happen.

Nicotine chewing gum comparison.

Skittles coated medication comparison.

Chocolate laxative medication comparison.

Juice and medication comparison.

Toothpaste medicinal creme comparison.

Medications remain the leading cause of poisoning in children

Follow the recommended practice of storing medications in their original packages; in child resistant containers; and out of sight and reach of children. Keeping these practices in mind, we can significantly reduce the risk of accidental poisoning, however there may come a time when you find yourself calling the BC Poison Control Centre. The phone lines are answered 24 hours a day and offer services in 150 different languages.

When to call the BC Poison Control Centre

If a person is unconscious, having convulsions or having trouble breathing, call 9-1-1. This is an emergency.

If the person you are concerned about is awake, call BC Poison Control right away 1-800-567-8911.

Have the following information ready:

  • The details of the substance (medication, plants, cleaners, or other) that you are concerned about
  • The estimated amount taken, inhaled, or spilled on the skin
  • When the incident happened
  • The age and approximate weight of the person affected
  • How is the person doing now
  • The telephone number you are calling from

What you can expect from the BC Poison control centre:

  • A poison specialist who is a specially trained nurse or pharmacist will answer your call.
  • You will be advised if you need to go to the emergency department of if you can watch the person at home.
  • You may be given first aid instructions.
  • If the person can be watched at home, the poison specialist will advise you what to watch for, and in some cases, may call you back later to see how the person is doing.

Children act fast…. so do poisons. If you think someone may be at risk for poisoning, don’t hesitate to call.

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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Celebrating the work of dietitians in the north: Dietitians Day 2018

Did you know that March 14th is National Dietitians Day in Canada? On this day, we celebrate registered dietitians (RDs) as healthcare professionals who support health through food and nutrition. It’s an opportunity to pause and reflect on the contributions of the approximately 35 passionate, knowledgeable, and dedicated RDs that work all throughout Northern Health. In particular, I started to think about those dietitians that have served in the north for many years and how things have changed over the years.

Linda’s story

 I first met Linda McMynn in the fall of 1996. She interviewed (and subsequently hired) me via videoconference for a job at Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace. It was my first experience with videoconference, a very new technology at the time. Linda’s willingness and courage to use this brand new technology really speaks to her openness to seek out new challenges. Linda was the first dietitian to work in Terrace, moving here in the 1970s:

I got to write my own job description and develop the job the way I wanted. I felt very isolated in the beginning, but the job turned out to be a huge opportunity. I was able to explore and work in many areas of the profession that I wouldn’t have if I’d stayed in Vancouver.”

Working in the north helped shape Linda’s preferences and career path. She says that during her training, she enjoyed clinical work, but intensely disliked food service and administrative dietetics. However, in the past two decades with Northern Health, Linda has immersed herself in the food service world. She pioneered the development of high quality food service practices and policies that have improved food service in all Northern Health facilities.

Two dietitians cooking pasta together.

Left: Linda McMynn and Right: Flo Sheppard; circa 2010 in Smithers at a Northwest Dietitian gathering, making pasta.

When I asked Linda what she believed to be at the core of her work as a dietitian, she was quick to say ‘food first’:

The best way to ensure good nutrition is by preparing, eating, and enjoying good food  . . . ideally with others.”

Certainly, I recall her efforts to make this real for the residents of Terraceview Lodge, a residential living facility in Terrace. I’ve always been struck by how deeply Linda cares about the people she serves. Certainly, many dietitians, including myself, prefer to be working behind the scenes to make things better, like Linda.

Wendy’s story

 Wendy Marion-Orienti is a dietitian based out of Smithers. Like most northern dietitians, she is a generalist, working across the spectrum of care: health promotion and prevention, treatment, and long-term care. She is best known for her expertise in person-centred care, especially with clients with diabetes and disordered eating. When I first met Wendy in 1996, I was struck by her passion for food and her focus on providing whole-person care.

Two dietitians standing together on rock over looking valley near Smithers, BC.

Left: Wendy Marion-Orienti and Right: Shelly Crack; taken near Smithers circa 2010.

Wendy didn’t start out wanting to be a dietitian. Initially she was enrolled in a degree in interior design at the University of Saskatchewan. The program had set courses for the first two years. While taking a required nutrition course, she was struck by the professor’s impassioned description of nutrition and its ability to make a profound difference at the local, national, and global level. It was this discovery that motivated Wendy to switch career paths. Her upbringing on a mixed farm in Saskatchewan, where “we ate what we grew and very few foods were purchased (sometimes macaroni)” is what “planted [her] in nutrition,” so this switch to a career as a dietitian was an easy one.

When asked what she loves most about her work, Wendy said:

I feel privileged to have the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with clients, families, colleagues, and community . . . to walk with them, and to support them in making informed choices about their health.”

 I, along with many other dietitian colleagues, have been on the receiving end of Wendy’s warm and nurturing support and friendship.

Reflections of nutrition: then and now

Collectively, Linda and Wendy have offered almost 100 years of quality service to northern BC.  When asked about changes in the nutrition landscape, both of them reflected on how the field of nutrition has continued to grow.

Linda noted that there has been a growth in the interest in food and nutrition:

When I first started working as a dietitian, nutrition was not a frequent topic of discussion in the media. I don’t remember there being the prevalence of food fads, supplements, and diets being promoted. There wasn’t much interest in where our food comes from. Now there is so much more interest in all aspects of food.”

 Wendy agreed. She reflected that, throughout the years, there are cycles of food fads – the “miracle” food was once broccoli, then kale, cauliflower, and coconut, to name a few. In truth, there are no magic foods, rather the wisdom of variety and balance prevail.

Wendy also appreciates the ever-expanding variety of foods that can be enjoyed. She remembers when yogurt and granola were rare, found only in health food stores. Now, an increasing number of people enjoy diverse eating patterns that incorporate foods from a variety of cultures and those locally grown or produced. Wendy incorporates influences from Korea, China, and Thailand into her cooking, as a result of travel to these countries. However, she occasionally enjoys a traditional meal of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, potatoes, and fresh greens from the garden, which is a meal from her youth. Although the foods we eat and our understanding of healthy eating has grown over time, the basic understanding that food means more than nutrients, is key. Food celebrates who we are and where we come from.

This year’s Dietitians Day, I’d like to honour the RDs that have come before me, those I work with now, and those who will come next. I feel honoured to share in the work that dietitians do. RDs have a strong scientific knowledge base, and promote person-centered health, not only through food and nutrition, but also through their passion, commitment, and advocacy for the health and wellness of the communities they serve.

Do you have a story about how a dietitian has made a difference for you?  If so, we’d love to hear about it. Happy Dietitians Day!

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has worked in northern BC for over 20 years in a variety of roles. Currently, she is the Chief Population Health Dietitian and Team Lead for the Population Health Nutrition Team. She takes a realistic, supportive, and non-judgemental approach to healthy eating in recognition that there are many things that influence how we care for ourselves. In her spare time, you are likely to find Flo cooking, reading, volunteering, or enjoying the outdoors.

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