Healthy Living in the North

Westbound with Northern Health Connections: A testimonial on riding the bus

A selfie of Fiona on the bus.

When I moved to the Communications department of Northern Health, I was very excited to take on the Northern Health Connections (NHC) program as part of my portfolio. If you’re not familiar with NHC, it’s Northern Health’s bus transportation service for medical appointments: if you have a medical appointment that requires you to travel to Vancouver but you live in Dawson Creek, you’re able to ride a NHC shuttle to and fro. It’s safe, comfy, and very affordable. I had heard all about this service, but what better way to find out what it’s all about than taking the bus myself! So, in the interest of discovery, I recently rode the bus for the first time: Prince George to Smithers, let’s go!

My trip began at a very convenient spot – the University Hospital of Northern BC entrance, where I was greeted by a cheerful driver named Arlene. Arlene was very helpful and extremely courteous. I took my seat in row 2, which I jokingly called “business class,” because trust me, that will be the closest I come to travelling business class! 

On this trip, there were around 18 people on the bus, two of which were seniors. Did you know that if you’re 60 or older, you are able to take the bus without a medical referral? If you’re planning a trip and unsure of who can ride, check out our passenger eligibility requirements.

We promptly left the hospital at 8:02 am heading west. It was pretty crazy to see a shuttle depart relatively on time, but I could tell it was important to the driver to stay on schedule, which is a great feeling as a passenger. If you do use NHC in the future, make sure you arrive at least 15-20 minutes early so the bus can leave at the scheduled time. We hate to see an unfilled seat!

Now, I’ve spent my fair share of time on buses. I have two boys that play hockey, so my husband and I take turns riding the bus with them. Let me tell you, this was nothing like riding the hockey bus! First of all, the noise level on a hockey bus is so loud you can barely hear yourself think. The only noise on this Connections bus was the adorable little seven-year-old that had us all watching Ella Enchanted. What a lovely change of pace, and more importantly, noise level, from the hockey trips I’m so used to!

We drove right through Vanderhoof; no pickups there! Next stop: Fraser Lake. A quick five minute stop here to drop off Red Cross Equipment, a great perk that NHC offers. I also loved the fact that the buses have tray tables and seatbelts. In this day and age, not too many buses have these extra features. It makes a big difference for comfort in the long run!

We then hit our first real stop – Burns Lake. Time to visit the convenience store for snacks, get a bathroom break, or grab a quick lunch. Within 10 minutes, everyone was back on the bus, happy and full, which proved to me this little break was just the right amount of time.

Now, back on the road, we were headed to Smithers! Everyone with full bellies, it was again fairly quiet on the bus. We made a quick stop in Telkwa to drop off two passengers. Then, 10 minutes out of Smithers, our patient, courteous driver offered to drop me off at my hotel instead of making me walk the 20 minute trek from the hospital. Wow, I was so impressed! I gave Arlene a huge thank you and wished her a Merry Christmas!

All in all, the trip went by very fast. There weren’t too many stops, it was very comfortable, and I was able to just sit back and relax. If you have to make a trip for a medical appointment, I’d recommend you try NHC! I would take the bus again in a heartbeat!

Fiona MacPherson

About Fiona MacPherson

Fiona MacPherson was born in Glasgow Scotland, but has spent most of her life in Prince George. She's spent the majority of her career at Northern Health in the IMIT department as a Project Manager, but most recently moved into the Communications department as the Lead for Northern Health Connections and Special Projects. Fiona loves to volunteer in her community and can be found at the local hockey arenas on the weekends watching both her boys play hockey.

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Terrace Health Unit: Better patient care through integrated practice even extends to how medical supplies are organized

Shelves of medical supplies at the Terrace Health Unit.
Newly organized storage shelves for medical supplies at the Terrace Health Unit.

Patient care is a priority, and little things matter. Kristen Gogag, a Primary Care Assistant at the Terrace Health Unit, and her colleague Hayley Lessard, Health Unit Aide, recently reorganized the storage room at the Terrace Health Unit, combining three storage rooms into one.

The reorganization reflects Northern Health’s new integrated approach. “We’re no longer Adult Mental Health, Home and Community Care, and Public Health. We’re all as one, integrated into one department called Community Health,” says Gogag. “So all the supplies we order are for everyone.”

The integrated practice that the storage room now reflects has also resulted in improved patient care. The extra space gives nurses room to fill baskets or bins with supplies needed for client visits ahead of time. “There’s no searching – it’s faster service for clients,” says Gogag.

As well, items that are used the most often, such as catheters and dressings, are stored where they’re easy to find, also resulting in faster service for clients. Additionally, everything is stored with the oldest items (closest to expiry) at the front of the shelves, to ensure supplies are used in time and not wasted.

“It’s been an absolutely amazing thing for our staff,” says Gogag. “Nurses love it – it’s easier for them to take a look at what we have in stock. It looks clean, it’s clutter-free, and it’s easier to maintain. It’s also so much easier to train people. I can tell them an item’s on the second A cart, 2nd shelf, and they can go right there and find it.”

One shelf of medical supplies.
Now everything is stored with the oldest items at the front, to ensure supplies are used in time and not wasted.

There have also been cost savings: Gogag notes that there has been a significant decrease in the amount of supplies they order.

“We used to have double orders and there would be massive overstock,” she says. “Some stock items would be stored in two different places, but now it’s all organized.”

One of the old storage rooms, which she describes as a former “dumping ground,” is now a large office for all the health care workers, and they love it, says Gogag. “They now have enough space. Now our staff room is for everyone — it makes us want to have coffee together,” she says.

The reorganization was facilitated by Marcia Bertschi, a Quality Improvement Advisor at Northern Health’s regional offices in Prince George. It was based on the “Kanban” system developed in Japanese industry, which features cards and other visual cues to organization and ordering.

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!

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Facility engagement removes silos, improves teamwork in the North

Article submitted by Doctors of BC.

A group of stakeholders at the Change Day event at UHNBC.
Change Day at UHNBC – a group of stakeholders.

Facility Engagement is a provincial initiative of the Specialist Services Committee that aims to strengthen relationships and engagement between health authorities and facility-based physicians, to improve the shared work environment and the delivery of patient care.

Dr. John Smith, Past President of Medical Staff at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia (UHNBC) and an internal medicine specialist, has been a significant contributor to the work of Facility Engagement since its inception, both as a local physician leader and as a member of the provincial Specialist Services Committee (SSC) Facility Engagement Provincial Working Group.  

Dr. Smith says that the initiative is already fixing some challenges at UNHBC. He noted that administrators are responsible for making budgetary and policy decisions, while doctors are responsible for delivering the expenditure through patient care. “Yet none of the groups were talking to each other,” he says, “which quite obviously was not leading to useful results.”

He says that as a solution, facility engagement has created opportunities and incentives for increased teamwork between the doctors and administrators, who no longer work in isolation. Benefits are already showing in the areas of patient care, physician communication, and relationships with staff and administration.

One example involves solving the difficulties of getting adequate physician coverage for hospitalized patients, because GPs need to return to their individual family practices after morning hospital rounds and may be unable to return later in the day if needed. This is a common challenge at hospitals where GPs see inpatients.

“If the physician is only at the hospital between 8 am and 10 am,” says Dr. Smith, “it’s very hard for teamwork, planning and multidisciplinary rounds to occur. As a solution, we consulted with physicians and Northern Health to establish a general internal medicine unit. It’s a completely new structure developed to foster internal medical care, co-led by a doctor and an administrator.”

Under this unit, internists were recruited to look after the needs of hospitalized patients, and take pressures off of other GPs. The internist is able to make multiple rounds of patient visits, and address urgent concerns when needed in the middle of the day. With clear benefits for patient care, Northern Health was more than happy to collaborate on the project, and fund and sustain the new unit. “It’s simply a better system. The patients who are sick are looked after in a better way,” says Dr. Smith.

Another area of change he emphasized as a result of facility engagement has been improvements in physician communication. For example, internists and family doctors felt that each did not understand the other group’s pressures and needs. “With the help of Facility Engagement, they came together, expressed their concerns and agreed on a set of rules. They have found they have greatly improved communication and collaboration.”

A third area of improved collaboration is within the general hospital community, including staff and administration. Last fall, the entire hospital community convened a “Change Day” in which physicians came together with staff and pledged to change something in the hospital for the better.

“For the first time, something like this happened in Prince George and it was very successful,” says Dr. Smith. A total of 296 pledges were collected, placing Prince George fifth in the province. The main outcome of the event was broad collaboration.

Now that internal collaboration is becoming more firmly established in UNHBC, plans are under way to broaden collaborative efforts through a planning session for all hospitals in the region. “At the moment, Prince George has a lot of effect on Fort St. John, for example,” says Dr. Smith, “but the latter has no real say in Prince George.”

Dr. Smith says that facility engagement is a “very sensible initiative. It has increased the number of physicians who are active in hospital improvements and activities. If you told me three years ago that we’d have 40 per cent of physicians involved, I’d say ’no way’, but it is happening.”

And even though he’s retiring soon, Dr. Smith says that with the exciting opportunities that this initiative has created, “I would love to be starting again!”

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.

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Creative new approaches help people in Prince Rupert get occupational therapy

Emily Bennett posing with a spectacular mountain landscape view.Northern Health has a strong vision for creating teams of health care professionals that centre on the person and their family, but making big changes can be challenging. This article is my story of bringing better care to people in Prince Rupert.

I’m an occupational therapist (OT). This means I help people solve problems to make it easier and safer to do everyday things:

  • Self-care: getting dressed, eating, or moving around the house
  • Being productive: going to work or school, or participating in the community
  • Leisure activities: sports, gardening, or social activities[i]

The problem

In 2017, I started working as an OT on the community health care team in Prince Rupert. When I started, there was a large backlog of referrals for me, some from as much as three years ago. It was impossible for me to see everyone quickly enough.

This meant a lot of clients were getting by at home without much support. Some of them suffered falls. Others couldn’t leave their homes because they had pain or problems with mobility. Others weren’t using equipment, like walkers, that could have made them safer.

I wanted to set things up so that people could get therapy earlier, before things got serious. This way, we could head off problems before they happened, and we could help keep people independent and out of the hospital.

But, using the normal channels, I didn’t have time to see all the clients. To solve this problem, I had to think creatively and try new things. I’m passionate about quality improvement, so I enjoyed this process. Here are some of the solutions I came up with.

One-time sessions with clients

The community health care team helped me set up sessions with clients. With their support, I was able to set up one-time face-to-face visits with people who needed help. During the visits, I offered education and gave people advice, such as how to use equipment, and also gave them referrals to community resources and programs.

A couple of months later, I checked in with the clients. They reported that they’d made changes based on my advice, and that they now felt safer at home and more confident. Some of them had started using walkers regularly, some had adapted their home setups, and others had asked for more support from family.

This was a great example of how health care teams can work together to improve their practice and build partnerships with other team members.

Really understanding where people needed help

In collaboration with other OTs across Canada, I created a questionnaire called Occupational Therapy Outcome Indicators to measure people’s overall functioning and quality of life. This made it easier to figure out exactly what areas people needed help with so that we could set goals and make recommendations. It also helped clients understand what I, as an OT, could and couldn’t do.

Working with other health care professionals

I also started three other partnerships with health care professionals with the idea of making services more efficient, enhancing collaboration, and making clients more able to cope on their own:

  • Together with a physiotherapist and rehab assistant, I set up a walker clinic.
  • I presented as a guest speaker to the Adult Addictions Day Program.
  • I presented to a falls prevention group at the Prince Rupert assisted living facility.

These programs let me see more clients at once and provide education and treatment in groups.

It was so beneficial to work with the physiotherapist and rehab assistants on the walker clinic. We completed assessments together and this model offered an opportunity for students that were on clinical placements at the time to learn to work collaboratively with other healthcare providers.

Making changes and trying new things can be difficult, but a preventive approach can help people stay safe, independent, and out of hospital. This also helps reduce the demand on the health care system and, most importantly, gives people improved quality of life and better health.

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[i] From https://caot.ca/site/rfs/res_for_students?nav=sidebar

Emily Bennett

About Emily Bennett

Emily is an occupational therapist from Northern British Columbia. She returned to work for Northern Health after completing her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy in Hamilton, Ontario. She is invested in the well-being of our northern communities and is passionate about quality improvement and health promotion. When she is not immersed in her clinical practice, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her friends, her family, and her dog, appreciating the beautiful nature throughout

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Telehealth bridges the kilometers between patients and doctors: NH Board updated on 5-year plan

Healthcare professionals in a telehealth meeting.Imagine being able to see a specialist without having to travel away from your community. Picture your doctor being able to monitor your condition while you’re in the comfort of your own home. How would it feel to ask for a prescription refill without having to go to a clinic? Telehealth is making these possibilities a reality.

The Northern Health Board of Directors received an update on NH’s 2017-2021 telehealth plan for expanding the clinical use of telehealth to reach more people in more places. Telehealth uses different kinds of technology to provide healthcare right in people’s own communities, with no need for travel. Examples include talking to a specialist by videoconference, sharing tests electronically to another hospital, getting physiotherapy by digital monitoring, and sending data from a monitor (such as a heart monitor) directly to your doctor. Telehealth allows for prevention, screening, diagnosis, determining a course of treatment, and clinical advice – in a way that’s very similar to an in-person experience.

“Telehealth is a virtualization of new and existing services that allows for a more intimate experience than a simple phone call can provide,” said Frank Flood, regional manager of Northern Health’s telehealth department. “By using video and peripheral equipment to extend the reach of clinics and specialists, we reduce the physical and financial burden to our patients.”

A telehealth cart.Many different kinds of health care can be provided by telehealth, including:

  • Mental health and addictions
  • Chronic disease
  • Kidney health
  • Child and youth health
  • Pharmacy services
  • Emergency services
  • Specialist consultations

These services and more will be available to Northern Health patients, depending on where they live (note that not all kinds of telehealth will be available in all communities).

Telehealth will improve care in rural and remote communities, and Northern Health will be partnering with the First Nations Health Authority to use telehealth to benefit Indigenous communities. Telehealth will also strengthen healthcare for the elderly and for people who need services around pregnancy, birth, or childcare. Likewise, it can help people living with chronic disease, mental illness, or addiction.

For the first two years of the plan, financial support for expanding telehealth capacity, including continued investment in staffing, tools, and capital equipment (such as refreshing videoconference suites) will come from NH’s existing operational budget. Funding for increasing the capacity of telehealth will also be sought from outside sources, including the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues.

Overall, telehealth will reduce the impact of distance and time in bringing health services to people and their families – Northern Health is excited to provide this new level of health care support to Northerners!

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.

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Infographic: Northern Trauma Program

An exciting new infographic sums up the challenges and successes encountered by Northern Health’s dedicated Trauma professionals.

A Northern Trauma Program infographic with statistics.

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!

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Hemodialysis Collaboration During the 2017 Wildfires

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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IMAGINE Grants: Agwiiyeet’inim̓ ahl g̱ahlgim̓ – We pass it on to our children

When Liza Haldane, LELP Coordinator, applied for an IMAGINE grant on behalf of the Lisims Early Learning Partnership, she wanted to honour the early learning table’s goals of celebrating their pre- and postnatal families by hosting an event that also raised awareness of the gaps in services for vulnerable members of the Nisga’a Nation: Lax̱galts’ap, Gingolx, Gitlax̱t’aamiks and Gitwinksihlkw (northwest of Terrace). For a goal like this to be achieved, she recognized that including the traditional and cultural values of the Nisga’a region would be very important. The relationships between generations and families would also have to be considered in the planning process and the event would have to carefully balance different traditions alongside the needed pre- and postnatal services. With all that in mind, project “Agwiiyeet’inim̓ ahl g̱ahlgim̓ – We pass it on to our children” was born!

A family hugging and smiling together.The goals of the project and event included:

  1. Honour the families who are expecting or who have newborn infants, and celebrate newborns in a traditional ceremony.
  2. Raise community awareness of the importance of supporting families who are expecting and who have newborn infants.
  3. Work together and practice Nisga’a law of Sayt-k’ilim-goot (one heart; to be united) by sharing services and resources for the betterment of Nisga’a families.
  4. Register families for existing programs and services.

How it happened:

Part of raising community awareness for supporting new or expecting families was done by welcoming entire families and the community to the event. This meant, during the event, families were circled and a prayer was said, making a commitment to support these families in raising their children.

At the event, prenatal families were invited to the front of the hall, honoured with a poem, and given a canvas painting to acknowledge their commitment to bringing a baby into this world. Families with newborns had the opportunity to have their questions answered, via a customized questionnaire that was provided. The babies were welcomed into their community with a beautiful house crest blanket, adorned upon them by their Wilp family members (members of a Wilp are all descendants of a common female ancestor). The total number of babies: 23 altogether!

A creative drawing of a pregnant woman.In order to share existing resources and programs, LELP partners, including early learning centers, public health nurses, community health representatives, Success By Six, and village governments, worked together and were united in delivering the ceremonies. Having partners experience and share equal time in the ceremonies helped balance tradition and incorporate wellness. After the ceremony, registration forms were made available and parents registered their children for the Imagination Library (books to kids program). Service providers spoke during the post-ceremony meal, promoting Dax̱gadim Anluuhlkw (translates to Strong Nest, which is a delivery and development strong start program), Welcome Baby Bags, and other relevant services.

“These events were so emotional. To see two to three generations of families proudly welcoming their babies into the community evoked emotions of happiness, pride, and so much love! At the end, we encircled the families in a community prayer, holding them up with words of strength and encouragement – it was very spiritual and moving.

A Chief got up and spoke at the end of the Laxgalt’sap/Gingolx event – he was full of gratitude and blessings for the ceremony. He said after tonight, he was once again filled with hope for our community, our culture and traditions. It brought many of us to tears.”

-Liza Haldane

What’s next?

As a result of this successful event and the sparked interest in traditional child rearing, organizers delivered a “Yask” workshop (rights of passage) for pre- and postnatal families and are working together to deliver another set of welcome baby ceremonies. These workshops will eventually rotate into smaller communities. The plan is to deliver ceremonies annually!

What is a Northern Health IMAGINE grant?

IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We look for applicants that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities.

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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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