Healthy Living in the North

Wellness outside of the meal

As I dietitian, I hear the word “wellness” used so often in an extreme way, I fear the meaning is lost in translation. I define wellness by doing an activity that brings a sense of joy – like sitting down to enjoy a fresh cinnamon bun out of the oven. I see wellness in two contexts: First, how it applies to my work as a long term care dietitian, and second, how it applies to my life at home.little girl in blue dress holding a big leaf

As a long term care dietitian, I often get referrals to see residents regarding their diet (diet simply meaning the food we eat – nothing more). Referrals come in all shapes and sizes; it could be due to “Mrs. Jones’” diabetes, or “Mr. Smith’s” dementia. Whatever the reason for seeing a resident, I always approach the visit from a place of wellness.

This means I might liberalize Mrs. Jones diet so that she can have the monthly birthday cake with her tablemates. Why – doesn’t she has diabetes? Yes she does, however Mrs. Jones finds joy in eating cake and this activity makes her feel included in the festivities of her new home. This is wellness!

For Mr. Smith, I might change his diet to finger foods and speak with the staff about the opportunity to offer him a quarter sandwich and walk with him for a while when he’s walking the halls. Why? Mr. Smith likes to eat, but finds sitting down for a meal confusing and overwhelming. A sandwich while walking is easier, and it makes him feel good while providing him the nourishment his body needs. Nothing fancy, but when he lived alone, he loved eating sandwiches!

It’s incredible to think that even without focusing on what’s being eaten, the very act of eating can have a wellness effect on someone. Which brings me to how this sort of wellness applies to my family!

Our family lives outside of town on a larger lot, but by no means an acreage. In the last five years we’ve welcomed two children, built six raised garden beds, learned how to bee keep with one hive, and as I write this article, my husband – who’s no handyman – is building a coop for the six chicks chirping in our dining room.two kids sitting on a deck enjoying Popsicles

We don’t garden because home grown veggies are healthier; we do it because the act of gardening brings us all joy. We don’t have bees (which I’m terrified of) because the honey is better for you, we do it so we can enjoy it with our friends. We’re raising chickens not for their eggs, but because we want to have animals around our young kids. Our hopes are that this can help teach them empathy – and yes, to be frank, my almost two year old eats three eggs for breakfast. That one is a win-win for everyone!

Whatever it is that you do, or eat, I hope that you can spot the benefits in both the food and the act, and both of these important parts bring you as much joy and wellness as possible!

About Dena Ferretti

Photo & bio coming soon!

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Walk with your Doc: Tumbler Ridge

During the Walk with Your Doc event, Tumbler Ridge was the furthest northern community to participate. With a practicing physician, three nurses, and various other members of the healthcare team, the walk went off with a resounding bang at Flatbed Loops!a woman flexing and smiling while participating.

Community Paramedic Joan Zimmer, who organized the event, was also seen there giving out free pedometers (along with volunteers) and participating herself. Everyone was eager to get out in the beautiful outdoors as the weather had only been getting warmer! It was a rewarding way to support fitness, health, and personal connection to the community.crowd of people participating and waving.

We hope to have many more events like this, and would like to personally thank every person who came out to show their support!

See you next year!

Joan Zimmer

About Joan Zimmer

Joan Zimmer is the 1st Community Paramedic in her area to work with a local health care team bringing free services, health promotion, conducting wellness clinics, and weekly scheduled visits to patients living with chronic disease. Joan works through the British Columbia Emergency Health Service.

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Debbie Strang honoured as Health Care Hero at 2018 BC Health Care Awards

Debbie Strang accepting Health Care Hero award.

Debbie Strang (at left) receiving her Health Care Hero award at the 2018 BC Heath Care Awards in Vancouver on June 25

They say if you want something done, you should ask a busy person do it. Here at Northern Health, Debbie Strang is that person, and she gets things done!

Debbie has worked in a wide variety of roles during her 25-year career at Northern Health, including medical-surgical units, extended care, mental health, and administration. She is a qualified nurse preceptor, and a certified suicide prevention trainer.

In her current role as Health Services Administrator for Quesnel, she leads approximately 450 staff members and has spearheaded numerous initiatives aimed at delivering better health care to communities in BC’s Central Interior.

In 2014, Debbie was asked to take on the dual role of health services administrator for Robson Valley and Quesnel.

Debbie stepped up to the challenge of providing leadership for a large geographical area, building relationships with communities, staff and physicians and ensuring that quality health care services were provided in both communities. Debbie’s leadership was instrumental in the emergency response to the 2017 wildfire season.

For always rising to the occasion and doing whatever is needed to support her community’s health care needs, Debbie Strang is this year’s Health Care Hero for Northern Health.

Huge congratulations to Debbie!

For more information on the BC Health Care Awards, visit www.bchealthcareawards.ca.

Check out Debbie’s Gold Apple video below!

Article based on content provided by the Health Employers Association of BC.

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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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.

 

This article was first published in the spring edition of A Healthier You magazine. Check out the full magazine below! 

 

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 Saskatchewan, 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 Saskatchewan 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!

This article was first published in the spring edition of A Healthier You magazine. Check out the full magazine below! 

 

 

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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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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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Cycling in the north: a Warrior’s perspective

With the arrival of spring many northerners have geared up and hit the roads for this year’s bike season. What better time to reach out to cyclists across the north and get their take on biking in the region? I connected with Karin Piche, Founder of the Wheelin’ Warriors of the North and a Licensed Practical Nurse in Prince George, about cycling, her team, and why she loves biking.

When did you first get into biking?

I had ridden a bike as a kid but it wasn’t until August of 2012, two months after my dear friend Nola passed away from cancer, that I bought my first road bike. My plan was to start a local team in the BC Ride to Conquer Cancer; I’d had the idea for a while but the first step to forming a team was buying a bike and I knew nothing about bikes! Luckily I was able to find some help at a local bike shop and purchased my first bike for the Ride. This is now my sixth year riding!

Tell me a little bit about the BC Ride to Conquer Cancer.

The Ride is a two-day cycling journey through Canada’s Pacific region that takes place every summer. Each rider must raise a minimum of $2500 individually to participate in the event and all funds raised benefit the BC Cancer Foundation.

What made you keep getting on a bike?

My friend Nola. My first Ride to Conquer Cancer in June 2013 was to honour her but it was bittersweet; I got 33 other riders together to form a team that year and on day two of the event, on Nola’s actual birthday, a 16-year-old boy who was participating as a rider was tragically killed. It was traumatic for me and after going through that experience, I thought I was done with the Ride and cycling. The next year the boy’s mother rode and was a speaker at the 2014 Ride. I thought, if she can do it, I can do it. The other thing that keeps me going is the Ride family. Over the years, I’ve met many dear friends and mentors. At this time of year, I tend to get tired from all the planning of our annual fundraiser, the Free Wheelin’ Dinner and Dance. Friends and other team captains will reach out and ask how they can support me so that helps.

How does biking help you incorporate wellness into your life?

I always enjoy the fresh air when I’m out biking. For me it’s therapeutic, and clears my head, and helps me connect with nature. Being under the sky with the earth under me – it helps me enjoy the little things. When I was 49 I decided to go back to school as a nurse. That summer, I graduated as an LPN at 50 and started recruiting a team for the 2013 Ride! The nice thing about having a team is that we train together so they force me to get out more. There’s days I don’t want to ride, yet I always feel good after I go. My team motivates me that way.

Woman standing in street holding helmet.

Karin holding her coveted golden helmet – a special gift for riders who have reached their 5th Ride milestone.

In your words, what are the health benefits?

I think getting outside and being active is some of the best medicine there is! For me though, it’s the giving back and making a difference that is most beneficial. In the beginning, I was doing it for Nola but now it’s so much more than that. I’ve been blown away by the ideas that the team has come up with for fundraising. They’ve shown me that there are endless ways. Since inception in the fall of 2012, the Wheelin’ Warriors of the North have raised over $740 thousand dollars for cancer research. I think we’re very close to bringing that total to a million dollars.

What advice would you give someone who wants to get into cycling?

To anyone looking for a bike, I recommend you ask yourself what your biking needs are. Go to all the local bike shops in your community and get professional advice. Do some research and talk to people who have biked! The local bike shops in Prince George have been very supportive and I’ve definitely seen the cycling community grow since I started my team in 2013. There have been over 120 people become Wheelin’ Warriors over the years. Like me at the beginning, not many come in with a lot of biking experience.

Are there any local resources or routes you’d recommend?

Some of my favourite routes in Prince George include going out to Miworth, Blackburn (it’s so beautiful!), and out to Salmon Valley. In the north we’re very lucky to have rural riding opportunities. We don’t have as much traffic and pollution like the urban riders do. It’s definitely different.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share?

Looking back, it blows my mind how far the team has come and all the good it’s done. To me, everyone on the team is a hero. No matter what their motivation is, they’re all exceptional. I don’t think of myself that way – I just want to inspire people and make a difference.

To learn more about the Ride or the Wheelin’ Warriors of the North, please visit:

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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Happy retirement to Fort Nelson Head Nurse Betty Asher

Headshot of Betty Asher.For 38 years, Betty Asher has been a constant presence at the Fort Nelson Hospital as the nurse manager, caring for staff and patients. At the end of March, Betty closed this chapter of her life and retired from Northern Health.

Born in the Philippines, Betty and her family moved to Vancouver in 1966 when her father was appointed as a diplomat to Canada. Her parents, sister and two brothers all moved to Canada on 4 year diplomatic passports. Living in Canada was a shock to the system for Betty. Not only was the weather colder than she was used to, but adapting to the different culture proved challenging. Betty was not equipped for the cold Canadian winters only owning jackets designed for the warm Philippines climate.

Betty started her career as a registered nurse in 1967 by enrolling in the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) nursing program. This provided an opportunity for her to make friends and immerse herself in Canadian culture. After completing nursing school, Betty was able to apply for a work visa, and later obtain Canadian citizenship. From 1971 – 1979 she worked as a nurse at Vancouver General Hospital on a surgical floor caring for patients and increasing her nursing knowledge and experience.

Betty welcomed her first child, daughter Leah, in 1976, followed by her son Jason in 1979. Betty’s parents, and two younger brothers moved to Ottawa so her father could progress his diplomatic career in the nation’s capital, while her sister went on to become a doctor.

Betty began her career Fort Nelson in 1980 when she moved there with her former husband so he could pursue business opportunities in the area. Fort Nelson quickly became home to Betty and her family. She became the consistent face at the hospital while they transitioned through a variety of administrators during her 38 years there. Betty was responsible for 27 staff at the hospital, a majority of which have been there for anywhere between 30 and 5 years.

Betty has had many accomplishments during her time in Fort Nelson that she is proud of including the development of the home support program, home care program and diabetes educator role. All of which are still going strong to this day and have contributed to delivering quality health care to the citizens of Fort Nelson. She was also instrumental in changing the pediatric unit to a multilevel unit, the chemotherapy program, and the integration of the interprofessional team.

Ensuring a sense of community at the hospital was always important to Betty. Whether it be the Christmas craft fair, raffles, spring events, or potluck dinners at the multilevel care facility. Workplace culture at the hospital was a priority for her as was ensuring the involvement of patients and their families in events and gatherings. Betty also spent time as the Chairman of the Hospice Society in Fort Nelson that has raised lots of money over the years, furthering her contributions to the community.

For 25 years, Betty was married to Dr. Ayalew (Al) Kassa until he passed away in 2013. A native of Africa, Dr. Kassa was only anticipating staying in Fort Nelson for 6 months, but ended up staying until his passing. They had a strong love of travelling, classical music, cooking, golfing, and the community of Fort Nelson.

Retirement is not going to slow Betty down, but instead may keep her even busier. She is scheduled for a knee replacement in Vancouver, and after she has recovered, she is planning on traveling to Africa to see family in Ethiopia, and visit the continent she has fallen in love with. She will continue living in Fort Nelson and will also spend time at her second home in Vernon and visiting her daughter Leah in Sicamous. Betty would like to take piano lessons to further advance her existing musical talents.

On behalf of everyone that has had the pleasure of working with Betty over the years, we wish her well in her retirement and are excited for her to embark on this new phase in her life.

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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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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