Healthy Living in the North

Staff food hamper helping feed seniors in Quesnel

Elizabeth standing next to a box of non-perishable food.

Elizabeth Onciul, NH Care Aide, with one of the food hampers at Dunrovin Lodge in Quesnel.

Staff at Dunrovin Lodge have recognized co-worker Elizabeth Onciul for her dedication to seniors in Quesnel.

For over three months, Elizabeth, a care aide at Dunrovin Lodge, has set up food hampers at work to collect donations for seniors.

“You know the saying, these are our ‘golden years?’ Well that’s not always true,” says Elizabeth. “Our seniors have worked hard and shouldn’t have to worry if they will have enough for tomorrow’s meals.”

The collected food is then donated to a small community group in Quesnel. The anonymous group distributes the food to seniors in low income housing and to over 50 seniors in the community. Staff donate, on average, two large boxes and they’ve started to add bags of fruit on donation pickup days.

“Our staff has been very generous in their donations as we only ask for one non-perishable item per month,” Elizabeth explains.

Elizabeth first got the idea when speaking with her sister-in-law, whose workplace had a similar program set up to help seniors pay for food and medications. Elizabeth got the number of the community group and set up a pickup time.

Great work, Elizabeth, for seeing a need and making a positive impact on the senior community in Quesnel! Also, a big thank you to the rest of the staff in Quesnel for donating food and helping Elizabeth with this awesome initiative!

Brandan Spyker

About Brandan Spyker

Brandan works in internal communications at NH. Born and raised in Prince George, Brandan started out in TV broadcasting as a technical director before making the jump into healthcare. Outside of work he enjoys spending quality time and travelling with his wife and daughter. He’s a techie and loves to learn about new smartphones and computers. He also enjoys watching and playing sports.

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Bringing care to where the people are – nurse on Mobile Support Team brings care to Carrier Nations

Editor’s note: May 6-12 is Nursing Week! This story is one of several we’ll post this week to celebrate and showcase the many different types of nursing roles in Northern Health in honour of Nursing Week!

A sewing machine and handbag.

Jolene organizes community events as a way for people to disconnect from trauma, stress, or anxiety. The handbag making workshop was a big success!

“I know that I need to be flexible in my role. I need to be ready when the people are ready,” says Jolene Pagurut, a nurse on the Mobile Support Team in Quesnel.

Jolene travels to provide mental health and wellness support to three Southern Carrier Nations around Quesnel – Lhoosk’uz, Ndazko, and Lhtako. This Mobile Support Team is a partnership with Northern Health, First Nations Health Authority, and the three nations. The communities have renamed this Mobile Support Team to “Dakelh Wellness.” Dakelh is the Carrier word for Carrier.

“The best part of this position is the people from the communities I serve – being able to help people along their healing journey in a good way,” says Jolene. “The support of Northern Health, the community leaders, elders, and First Nations Health Authority makes it possible to use traditional and creative interventions to meet people where they are at and to help them reach their wellness goals. Really, so much of the success of this program is the partnership with NH and the community leaders.”

Right now, Jolene is the only team member, but works very closely with the team of health care professionals that provide primary and community care in Quesnel. A social worker will be joining Dakelh Wellness on May 15, and they’re looking for a counsellor for the team as well.

Jolene works to help people overcome the discrepancies in the social determinants of health, including things like low-income, housing, access to food, and other challenges with navigating the health care system. She supports individuals who live on and off reserve. Many of them are couch surfing or homeless and she’ll go to help them where they’re at – in their homes, on the riverbank, in a homeless shelter, or on the street.

A selection of baked goods.

Jolene has also gotten people together to make baked goods for the Elders.

This is Jolene’s third year in the role and she’s now better known in the community. She now knows where the people are. Jolene often receives messages from family members who will let her know they’re worried about a family member and tell her where they can find them. Jolene will go to them, wherever they may be at the time, and bring them a coffee or water and sit with them, listen, and help with setting goals with where they’re at. The next time she meets with them, she’ll help them move towards their bigger goals.

“My hope is that when I find them somewhere, I’ll leave them in a better place than when I found them. This often involves using harm reduction strategies and lowering barriers to receiving health care. For example, providing naloxone training and kits, or talking to someone who’s using IV heroin about smoking instead, or giving them new needles,” says Jolene. “The next time I meet them, they might be interested in hearing about the Suboxone program.”

The people that Jolene works with are overcoming so many challenges; many are homeless or live over two hours away from Quesnel. Some individuals have challenges with reading and writing, and Jolene is able to help them with filling out forms or better understanding medications. Jolene will also help by taking them to the pharmacy, or connecting with the pharmacist and making a plan to get the medication out to them in the community. They work to help their patients overcome the barriers in creative and meaningful ways.

“Filling a prescription when the person lives two hours away can be like a relay race – we get the prescription at the pharmacy in Quesnel and can get it on a medical van to one community and another community member can bring it to the final destination. We work hard and make it happen,” says Jolene.

Jolene also organizes community events as a way for people to disconnect from trauma, stress, or anxiety. She held a handbag making workshop last week. The intent was to train the elders to make the handbags and then they would teach the youth.

It turned out that some of the Elders were experts at sewing and were farther ahead than expected; they had to provide additional projects for them to work on. The youth also caught on very quickly and were soon helping the Elders. The event was a huge success, with people showing up at 8 am and staying until midnight. In the past, Jolene has also organized a food-dehydrating workshop and a canning workshop.

“It’s all about listening to what they want to do,” says Jolene.

Some of the other work Jolene does includes managing people with severe and persistent mental illness, working with the methadone doctor and doing Suboxone inductions, and referring individuals or families to treatment. She works with the team of health care professionals in the community and connects patients to the team for other services when needed, and will also attend doctor’s appointments with the patient. She strongly advocates for the patient. If she’s already in the community for a visit and something else comes up, like a dressing change on a wound or a baby check, she’ll use Skype or Telehealth and connect the family to a doctor right away.

“I’m working to help people increase their safety and support. I’m a safe person to talk to who can connect them to more people for physical, emotional, mental, spiritual support. I’m building on what’s already there with such resilient people,” says Jolene.

Bailee Denicola

About Bailee Denicola

Bailee is a communications advisor in the Primary Care Department and was born and raised in Prince George. She graduated from UNBC with an anthropology degree and loves exploring cultures and learning about people. When not at work, Bailee can be found hanging out with her dogs, building her house with her husband, or travelling the world.

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Health Care Hero and long-time nurse retires: spotlight on Nancy Viney

Editor’s note: May 6-12 is Nursing Week! This story is one of several we’ll post this week to celebrate and showcase the many different types of nursing roles in Northern Health in honour of Nursing Week!

Nancy sitting in her office.

Nancy Viney, Regional Nursing Lead for Tobacco Reduction, is retiring after 40 years in a variety of nursing roles.

When it comes to choosing a career, some know exactly what they’re meant to do!

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a nurse,” says Nancy Viney, who is retiring from Northern Health this year. For the past 40 years, she’s worked as a nurse in a variety of places and roles and in Nancy was recognized as a Health Care Hero for her relentless dedication to improving the lives of Northerners through reducing tobacco use.

After high school, she went straight into nursing school and on June 8, 1979 she graduated from the University of Western Ontario (now Western University). Starting in Toronto, she worked her way west, living and working in Sarnia, ON; Calgary, AB; and finally Prince George; it’s been 22 years since she made the move to Northern BC. In 2008, she took on the role of Regional Nursing Lead for Tobacco Reduction for Northern Health.

In your role, what has a typical day looked like?

Kelsey, Nancy and Sabrina posing outside.

L-R: Kelsey Yarmish, Director of Population and Preventive Public Health; Nancy Viney, Regional Nursing Lead Tobacco Reduction; Sabrina Dosanjh-Gantner, Regional Manager, Healthy Living, Chronic Disease Prevention & Public Health Practice.

There isn’t a set day! You’re looking at ways to engage with internal and external partners to help develop systems to reduce tobacco. You go where you’re invited. It’s really important as a regional lead to keep current with evidence that helps people quit smoking and prevent them from smoking to begin with. In this role, it’s important to connect with people who are interested in tobacco reduction – whether that’s provincially, nationally, or even internationally.

What do you like about your job?

I’ve worked in a variety of settings including acute care, intensive care, labour/delivery, home care case management, public health nursing… I’ve also taught nursing! Being a regional lead in population health, you can help people live healthier lives so they don’t need as much acute care.

How does your role impact patients?

By working with internal partners, we can develop systems to ensure that we talk about tobacco use with every patient. We can try to protect them from second-hand smoke and try and prevent them from using commercial tobacco – especially those who are dependent on commercial tobacco products. It’s everyone’s job to do this, not just the regional tobacco lead. There needs to be simple systems in place so it’s easy for staff to have these conversations, without adding more work. We need to address tobacco with every patient in the same systematic way that we ask about other risk factors such as allergies.

Video: In 2017 Nancy was recognized as the Northern Health Health Care Hero for her relentless dedication to improving the lives of northerners through reducing tobacco use.

This year’s Nurses Week theme is “Health for All” which means not just the availability of health services, but a complete state of physical and mental health that enables a person to lead a socially and economically productive life. What are your thoughts?

I like the approach that we want to help people have healthy lives. In the NH strategic plan, one goal is healthy people in healthy communities. I think the theme is in line with that. If we help people and their families avoid health risk factors, it will positively impact their health. This includes helping them avoid substances like commercial tobacco that are hard on their bodies and their relationships. People don’t love to smoke, they love to relieve their withdrawal. Tobacco robs people of their health and their money – I could go on and on!

Would you recommend the nursing career?

Yes, I’d recommend nursing as a career! Throughout my career, it’s offered me access to secure employment, good wages, and lots of variety if you want to try something different. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a nurse. I was mesmerized by the hospital and the uniforms and Dr. Kildare. This year is the 40th anniversary of my graduating class and a lot of us are retiring. I’ve been to a couple of our grad class reunions – it’s nice to get together with old nursing friends. I’ve got friends all over, including one who lives in San Francisco that I’m planning on visiting this fall. We may have aged a little but nothing’s changed! Looking back, I’m really happy with my career decision.

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Public health resource nurse providing support to primary care nurses in Prince Rupert

Editor’s note: May 6-12 is Nursing Week! This story is one of several we’ll post this week to celebrate and showcase the many different types of nursing roles in Northern Health in honour of Nursing Week!

Headshot of Kim Hughes.

Kim Hughes, public health resource nurse in Prince Rupert.

Kim Hughes is a public health resource nurse in Prince Rupert, supporting primary care nurses, by providing them with practice support and mentorship in the area of public health.

“I really love mentoring and teaching. That’s always been an area of passion for me. When I’m able to do that and help people develop – that’s exciting for me,” says Kim.

Public health includes areas such as: provincial immunization programs (all ages); early childhood support for child health clinics and child health assessment; care during and after pregnancy; harm reduction; communicable disease (e.g., measles); school programs; and sexual and reproductive health. All of these areas support a complete state of physical and mental health that enables a person to lead a socially and economically productive life.

One of many public health resource nurses across the Northern Health region, Kim provides support to nurses, both experienced and new, to the practice area of public health. She works closely with them to develop orientation plans and supports them with their practice. She’s there to answer any questions and works alongside registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs) in clinics when they’re new and learning. She provides information to nurses to keep them up to date on best practices, new practice changes, and regional or provincial programs in the various areas of public health.

Kim started in her role as a public health resource nurse when the role was first created at Northern Health in 2016. Preventive public health leadership provides guidance and then Kim is able to develop the role at a community level.

“Because I’m one of the original public health resource nurses, I’ve been able to be really involved in the development of the role and how it looks,” says Kim.

Kim walks alongside the nurses in their own practice and helps them develop their role. She gets to watch them become well-rounded primary care nurses – able to provide all services to their community. Kim can also sit in with a primary care nurse when they see a patient and provide in-the-moment support in more difficult situations.

Kim hopes that this story will show nursing students that there are so many nursing positions out there that go beyond providing direct care to patients. She encourages all nurses to learn about a variety of nursing roles and to see how nurses can support other nurses to provide the best care they can!

Bailee Denicola

About Bailee Denicola

Bailee is a communications advisor in the Primary Care Department and was born and raised in Prince George. She graduated from UNBC with an anthropology degree and loves exploring cultures and learning about people. When not at work, Bailee can be found hanging out with her dogs, building her house with her husband, or travelling the world.

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Providing care from “cradle to grave” for people in McBride

Editor’s note: May 6-12 is Nursing Week! This story is one of several we’ll post this week to celebrate and showcase the many different types of nursing roles in Northern Health in honour of Nursing Week!

Headshot of Susan Umstot.

Susan Umstot, Primary Care Nurse (PCN) in McBride, BC.

Susan Umstot is a primary care nurse (PCN) in McBride, providing health services from “cradle to grave.” Susan started as a PCN in January 2018 and she loves the variety in her work, which includes education during and after pregnancy, newborn baby visits and checks, immunizations, school health, health fairs in the community, home health visits, palliative care, STI testing, well-women checks, and a caregivers support group.

“I really like the variety in it. I can see a newborn baby and then a palliative patient and then teach something about health at a school – all in one day!” says Susan. “I think my favourite part of the role is the school health part. And I like the newborn baby visit part and the women’s health care.”

Susan likes the health promotion part of the role and that it’s about keeping people healthy and making healthier choices. She sees patients from Dome Creek to Dunster, and likes working with so many different people in varying states of their health. She credits her team lead, Karen Desormeau, who is also a nurse, for providing her with such great support in all areas of her role.

“I like to think that parents and kids and people of all ages see me as someone who is approachable – who they can ask things about their health to,” says Susan.

In her role, Susan works to make sure health care is accessible to all. Depending on what the patient’s situation is, she will either visit them in their home, or they’ll come to the McBride community health services building. If a patient is receiving home care services, or it’s a newborn baby check or a palliative patient, Susan will go where they are to provide care.

“Being in your home is the best place to be,” says Susan.

The community health services building is a private space to go see Susan for an appointment. It isn’t attached to the hospital or the doctor’s office (it’s across the parking lot) so there are not as many people in the waiting room. In a small community like McBride, people may wonder about the purpose of your visit; the community health services building isn’t as front and centre as the waiting areas at the hospital or doctor’s office.

The role of the PCN is very patient-centered. It’s about working and thinking to see what works best for the patient and their family.

“A lot of what I do is support the complete person. When I speak with people, I always go back to all parts of their health,” says Susan. “For example, when I teach about sexual health in schools, I start by talking about their brains. Your brain needs to be healthy to make good decisions about your life.”

Overall, Susan wants to help the people of McBride live a happy and healthy life, and provide them with the health information and options to do so.

“I love to help people make a healthier choice – in whatever aspect of their life that may be,” says Susan. “It really is about the whole life spectrum, and helping people making a health choice by giving them the information they need.”

Bailee Denicola

About Bailee Denicola

Bailee is a communications advisor in the Primary Care Department and was born and raised in Prince George. She graduated from UNBC with an anthropology degree and loves exploring cultures and learning about people. When not at work, Bailee can be found hanging out with her dogs, building her house with her husband, or travelling the world.

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Nurse working to make life better for seniors at Parkside Care

Editor’s note: May 6-12 is Nursing Week! This story is one of several we’ll post this week to celebrate and showcase the many different types of nursing roles in Northern Health in honour of Nursing Week!

Selfie of Kim Magnant and Amanda Wright.

L-R: Kim Magnant, LPN and Amanda Wright, LPN

“Being a nurse is a great, well-rounded and good feeling job. Anyone would feel that way if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing in life,” says Kim Magnant, a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) working at Parkside Care in Prince George.

Kim has been an LPN for 11 years, and is a graduate of the College of New Caledonia in Prince George. She’s always enjoyed working with seniors, and worked as a care aid prior to becoming a nurse.

Some of the tasks that Kim does on a regular basis include dressing changes, observing resident overall health (mental, physical, and emotional), assessments, taking and monitoring vitals, and medication administration. She works as a member of a health care team, which includes doctors, dietitians, social workers, care aids, nurses and occupational therapists, who all work together to provide care to the whole person.

“I work every day with the other nurses and care staff to provide the best possible care we can,” says Kim. Nurses also provide emotional and social support, sometimes just as much for the families as for the patient.

Kim strives to be inclusive of each resident, involving them in activities as she can. There is a project going on right now at Parkside Care that tries to bring back a sense of purpose to those residents who are interested, giving them the opportunity to be involved in small tasks like folding laundry or helping out at mealtime. Most of the residents were used to being busy their whole life and welcome the chance to keep busy and active.

The residents also enjoy doing creative activities and there are lots of programs at Parkside Care that they can participate in. There’s a Get Fit program, a seated chair exercise class with range of motion movements and light weight exercises, and since Parkside Care is located right next to Rainbow Park, the residents also love going for walks in the park or sitting outside in the courtyards. Lots of the residents work together to help each other get outside.

“I just love nursing,” says Kim. “It’s fulfilling and I love the connections I make with families and residents and coworkers.”

Kim enjoys working with seniors and knowing that they’re stable in their situation.

“I’m just a small piece in the last part of their journey and I like making it feel as happy and special as it can be,” says Kim. “I’m happy to go to work and put smiles on people’s faces.”

Bailee Denicola

About Bailee Denicola

Bailee is a communications advisor in the Primary Care Department and was born and raised in Prince George. She graduated from UNBC with an anthropology degree and loves exploring cultures and learning about people. When not at work, Bailee can be found hanging out with her dogs, building her house with her husband, or travelling the world.

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I came for… and I stayed because… with Davey MacLennan

Three men standing next to the river with fishing rods.

Davey fishing with his dad and brother during one of their trips to Canada.

I’ve recently noticed that many of the conversations I’ve had with multiple Northern Health staff have uncovered a common theme! These staff members were anticipating coming to the North for a short amount of time, but have stayed for a lot longer. Meet one such person, Davey MacLennan, Regional Manager, Clinical Education based in Terrace. Davey is from Elgin, Scotland and came to Northern Health in 2004.

I came for…

My wife’s father is from Newfoundland and we were looking to move to Canada. I am a registered psychiatric nurse and at that time only western provinces recognized my profession. We found the Lower Mainland too busy, and my wife wanted to live by the ocean. Northwestern BC was our obvious choice. I was alerted to a position at the psychiatry unit in Terrace, and was successful! The lifestyle in the area appealed to us. I could fish, hunt, and enjoy outdoor activities.

I stayed because…

Davey and his family.

Davey, dressed in his Scottish kilt, attending a celebration with his wife, son, and daughter-in-law.

We were only intending on staying in Terrace for two years, then we wanted to move on to somewhere else for a new Canadian experience. In 2005, we were on vacation and quickly realized that although Terrace may not have everything you want, it has everything you need. It is a great place to put roots down. Over the years I have built fantastic friendships and gotten involved with different things in the community.

I have received a lot of support from Northern Health with my career development. I have had great leaders who have provided valuable mentorship; having supportive leaders makes it easy to come to work every day. Staff are dedicated and have a “can do” attitude no matter the situation. They step up to the plate and help when asked. I enjoy being part of the Northern Health family and the professional relationships I have built.

We are very settled in Terrace. My wife works at Mills Memorial Hospital as a booking clerk in nuclear medicine. We have property and raise pigs, chickens, and turkeys. Our youngest son lives in Terrace with our granddaughter and we enjoy spending time with them. Terrace is our home and we are happy to have settled here!

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 our Northern physicians

Physician residents in a simulated OR setting.

A group of residents participating in an OR simulation in Fort St. John.

Happy National Physician’s Day!

Join us on this day to recognize all the physicians who have contributed to the health of our Northern communities. We appreciate your commitment and dedication to your patients and the health of our families.

Please join us in thanking the physicians who work in the North!

A group of physicians sitting around a table.

A physician learning group sessions being hosted by Dr. Rob Olson, BC Cancer Centre for the North.

A group of people listening to a presentation.

Dr. Collin Phillips presenting at the 2019 Jasper Retreat and Medical Conference.

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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What brought you to the North? A Q & A with Shannon McRae, Nurse Practitioner

Shannon posing at UNBC.

Shannon at UNBC in Prince George for the Nurse Practitioner Face-to-Face Gathering in April 2018. “It was a great opportunity to connect with my colleagues from across the region,” she says.

Shannon McRae, a family Nurse Practitioner (NP), is a relatively new graduate, having been an NP for over a year. She works in Fort St. John in a private family practice with a team of physicians.

What do you like about being an NP?

I initially went to school to be a registered nurse, then worked in the emergency department for seven years. You don’t spend a lot of time there getting to know your patients — you treat the ailment that brought them in, then send them home. I wanted the opportunity to be more involved in the long-term care of patients.

As an NP, I get to spend more time with patients, getting to know them and helping keep them healthy. It lets you have an impact in their lives, and you feel like you’re improving the overall health of the community.

Shannon standing on a cliff above the river with a fishing pole.

Shannon fishing in the Besa River in Redfern-Keily Provincial Park, a remote area north of Fort St John that can only be reached on horseback or by using all-terrain vehicles.

What made you choose Fort St. John?

I’m from Fort St. John and I grew up here. I enjoy the size of the community and the type of lifestyle you have living here.

You have quick access to lots of outdoor activities including camping, hiking, cross-country skiing, and river boating. Our airport has multiple flight options so if you like to travel, you can easily get to your destination. Plus, my commute to work is only five minutes!

What do you like about working in Fort St. John?

I’m fortunate to work with a great group of health care providers!

Our physicians are really supportive, and they’re a great group of people. I enjoy working with our interprofessional team too – it’s a group of nurses, dietitians, social workers, and mental health professionals.

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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Getting ready for fire season

The NH Emergency Management team posing.

The NH Emergency Management team. L – R: Amber Frizzi, Coordinator; Jim Fitzpatrick, Director; and Jana Hargreaves, Coordinator.

Northern Health’s Emergency Management team is working hard to make sure the North is prepared for possible future fire seasons.

Using “lessons learned” from the 2017 and 2018 wildfires, they’ve created evacuation guides for hospitals, care homes, and other Northern Health facilities, and they’re reviewing and updating emergency response plans as well.

They’re also working with the City of Prince George on a mock evacuation exercise for May 2019 — this will be an annual event.

As well, they’re collaborating with the provincial emergency group and Interior Health on “mutual aid” arrangements to use each other’s emergency preparedness staff if needed.

Finally, Northern Health is taking part in “spring readiness” forums for emergency decision makers throughout the North, with the aim of ensuring everyone’s safety in an emergency.

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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