Healthy Living in the North

Four-person show in Hudson’s Hope

The four staff members in Hudson's Hope looking at a document.
L-R: Cara Hudson, lab/x-ray technologist; Susan Soderstrom, primary care nurse; physician; Faye Fladmark, primary care assistant.

Think it can’t be done? Think again. One doctor, one nurse, one combination lab/X-ray technician and one assistant are managing 1,200 patients in the community of Hudson’s Hope.

They do it all. This team works together to manage any emergencies in the community before they are transferred to Chetwynd or Fort St. John, as well as provide regular family doctor visits and checkups to their patients. The team is small so they communicate well with one another.

Because the community is only about 1,200 people, the staff know their panel well and have good relationships with their patients.

On a typical day, Susan Soderstrom, the primary care nurse, could be out in the community assisting a patient and then come back to the clinic and need to help the doctor with a major emergency.

Cara Hudson, the lab/x-ray technologist, took combined training aimed towards working in rural communities so that she can provide both services. Normally, two different people would provide these services.

There is one solo doctor in the community, and he treats a wide variety of issues – everything from prescriptions to chainsaw injuries.

Faye Fladmark, the primary care assistant, deals with everything else that comes through the doors. Managing patient records, ordering supplies, etc.

Through collaboration, innovation, and great communication, this incredible team confidently handles anything that comes their way!

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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Our People: Spotlight on Faramarz Kashanchi

Fara on top of a mountain.
Fara at the summit of Mount McKirdy in Valemount, BC.

Faramarz Kashanchi (aka Fara) came a long way to join the Northern Health team! Originally from Iran, Fara moved to Prince George in 2011 and has been at NH for the past six years. Allow us to introduce you to Fara, an NH Outcomes Analyst for Clinical Programs, Planning and Performance Improvement, who has a love of adventure, outdoor activities!

Why did you choose your career?

I love finding stories from data!

What brought you to NH?

When I applied for the outcomes analyst job in Northern Health I just wanted to enter a job related to my statistics degree and as time passed I realized how exciting and helpful it is to be able to combine academic statistics with real world stories.

What would you say to anyone wanting to get into your kind of career?

Selfie of Fara on the lift at Powder King, mountains in the background.
Fara at Powder King, Northern BC

It’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them. It takes time to reach a happy place in a career, and in the beginning you may not know where that happy place is and that’s okay too.

What do you like about the community you live in?

I’ve lived in Prince George for about eight years now and I love the people and nature. Here I learned how to ski, ice skate, snowshoe, fish, ice fish, kayak, canoe, squash, tennis, yoga, golf… I learned all of them from kind and passionate people in this community!

I came for…

I came to Canada and Prince George for good education and a good job.

…and I stayed because…

I found so much more!

A kayak with a fishing rod on the beach at West Lake at sunset.
West Lake, Prince George, BC.
Darren Smit

About Darren Smit

Darren is the NH Web Specialist on the Communications team. He is a creative at heart, with passion for photography, graphic design, typography, and more. During the past 17 years, he has traveled to over 80 countries worldwide, and he lives in Prince George with his wife and son.

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Who are nurse practitioners and what do they do?

Helen Bourque, Northern Health Nurse Practitioner Lead.
Helen Bourque, Northern Health Nurse Practitioner Lead

You’ve arrived at the medical clinic for an appointment. Staff are helping other patients. You’re not sure what their role is on the health care team. Someone calls your name; you’re led into a room and told someone will be in to see you shortly.

A few minutes later, in walks someone, who says, “Hi, I’m the nurse practitioner. How can I help you?”

Who are nurse practitioners and what do they do?

The BC College of Nursing Professionals defines them as “registered nurses with experience and advanced nursing education at the master’s level, which enables them to autonomously diagnose, treat, and manage acute and chronic physical and mental illness. As advanced practice nurses, they use in-depth nursing and clinical knowledge to analyze, synthesize, and apply evidence to make decisions about their clients’ healthcare.”

This advanced level of education gives nurse practitioners the skills and knowledge to give you a wide range of health services, including:

  • Doing complete physical and mental health exams
  • Ordering blood work and diagnostic imaging (e.g., x-rays, ultrasounds), and interpreting the results
  • Diagnosing and treating physical and psychological diseases and conditions
  • Prescribing and monitoring medications and treatments
  • Referring patients to a specialist or to other health care professionals

At Northern Health, we have 35 nurse practitioners (NPs) providing care in 26 communities across the region.

“NPs provide care for patients in a number of different settings. This includes primary health care clinics, First Nations health centres, family practice offices, and more,” says Helen Bourque, Northern Health Nurse Practitioner Lead. “They provide clinical care, but they’re also committed to education, research, and leadership. As a member of the health care team, they work with many people in a variety of ways. They also help prevent illness or disease by providing health education and counselling to patients.”

NPs are a valuable part of the health care team, and they can treat patients with a variety of concerns. The next time a member of your health care team introduces themselves as a nurse practitioner, you’ll have a better understanding of their role and how they can help you.  

For more information on Nurse Practitioners, visit the Northern Health, British Columbia College of Nursing Professionals or British Columbia Nurse Practitioner Association websites.

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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Northern Health staff and physicians volunteer at the 2019 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships

Laura Elsenheimer offering a tissue to Birgit Skarstein.
Laura Elsenheimer, Chief Technologist at the UHNBC Laboratory, offers a tissue to Birgit Skarstein, who had just finished the middle distance cross-country sit ski race. Skarstein, known as “the smile of Norway” won bronze. The athlete has been paralyzed from the waist down since 2009 as the result of a swimming accident in Malaysia.

World-class athletes are being showcased as Prince George hosts the 2019 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships (WPNSC) February 15 – 24 at the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club, and Northern Health (NH) staff and physicians are helping make it happen. 

Many NH staff and physicians are volunteering at the event, donating their time at the Medical and Anti-Doping site, Timing, the Volunteer Centre, Security, the Start/Finish areas, out on the course, and more. As well, Dr. Jacqui Pettersen, a neurologist with the Northern Medical Program, is the Lead for Medical Services.

The event, attended by athletes from 17 countries, is the second biggest for para Nordic sports after the Paralympics. Spectators are welcome – there’s no charge to watch these amazing world-class athletes in action.

Elisabeth Veeken, Volunteer Coordinator for the event, was invited to get involved by the local organizing committee. 

Cheryl Moors helping prep the finish area at the para nordic skiing championships.
Early morning volunteer: Cheryl Moors, RN, Interim CPL on Surgery North at UHNBC, helps prep the finish area on Day 1 of racing.

“I was honoured to be asked. If I’d known better, I would have run screaming the other way!” says Elisabeth, a casual in Recreation Therapy at Northern Health. “It’s a large and time-consuming job, but one that I know will bring me, and I hope others, great satisfaction, when all is said and done.”

Other volunteers concurred. Lory Denluck, an accountant in Northern Health’s Physician Compensation department, enjoyed the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help at such an exciting event being held in my community.”

Elisabeth Veeken standing with Collin Cameron.
Elisabeth Veeken, Volunteer Coordinator for the event, with Collin Cameron, gold medallist for Canada for the men’s sit ski sprints.

Dawn Taylor, a cook at Northern Health’s Rainbow Lodge, wanted to volunteer because she’s a lifelong cross-country skier. “Plus, I’ve also volunteered for Special Olympics and the Caledonia Club for many years,” she says.

And nursing student Melanie Martinson says it gave her “an amazing chance to watch world-class athletes competing in our own home town. It’s so rare to have such a high calibre of athletics in Prince George that it was an opportunity that I simply couldn’t pass up!”

As for Elisabeth, she’s a big supporter of the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club. Volunteering at the WPNSC was a perfect way for her to give back to the club.

“I’m so excited to be part of this amazing event!” she says. 

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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Our People: Spotlight on Cheryl Dussault

Cheryl Dussault sitting at her desk.

Congratulations to Cheryl Dussault for 30 years of service at Northern Health! Cheryl is a nurse practitioner in Prince George. She works at the CNC Health and Wellness Centre and for UNBC Health Services, two clinics that provide primary health care to students.

Why did you choose your career?

As far as I can remember, I wanted to be a nurse. I come from a family of nurses and that’s what I had my mind set on. I came to Prince George from a small community to do the nursing diploma at the College of New Caledonia. I thrive on providing patient care and working in that kind of environment. Eventually, I wanted to further my education and becoming a nurse practitioner allowed me to do that and stay closely connected to patient care. I graduated as a nurse practitioner in 2015 from the program at UNBC.

How did you end up at NH?

There are different opportunities at Northern Health as a nurse. My plan was to return to my hometown when I graduated from the nursing program, but I realized I liked working in the hospital in Prince George. I wanted to get more experience, and 30 years later, here I am. The community definitely grew on me.

What would you say to anyone wanting to get into your kind of career?

If you enjoy being challenged, becoming a nurse practitioner is for you! It was quite a shift for me after being a nurse in the hospital for the majority of my career. Being a nurse practitioner, I have more autonomy and it’s very rewarding. I feel part of a larger community and still get to be part of patient care improvements. I like that I see people now to try to prevent them from going to the hospital. At the clinics at CNC and UNBC, we see a lot of students from other communities that don’t have a family doctor or nurse practitioner in town, and we deal with a lot of international students. They bring a different set of challenges because of language barriers and being from different cultures.

What do you like about living in Prince George?

I like that there’s a variety of services available and that it’s a very welcoming community. When I moved here for my schooling, I was overwhelmed by how nice people are here. There are also lots of resources for people raising a family. It’s large enough so you have what you need, but also close to bigger cities.

What’s your favourite thing to do outside work?

I’m very family oriented, I have two young grandsons. And I like to help at the local soup kitchen.

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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Back to Basics

(Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Northern Health’s Healthier You – Fall 2018 edition on Youth Mental Wellness. Read the full issue here.)

What makes some youth thrive? What makes some youth struggle? Why do some youth flourish in the face of adversity while others grab on to higher risk behaviours and means to cope? While these questions are very common, their answers are very complicated and difficult to address. What we know for sure is that both youth and adults have some power to impact their mental health.

One of the ways we can foster positive mental health is by building a wellness plan that really has a back to basics approach. Key pieces include nutrition, sleep, social connectedness, and delayed or safer substance use practices – all of which we can empower youth to consider in their day-to-day lives. 

Nutrition

Adolescence is a time of significant growth. Youth need to fuel their bodies and minds to feel their best. Nutrition education and food skills training are a great way to engage youth in learning about fueling their body and how the foods we eat impact the way we feel both physically and mentally. Taking some time to build breakfast, lunch, and dinner plans into the schedule can have big impacts. Including youth in the planning and preparing of meals can support skill building and provide opportunity for connection.   

Sleep

A good night’s sleep is important for both physical and mental health. The amount of growing and developing underway in the body and minds of youth requires a great deal of rest. The Canadian 24-hour movement guidelines suggest youth ages 5 to 13 should strive for 9 to 11 hours of sleep, while youth ages 14 to 17 should aim for 8 to 10 hours. You know you are getting enough sleep when you wake feeling rested and ready to take on the day. Lack of sleep can lead to challenges with concentration at school, more aggressive or agitated behaviour, and even avoidance of usual activities. 

Social Connection

Youth benefit from social connection to peers, family, schools, and communities. Connectedness that remains intact as they move through the years help them gain a sense of self-identify. It can be valuable for teens to have different groups of friends (e.g. engaging with sports, arts, and education programs), so that if one peer group becomes inaccessible, there are still people around for youth to relate to.  Establishing connection to people and spaces that are diversity-welcoming and substance free goes a long way to support mental health and preventing onset of substance use. 

Substance Use

A primary piece of substance use prevention is delaying uptake of substance use by youth until later in life. We know that the earlier youth begin to use substances, the more likely they are to develop a substance use disorder later in life. Ensuring access to drug education, engaging in/with activities and environments that are diversity-welcoming and substance free, and have access to a full continuum of substance use services is beneficial. Youth should also consider their intake of caffeine or energy drinks along with alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco and consider safer ways to consume if substances are part of their lives. Reducing the amount of substance use, the frequency of use, and finding lower risk methods of consumption, using less potent products will all contribute to a harm reduction approach to substance use.

Resources

For more information on promoting positive mental health in youth, or to find information on specific mental health and substance topics, please visit Kelty Mental Health online at or Here to Help BC at or the Canadian Mental Health Association of BC.

Stacie Weich

About Stacie Weich

Stacie Weich is the Regional Mental Wellness and Prevention of Substance Harms Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. A passion for people and wellness has driven her to pursue a career in mental health and substance use. The first 10 years of her career were spent at a non-profit in Quesnel. Shen then moved to Prince George to join Northern Health in 2008. Stacie has fulfilled many roles under the mental health and substance use umbrella since then (EPI, ED, NYTC, COAST, AADP, YCOS). In her off time Stacie enjoys spending time with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs, and other family and friends in beautiful northern BC!

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Our People: Spotlight on Kara Hunter

Kara Hunter in a snowy outdoors.

Kara Hunter is a nurse practitioner (NP) in Prince George and has been working for Northern Health (NH) for 20 years – congratulations to Kara on two decades of service! She works at the CNC Health and Wellness Centre and for UNBC Health Services. These clinics provide primary health care to students.

Why did you choose your career?

I fell into nursing as it was convenient and offered at the College of New Caledonia, in Prince George. I never intended to be a nurse, but loved caring for people once I started. Nursing has allowed me to travel the world, balancing family and professional life. Through my years of nursing I have worked surgical, internal medicine, emergency and intensive care.

In my years of critical care nursing, I was discouraged by the sheer amount of preventable chronic disease that crossed my path. In 2010, I started graduate studies at Athabasca University to become a Nurse Practitioner. My goal is to reduce the burden of chronic disease by engaging people to become owners and advocates of their personal health. I currently work full time for NH as an NP.

What’s your favourite thing to do outside work?

Travelling and spending time with my family engaged in some form of outdoor activity – hiking, skiing, camping. Our most recent adventure took us to Australia to live abroad for a year.

How did you end up at NH?

I applied to NH as my husband had work in Prince George. In 1998, I was hired as a casual RN on the surgical wards.

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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Our People: Shelley Bondy

“I feel like I have a purpose here.” Find out what makes Prince Rupert so special for Shelley Bondy (Manager, Perioperative Services and Registered Nurse).

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Advisor – HR at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.

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Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital of Northern BC goes paperless

Two staff standing with a tall stack of chart copies.
Melanie Baker (left) and Teresa Ward with 5 weeks’ worth of chart copies.

Each month, the busy Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the hospital in Prince George prints out thousands of pages of test results and patient charts – 5,500 pages or more.

A new project called Turning off Paper, or TOP, aims to help.

By having staff view the information on computer screens instead, the project will save the time and money spent handling, scanning, filing, and shredding paper. It will also help keep patient info more accurate, because it removes the chance of duplicate paper records.

Northern Health is working closely with physicians and staff to make this a seamless change.

“Most of the staff and physicians have been using the electronic lab reports for some time,” says Darcy Hamel, Manager of the ICU. “To see the drastic decrease of wasted paper and not affect how staff do their job has been fantastic.”

Another positive outcome from this change has been less chance of a medical error.

As Darcy says, “With the computer, you’re always looking at the most recent results. There’s one source of truth and you always see the most updated version.”

This change has also let nurses spend more time with their patients. “The nurses don’t need to leave a bedside,” says Darcy, “because computers are more readily available for them to see results.”

In case of power outages, there’s a “downtime” computer with all the latest data — each unit has one available.

Jesse Priseman, Projects and Planning Manager, says, “The goal is that ICU will be the first department at UHNBC to be completely electronic. It’s been a positive change, and we look forward to making other departments more environmentally friendly in 2019.”

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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Award of Merit for NH Stop Stigma campaign

Tamara Reichert accepting an Award of Excellence at the IABC Awards.

It’s the perfect day for a #ThrowbackThursday to when NH won an Award of Merit in issues management and crisis communication from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) for our “Stop Stigma. Save Lives.” campaign!

Tamara Reichert, communications advisor, pictured, accepted the award on NH’s behalf at the IABC World Conference in Montreal earlier this year. The campaign aimed at reducing stigma against people who use drugs, in response to the provincial public health emergency around overdose-related deaths in BC last year.

Stigma against people who use drugs results in discrimination, impacts health, and contributes to overdoses. By sharing the stories of the 12 people with firsthand or family experiences of drug use, our goal was to focus on building compassion, encouraging empathy, and creating awareness that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Kudos to everyone who worked on this project and the NH Anti-Stigma Opioid Response team! See our videos and learn more about the project on our website here: https://www.northernhealth.ca/health-topics/stigma

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of digital communications and public engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She manages NH's content channels, including social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots, or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care. (NH Blog Admin)

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