Healthy Living in the North

Excellence in Northern Health nursing: Barb Schuerkamp and Linda Keefe

I recently joined the Northern Health team and one of the first emails that I received was a news release about six award-winning nurses working in northern communities. The nurses received Nursing Excellence Awards from the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia (CRNBC) at a gala in the fall. It was a real treat to be able to spend part of my first few days at Northern Health talking to some of these award-winning professionals.

With so many diverse experiences and communities being recognized, I wanted to know what the award meant to each of the winners. Also, as a relatively new resident in northern B.C., I was excited to hear what these nurses enjoyed most about the region. This week, I’m excited to share what I learned from two of the award winners and next week, I’ll share the insights of two more exceptional Northern Health nurses.

Barb Schuerkamp holding award.

Barb Schuerkamp was one of six Northern Health nurses who were recognized with Nursing Excellence Awards from the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia.

Barb Schuerkamp, head nurse, Tumbler Ridge

What does this award mean to you?

The gala event was very elegant and I had many colleagues and friends who were able to attend, so the day itself was special. As for the award, there is really no greater honour than being recognized by the professional body to which you belong so I was humbled because it is my peers who nominated me for the award. For me, it feels like this award is the gift that keeps on giving because after the gala, the CRNBC shared the letters of support with me so I was able to read about how my peers perceive my work and service, which was a truly special experience.

What do you enjoy most about working in northern B.C.?

For me, it is the people and the geography. Working in northern B.C. allows you to develop close relationships with your working team. In Tumbler Ridge, we have two doctors, two lab techs, and four nurses and we have created a very cohesive team with a lot of mutual respect amongst team members. We focus on getting the job done and everyone checks their ego at the door, which is a great environment to work in. What is especially neat is to see how visiting professionals and doctors on locum also fall into this culture.

In addition to the people, I love the beauty and peacefulness of our region. Northern B.C. is a great place to recharge your batteries and to stay centered. Tumbler Ridge has amazing trails and dinosaur tracks and I see deer ambling up and down our streets all the time. Our whole staff team loves the outdoors and there is lots of team support to meld work and the outdoors. I think that this is unique to northern B.C. What’s more, in October, with the dedication and hard work of a group of citizens, Tumbler Ridge and a large surrounding area were declared an international UNESCO Geopark. We’re only the second Geopark in North America and this designation provides an opportunity for us to pursue a new level of tourism and local engagement that celebrates our history, geography, natural resources, people, and more!

Professionally, I love the challenges of northern B.C. I’ve been a nurse for 38 years and have spent the last 27 with Northern Health. What I like about small northern communities is that you need to be a generalist in order to respond to various emergencies. Because of the incredibly diverse nature of medical situations in northern B.C., I get to be creative and think about things differently, which keeps things very interesting.

Linda Keefe holding award

Linda Keefe was one of six Northern Health nurses who were recognized with Nursing Excellence Awards from the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia.

Linda Keefe, HIV/AIDS prevention program coordinator, Prince George

What does this award mean to you?

This award was a huge honour for me because I was nominated by my peers. For me, this is particularly meaningful because it is my peers who truly understand the complexity of the clients and their environments in which we work. So, to be recognized for the work that I’ve done by folks who know this particular and complex context is really special and validating, as a nurse.

What do you enjoy most about working in northern B.C.?

What I enjoy most about working in northern B.C. is the fact that I get to wear a number of different hats. This is home for myself and my family. Having grown up in northern B.C., I bring several perspectives to my work. I’m a nurse (health care service provider), a member of the community, a health care consumer, a parent, a daughter, and more. Because I approach my work with all of these different hats on, when I’m working with individuals, I’m able to look at their care needs through a variety of perspectives. It also allows for me to consider health care provision through the lens of impact on an individual and the larger community. This ties to the relevance of individualized care, to the bigger picture of health care delivery in northern B.C. I really enjoy this part of my work.


In all, six Northern Health nurses won Nursing Excellence Awards: Lisa Cox, Celia Evanson, Linda Keefe, Leslie Murphy, Barb Schuerkamp, and Valerie Waymark. Visit the CRNBC website to read their full bios.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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  1. […] week, I had the privilege of introducing you to two Northern Health nurses who received Nursing Excellence Awards from the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia in 2014. This week, I am excited to share […]