Healthy Living in the North

Congratulations to NH’s newest Health Care Hero, Barb Crook

Barb accepting her Health Care Hero Award

Congratulations to Barb Crook, Mackenzie’s Health Service Administrator on receiving this year’s Health Care Hero award for Northern Health!

Every year, the Health Employers Association of BC (HEABC) recognizes some of the outstanding and inspiring health care employees and projects with the BC Health Care Awards. This year, we are pleased to share that Barb Crook, a long-time nurse and current Health Service Administrator (HSA) for Northern Health in Mackenzie, BC, has been honoured as NH’s Health Care Hero!

HEABC created a video that profiles Barb’s amazing career, from beginning her nursing career over 40 years ago in New Westminster and working as a front line nurse in Mackenzie for 26 years to completing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and becoming Health Service Administrator for Mackenzie.

I also recently chatted with Barb to offer my congratulations and learn a bit more!

What does this Health Care Hero award mean to you?
I’m very honoured to be recognized. I’ve been at Northern Health for 38 years. I nursed for 26 years and then became manager. I always loved bedside nursing but have enjoyed managing people. If I’m a healthcare hero for Mackenzie, it’s because my staff are just as much a hero as I am. It takes a whole team to keep a place running and give everybody the excellent care that we do.

What’s the highlight of your career?
In recent years, being the manager, I love honouring my staff with long-service awards and staff appreciation. I cook seafood lasagna and a meat lasagna and feed them lunch, and give them their pins and a rose. I always love that day. Everybody loves the lasagna!

It was also exciting in my career to complete my degree and graduate from the University of Victoria when I was 52 years old. I was a nursing diploma girl from the 1970s and always said I would get my degree one day. My son phoned and reminded me the day my youngest graduated. I moved out of acute care to become the health service administrator and signed up at UVIC to do my degree by correspondence; it was a busy first four years in this world!

You’ve been in health care for a long time! What would you say is one thing people can do to improve their health?
I do appreciate the new generation and the boundaries they have in their life. They don’t live to work, they work to live. I struggled with that work/life balance myself. There are many times I should say no for my own health or balance, but I would always jump in the back of the ambulance or work another shift.

On behalf of Northern Health, congratulations Barb!

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of health promotion and community 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 also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, 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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Tammy Rizmayer: Everyday Champion

Photo of Tammy Rizmayer

Tammy Rizmayer goes above and beyond for the patients she works with and is now one of four finalists for this year’s BC Patient Safety & Quality Council’s Everyday Champion Award!

Meet Tammy Rizmayer, one of four finalists for this year’s BC Patient Safety & Quality Council’s Everyday Champion Award. The award celebrates an individual who shows a passion and commitment for improving quality of care, even though his or her role does not necessarily specify participation in quality improvement activities or leadership responsibilities. You can help Tammy win the Everyday Champion Award by voting for her, which I’m sure you’ll want to do after reading about the impact she’s making to northerners in B.C.

Based out of UHNBC in Prince George, Tammy has been the Renal Social Worker for Northern Health’s regional renal program since 2009. In her role, Tammy works with patients suffering from kidney disease and their families, many of whom live outside of Prince George and on low incomes. To reduce the financial burden of travel to Prince George and Vancouver, Tammy has partnered with accommodation and travel providers to help patients and their families travel to and from medical appointments at a reduced cost. She was also instrumental in establishing a $25,000 bursary fund that helps patients overcome travel cost barriers. Tammy is a tremendous resource for her patients as they navigate the medical system.

I had the pleasure of talking to Tammy about what motivates her to be such a positive influence on the lives of her patients:

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born in Quesnel and my family moved to Prince George when I was 5. I have been in the social work field for almost 30 years. I am married and have a daughter and a one-year-old grandson. I enjoy reading and my husband and I are avid snowboarders and skiers and we love ocean fishing.

I began my career as a home support worker and taught parenting skills to at-risk families. I joined Northern Health in 2007 and worked in a variety of departments. I started working in the renal department six years ago. My goal is to ensure that the patients we serve have the services and supports in place to keep them out of the hospital and off dialysis for as long as possible. I get to follow patients through the journey of their illness – from chronic kidney disease, through dialysis, and then through to post-transplant when they return from Vancouver. It’s amazing to see the difference in the quality of people’s lives post-transplant.

What inspired you to get involved in the work that you are doing?

My mom was a big influence for me getting involved in the social work field. She was a single mom raising four children and pursued her degree in social work. She was an instructor in the Social Services program at the College of New Caledonia and taught and mentored me and many of my colleagues. I was also impacted by the people that I worked with in my home support role and wanted to make a difference in their lives. I wanted to advocate for and support people that I was working with and saw getting my social work degree as a way to show them that someone was on their side and wanted them to be successful and healthy.

I’m continually inspired by the patients that I work with and I learn as much from them as they do from me. They are the experts in their own health and their medical condition. They are living their journey and need to tell us what is going on, and we use our expertise to support them.

What are some of the challenges that you have faced in your career and how have you dealt with them?

I deal with patients who are dying and I need to support patients in the clinic who have experienced that loss. Our patients develop close relationships, seeing each other multiple times a week over a number of years, and when a patient dies it has a significant impact on the other patients in the clinic, as well as the staff. It is also difficult to manage the information sharing when someone dies, as confidentiality does not allow us to share that information in the clinic. We have an excellent team of caregivers within the renal team and social work team, and we all look out for and take care of each other.

(Editor’s note –As we were speaking, Tammy realized there was an opportunity for improving the process of sharing information and she plans to work towards improving this process!)

What does being nominated as an Everyday Champion mean to you?

It means that people are recognizing that I love my job and the patients that I work with. It is quite humbling that I am being recognized this way. To have a formal recognition of my work warms my heart. Every one of my colleagues does an extraordinary job and it feels odd to be singled out when you are a member of such a great group of professionals.

If you had to choose one reason for going above and beyond, what would it be?

For me, it’s asking “how can I give back to the patients that I work with and how can I make a difference and be a positive presence in someone’s life?”

What advice do you have for someone who wants to go above and beyond to provide quality care for our patients?

Be genuine and do it for the right reasons. If you want to go above and beyond, you should not care if anyone notices what you are doing. If you are doing it because it is the right thing to do, recognition should not play a part in why you are doing it.

She may not desire recognition, but she certainly deserves it! Support Tammy as the Everyday Champion by voting on the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council website. You can vote every day, once on every device you have!

Marlene Apolczer

About Marlene Apolczer

Marlene is the Quality Improvement Lead for the Northern Interior and is based in Prince George. Marlene is a longtime health care employee and worked in a number of program areas before bringing all of her knowledge and experience to her current role. When she is not working, you can usually find Marlene in a school gymnasium or hockey arena cheering on her teenage sons!

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