Healthy Living in the North

Telehealth shrinks the distance between you and your health care provider

Gord looking at a laptop with his health care specialist on the screen.

With telehealth, a health care appointment is a few key strokes away – like this appointment between Gord in Prince George and his speech language pathologist in Vancouver.

Have you ever driven to Vancouver for a doctor’s appointment that only took 10 minutes?

Apart from the time spent on the road, you probably had to miss work or other activities, and arrange care for loved ones — all while dealing with the stress and cost of travelling.

But things are changing.

It’s now possible for Northerners to visit distant health care providers from their local doctor’s office or health care centre — or even from their own homes.

Telehealth, a service that lets patients connect with health care providers over live video, is available in many Northern BC communities.

Gord Simmons, a client from Prince George, likes the telehealth option. His speech-language pathologist, Lisa, is in Vancouver, but he can now do appointments with her from his own living room.

“It’s very much a positive experience to do it from home,” he says. “It’s really convenient.”

His wife, Karen, also likes the program. “It’s a more relaxed environment just being at home,” she says. “It’s helpful for me to listen in, too, because I know what to do in ‘homework’ with him.”

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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Success in Smithers: How cross-training and staff education has led to a fully staffed, skilled primary health care team

Members of the Smithers primary health care team are lined up, smiling, in their office.

Members of the Smithers primary health care team. L-R: Mike Oaks, Primary Care Nurse; Heather Olsen, Primary Care Assistant; Sandra Stanley, Team Lead; Stacey Pederson, Primary Care Assistant; Sam Bosscher, Primary Care Nurse.

Over the last couple of years, the primary health care team in Smithers has been struggling to get to a point where they have a complete number of staff. Today, we’re happy to say that all primary care nurse (PCN) positions are full!

What is a primary health care team and what’s the latest on the Smithers team?

A primary health care team is composed of nurses, social workers, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, dietitians, a diabetes educator, and other professionals who work together to support patients in the community.

Out of the 11 full-time and part-time staff who make up the PCNs on the Smithers primary health care team, only three team members have worked on the team for more than 18 months. That means that 72% of the team are new staff. Right now, there are two casual employees that are in permanent positions, and only one of them has been in Smithers longer than 18 months. The team has hired nine casual PCNs over the last 18 months and nearly all of them have become permanent employees or are in temporary positions.

PCNs and primary health care are pretty new… what’s happening with training?

I spoke with Sandra Stanley, Team Lead for the Smithers primary health care team, to find out how she’s cross training the new staff.

“The ‘how we did it’ is partially the people that are here. They’re amazing people – intelligent, kind, compassionate, and motivated to give great care,” says Sandra.

When Sandra started as the Team Lead, many skilled staff had left and new staff members were struggling. They needed support to provide the full range of expected services. Smithers faced many challenges getting to this point, but they now have a stable team and good morale.

“I believe now, from talking with nurses, that the morale has improved, and they have become a tight and supportive team that work really well together, and genuinely like each other,” says Sandra. “They’ve picked up the education with enthusiasm and [they’ve] been keen learners. They’re intelligent, compassionate, and good critical thinkers. I count myself as fortunate to be leading such a team and the credit for what I see as success is due in very large part to them and their excellent qualities.”

Sandra believes that, wherever possible, a key to training is modeling the skill for others. Along with “walking the talk,” here’s how the Smithers team is tackling training for different aspects of their roles:

Palliative care
Palliative care is a “way of being” with people. It requires nurses to have the ability to assess the state people are in emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically. It can’t all be taught in a classroom. The skills are learned through experience, and being with other nurses who can mentor those skills. It was important to Sandra to pair less experienced nurses with others who have strong palliative care skills. The team was fortunate to have a primary care nurse with strong palliative care skills come back and join the team after moving away to work elsewhere. This was a game changer in many respects and helped provide that knowledgeable, consistent presence the nurses needed.

Long-term care needs assessment
Sandra’s team is focused on training related to completing the resident assessment instrument (RAI), which a requirement for a patient to go on a wait list for long-term care. With more primary care nurses using the RAI, people are assessed as needing long-term care and put on a wait list earlier. The team’s health care aides supports community members until they are ready to transition to a long-term care home. Health care aides are an essential part of a community program and are critical to supporting patients who are at home, waiting to enter a long-term care home.

Diabetes education services
After the diabetes educator in Smithers had to decrease workload, waitlists for service were longer than usual. In response, two nurses are training to help educate new diabetics to give insulin, manage blood sugars, and decide what to do when the sugars are high or low. There’s been an incredible amount of training and cross-training done in general, as well as new diabetes work taken on by the nurses due to the back log of diabetes referrals.

Mental health services
To support mental health patients in Smithers, there are cognitive behavioural therapy groups that include members of the primary health care team. These teams teach people with mental health issues how to cook, shop, bank, take care of themselves, and more. The other team lead in Smithers, Cynthia Rondeau, works very hard to ensure there is quality mental health support for clients.

Cross-community support

When the team has struggled, they’ve received help from Hazelton and Houston, and they helped those communities in return. These three communities are working well together and being generous when it comes to helping wherever they can.

“The better connected we are with the people in the community, the better we can prevent admissions to the hospital and visits to the ER that are unnecessary,” says Sandra.

Sandra’s work, helping her team learn and grow as primary care nurses, has been instrumental to providing Smithers with skilled health care professionals.

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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Humble brag: Thank you NH Connections passengers!

A man leans on an NH Connections bus.

From our drivers and staff, “thank you!”

Since its inception in 2006, Northern Health (NH) Connections has had tons of great customers. This past year (2018), we served 15,158 riders, an increase of 15% from 2017!

At NH Connections, we’re always searching for valuable feedback from passengers. It helps us improve by letting us look through the eyes of a rider to see what’s important to them. While we’re searching for critiques from clients, we’d be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn’t revel a little in the wonderful notes and messages left behind by so many happy passengers!

Here are some of our favourite passenger reviews:

  • “This bus service is one of the best things done for people in our area of the province. Great service, wonderful drivers, thank you all so much!!”
  • “I want to send a huge thank you to our NHC driver. l took the bus to and from Quesnel and she made the trip enjoyable and relaxing. Coming home, the roads were bad, but she handled it like a pro. She treated everybody like family and was very friendly and helpful. Thank you. l can see you love your job and are good with people. Keep up the good work.”
  • “Professional courtesy is definitely number one. The driver herself welcomed you aboard, with humour and fun. While she was thorough, never once was there a feeling of being ignored. She introduced herself as Arlene, and said to sit back and relax. She told us to enjoy the scenes, encouraged safety, and to please buckle up. Arlene mentioned there would be more passengers along the way, and that we may need to share. Well, can’t say enough about driver Arlene. Northern Health [Connections] takes away the stress of travel, knowing the passengers on this bus are already dealing with issues of health, and stressed quite enough. So I tip my hat to that wonderful trip to Vancouver and driver Arlene. Thank you once again to Northern Health for their dedication and professionalism.”

It’s these kind words about our service and drivers that inspire us, every day, to do the very best we can for riders and their health. Thank you so much, passengers! We hope to be there for you in the future, if you need it!

For information on our drivers, how to book trips, and more, please visit: nhconnections.ca

Fiona MacPherson

About Fiona MacPherson

Fiona MacPherson was born in Glasgow Scotland, but has spent most of her life in Prince George. She's spent the majority of her career at Northern Health in the IMIT department as a Project Manager, but most recently moved into the Communications department as the Lead for Northern Health Connections and Special Projects. Fiona loves to volunteer in her community and can be found at the local hockey arenas on the weekends watching both her boys play hockey.

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I came for… I stayed because… with Rai Read

Rai and her horse are check to check. The sun beams into the picture.

Rai spending quality time with her horse, Macy, on a sunny day.

Recently, I’ve noticed a common theme in my conversations with Northern Health staff! Many staff members planned to come to the North for a short time, but have stayed for a lot longer. Meet one such person: Rai Read, Elderly Service Clinician, who’s based in Terrace. Rai is from England and came to Northern Health in 2011.

I came for…

Honestly, my husband and I came to Terrace thanks to Google Maps. We immigrated to Canada in 2008, and originally moved to Edmonton. Our picture of Canada was a country filled with mountains and trees, and that was not our experience there. Edmonton wasn’t the place for us, and we decided to see what opportunities were available elsewhere.

Two women are horseback with the backs to the camera. They're in a flat, sandy area with mountains and blue sky in the background.

A horseback ride with friends near Thornhill.

We wanted a smaller community with outdoor space to raise our son. Since we were unfamiliar with the area, we spent time looking at photos and maps to learn more. After searching online, we found job postings in Terrace, and I was the successful applicant. If it wasn’t for Google Maps and the internet, I never would have found out about Terrace and moved here.

I stayed because…

For me, a big factor is the innovation at Northern Health. They are constantly looking for ways to change and improve. Leadership supports innovation and encourages staff to learn new things. We have developed new programs and processes that have been extremely beneficial for patients and staff. Having rural and remote communities means that we need to be really creative in how we deliver care, and using telehealth allows us to easily collaborate with different professions and experts.

A boy of approximately 10 stands in front of several paintings, which are hanging on the wall.

Rai’s son Dylan at the Terrace Art Gallery attending local artist Mitchell’s Brager’s exhibit.

At Northern Health, we are fortunate to have lots of strong female leaders. From our CEO, Cathy Ulrich, to my direct manager, Clare Hart. As a woman, it makes me feel empowered knowing our organization supports females to grow and develop. I’m lucky to have such a great manager, and I’m proud to be part of her team.

I’m not into fishing, kayaking, or skiing, but Terrace has much more to offer. We have a fabulous farmers’ market, and options for arts and culture. It’s a great place for our son to grow up. There’s truly something for everyone, and I have no intention of going anywhere else.

 

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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3D1P: Drugs, Dinos, Dinner, and a Pig… Another unique medical conference in Tumbler Ridge

The conference's organization team waits for participants at the registration booth.

The conference’s organization team waits for participants at the registration booth. Left to right: Dr. Charles Helm, Heather Gummow, Jayleen Emery, and Kirsten Quinlan.

The third annual 3D Conference – Drugs, Dinos, and Dinner (now 3D1P for the one pig (1P) that was roasted) was held in Tumbler Ridge from May 31-June 2, 2019. Nearly 70 physicians, pharmacists, and allied health professionals registered. On the Saturday, that number swelled to over 120 with spouses and families joining for the pig roast at the Lions Flatbed Creek Campground. To the best of our knowledge, this was the largest ever medical gathering in northeastern BC.

Conference participants were treated to ten hours of stimulating talks featuring:

  • Dr. Tom Perry, Dr. Rita McCracken, and Stephanie Song of the Therapeutics Initiative. The Therapeutics Initiative is a UBC-based think tank that rigorously analyzes evidence on which medications work and which don’t.
  • Internationally renowned speakers Dr. Tom Finucane and Dr. Robin McKenzie journeyed all the way from Boston, Massachusetts. They delivered outstanding presentations on matters like antibiotic overuse and how routine, current treatment of Type 2 diabetes is open to criticism.
  • Dr. Onyema Ohiaeri spoke about ways to address the opioid crisis.
  • Dr. James Wilkie continued the tradition of a medical resident presenting a polypharmacy case.
  • Charissa Tonnesen and Dr. Charles Helm presented on local Tumbler Ridge medical and health-related initiatives.
  • Seven resource booths provided extra learning opportunities, all completely free of pharmaceutical industry involvement.
A female presenter is in front of a room of participants. A screen is behind her with her presentation slides.

Dr. Robin McKenzie presenting to the participants.

There were also social activities surrounding the educational part of the conference. They had a healthy living and activity focus, with tours to Kinuseo Falls, morning fitness runs and swimming, Zumba classes, and, for the kids, it was all about Dinosaur Camp! Museum staff provided them with an unforgettable experience over two mornings. All in all, a unique learning environment was created, cementing the reputation of Tumbler Ridge as a family-friendly conference destination with a special ambience.

At the end of the memorable weekend, participant evaluation forms reflected the high satisfaction rate for the conference. There were even suggestions that 3D1P should become a provincial event in 2020.

Dr. Ronald Chapman, Northern Health’s Vice President of Medicine, was one of the special guests at 3D1P. After the event, he commented that: “The 3D conference was very well organized and the lectures were exceptional. I was delighted that I attended.”

It takes a community to put on a conference like this, and well over 25 volunteers went the extra mile to make it happen. The organizing committee (Charles Helm, Heather Gummow, Kirsten Quinlan, and Jayleen Emery) are enormously grateful to all of the volunteers and businesses that contributed.

For more information, please contact:

Charles Helm

About Charles Helm

Charles Helm has been a family physician in Tumbler Ridge since 1992. He immigrated to Canada from South Africa in 1986. He is the author of seven books on the Tumbler Ridge area, two on the history of the northern Rockies, and one on dinosaurs for kids. He has been an active explorer in the Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society, designing, building and maintaining hiking trails. His palaeontological interests, expressed through the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation, have led to numerous fossil discoveries and scientific articles. He was instrumental in the successful proposal that led to the creation of the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark, the newest UNESCO site in western Canada. He and his wife Linda have two children, Daniel and Carina.

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I came for… I stayed because… with Clare Hart

Clare smiles into the camera. Her brown and white horse is directly behind her. Mountains and forest is further in the background.

Clare with her horse, Graffiti.

If you’ve been following this series, you’ll be familiar with the common theme I’ve uncovered among many Northern Health staff: many of them had planned to come to the North for a short time, but have stayed for a lot longer! Meet one such person, Clare Hart, Director of Specialized Services for the Northwest, based in Terrace. Clare is from England and came to Northern Health in 2009.

I came for…

I was born in a coal mining village in the Northern part of England. It’s an industrial area that is not very clean. Growing up, I always dreamed of living somewhere green, with fresh air and nice woodlands.

I studied to become a registered nurse and had worked in different emergency room positions in England. When we were looking to move, there were a few different countries that needed nurses. English is the only language I speak, so that eliminated quite a few countries. Another big factor was that I wanted the time difference to allow me to talk to my family in England at somewhat normal times.

At that time, I had three children and wanted them to grow up in an area with different opportunities and be close to nature. We chose Terrace because of the job opportunities and natural beauty of the area. We’re surrounded by mountains, rivers, lakes, and an abundance of fresh air.

On top of a mountain, Clare smiles in front of a helicopter. She is surrounded by snowy mountains.

Taking a helicopter ride around Terrace to see all the scenery.

I stayed because…

My children have easily settled into life in Terrace. The schools are smaller and my children felt very welcomed from the moment we arrived. Community members have embraced us, and we have built a network of friends that feel more like family.

I really enjoy the outdoors and in the winter I like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. I love that I can pack a picnic and drive in any direction and have quality time outdoors with my family. We have a dog, horse, and a variety of other animals that are a huge part of my life.

I have been able to advance my career in Terrace. I started out as an emergency room nurse at Mills Memorial Hospital and have transitioned to a psychiatric nurse, team lead, manager of mental health and substance use, and now director of specialized services. I feel extremely appreciated by my team and other colleagues. I really appreciate that they always make me feel welcome, like I was born and raised 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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Getting to know our region

Person standing on top of mountain with a view of mountain peaks

One of many mountain vistas in northern B.C.

So I’m a Northern Health recruiter now. But what the heck does a recruiter do? That was my first question when I started this new role a few years ago. My first instruction was to “get to know your region, get to know your people” and I was asked to do this in whatever way made sense to me. I had never been to northwest B.C. and had no idea what I was signing up for. What I did know was that I had to figure out why people would move there and, more importantly, why they love it so much and want to stay there.

Person walking along a glacier

From beaches to glaciers, northern B.C. is a spectacular place to live, play, and work.

When I asked my managers what they liked to do, almost everything was related to the outdoors. Coming from southern B.C., I thought: yeah, yeah, go outside to a crowded campground where you are shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers, fighting over space on land and on the water to maybe catch a two-pound rainbow trout before you go home after a long weekend. Boy, was I wrong. The northwest was different. Here, nature and outdoor activities are part of everyday life, not just long weekend ventures. Getting to know my area and my people as a new recruiter soon consisted of me asking my colleagues what they liked to do in their spare time after work and then awkwardly responding with: “Sounds awesome! Can I come?”

Young woman holding a fish in a boat.

Taking a fishing adventure wasn’t necessarily confined to a special occasion – it was part of everyday life!

This simple question – “Can I come?” – culminated in some of the most exciting adventures of my life. I have hiked up spectacular mountains with 360 degree views of jagged mountain ranges and islands. I went on an ocean fishing expedition and caught a 40-pound spring salmon. I crabbed along a deserted sandy beach at sunset. I joined staff as they fished in a nearby river on their lunch hour. I ate lunch at the top of a mountain overlooking one of the largest glaciers in North America. And I walked through incredible old growth coastal rainforest.

Person standing in front of very large tree

Northwest B.C. also has a number of old growth rainforests.

The best part about these experiences is that they were not confined to special occasions or monthly long weekends; they are a part of everyday life. This is why people move to northern B.C. and this is why they love it. By experiencing the day-to-day lifestyle of our staff, I quickly learned the type of person I needed to recruit to this amazing region. In the Lower Mainland and Interior, the question circulating around the water cooler on Monday morning is often “what did you buy this weekend?” In northern B.C., you are more likely to hear “what did you do?”

It is no wonder that many of our staff opt to work part time in northern B.C. One reason, of course, is the affordability: why work more than you have to? But the main reason, I think, is that there are so many outdoor activities right at your doorstep. Whether you like to cross-country ski, downhill ski, kayak, fish, hike, row, or just hear the calming, natural silence that comes with the absence of crowded chaos, you can have this within minutes almost anywhere in northern B.C. If that sounds appealing to you, this is where you need to be.

Young woman sitting on a log on a beach

Beautiful beaches provide places for adventure and reflection in northwest B.C.

Ashley Ellerbeck

About Ashley Ellerbeck

Ashley has been a recruiter for Northern Health since 2011 and absolutely loves her job and living in northern B.C. Ashley was born and raised in Salmon Arm and then obtained her undergraduate degree at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops before completing her master's degree at UNBC. When not travelling across Canada recruiting health care professionals, Ashley enjoys being outside, yoga, cooking, real estate, her amazing friends, and travelling the globe. (Ashley no longer works at Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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