Healthy Living in the North

Celebrating the 24-year career of Chetwynd’s Irene Stoyles

A woman in a pink shirt with a stethoscope around her neck stands outside in a parking lot in front of a building.After a long and productive career as a Respiratory Therapist, Irene Stoyles has decided to move on to the next chapter of her life and retire.

Originally from Newfoundland, Irene began her career as a teacher before making the switch to respiratory therapy in 1993, in the St. John’s neonatal unit. She moved to Chetwynd, BC in 1994 and started working at the local hospital in 1995 as the staff respiratory therapist.

Irene says before she joined the team, there was no respiratory therapy department in Chetwynd, and she helped to advance this area a lot. For example, Irene was the first qualified asthma educator and the first COPD educator in the Northeast, and she created a home sleep program to diagnose sleep apnea, making Chetwynd General Hospital the first hospital North of Kelowna to do this, which allowed people to be diagnosed in their own home, as opposed to traveling south.

“We were able to do quite a bit with a limited amount of resources,” says Irene. “We were able to decrease the number of respiratory patients that needed to visit Emerg, basically by starting an education program. We put asthma and COPD patients into an ongoing monitoring and education program, which, in two years, decreased the number of respiratory patients by 30%.

“It was quite an accomplishment being able to do that,” says Irene.

Irene won the CAREstream Respiratory Excellence Award in 2015, from the BC Society of Respiratory Therapists, having been nominated by her peers, which, she says, was a very nice recognition.

“The knowledge and skill she gained from her earlier career choice served physicians and staff well over her twenty-four year tenure with Northern Health,” says Peter Martin, Health Service Administrator, Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge. “She frequently provided informal in-service opportunities to her colleagues and was often consulted as a resource and mentor regarding patients experiencing severe respiratory distress.”

After retirement, Irene plans on continuing to work within sleep medicine in the outreach work she does with asthmatic children in the Dominican Republic for four months per year.

And she’ll be back! Irene plans on working casually in Chetwynd, Tumbler Ridge, and Hudson’s Hope in the New Year.

“My tenure with Northern Health in Chetwynd has been interesting and fulfilling, and I would do it again!” says Irene.

“Thank you for your years of service, Irene,” says Peter. “We all look forward to seeing you back soon!”

Please join us in wishing Irene Stoyles a happy retirement!

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)


Chetwynd’s First Annual World Mental Health Day: “Walk and Talk”

A smiling woman and a smiling man wearing sunglasses, both in high vis vests, pose for a selfie outside on a dirt road.

L-R: Organizers Charla Brazeau, Primary Care Nurse, Interprofessional Team 1; and Stan Fraser

Each year, organizations across the globe observe World Mental Health Day on October 10, a day that started in 1992 to promote mental health advocacy and to educate the public on relevant issues and topics.

This year, to commemorate the day, NH staff and residents in Chetwynd, BC organized the first annual Walk and Talk. Despite the brisk weather, dozens of people came out to show their support and help end the stigma.

The 26 km trek from Moberly Lake to Chetwynd encouraged participants to talk about their personal relationship with mental health, ask questions, and show that no one has to suffer alone.

Organized by Charla Brazeau, Primary Care Nurse, Chetwynd General Hospital, and local mental health advocate, Stan Fraser, the Walk and Talk had support from Northern Health, Saulteau Frist Nation, Chetwynd RCMP, Gerry’s Groceries, and Tim Hortons.

A man in a high vis vest walks along the side of a road with a young girl who is looking up at him.

Stan Fraser walks with the event’s attendees.

“Mental health is often overlooked as a ‘silent illness’,” says Charla. “This event was to make people aware that they are not alone in having a mental illness and there is always someone there who will be there for you and have a listening ear.”

Organizers are thrilled with the event’s success and hope to see even more people make it out next year.

Two smiling women pose for a selfie outside on a road lined with snow and trees.

L-R: Oshen Walker, Aboriginal Patient Liaison; and Charla Brazeau, Primary Care Nurse, Interprofessional Team 1

A view of a tree lined lake, hills on the horizon, and the sun shining in the sky.

The spectacular view from along the walk.

Two smiling women pose for a selfie inside a vehicle with a case of bottled water.

L-R: Oshen Walker, Aboriginal Patient Liaison; and Leona Clark, Saulteau First Nation Community Health Nurse.

A police SUV with lights and an unmarked police truck on the road next to a walker.

Walk and Talk participants get an official RCMP escort.

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.


Proactive health care helps keep Chetwynd mill workers healthy

Primary Care Nurses and the community paramedic from Chetwynd.
L – R: Charla Balisky, Chelsea Newman, and Jennifer Peterat (Primary Care Nurses) and Jaidan Ward (BCEHS – community paramedic and station chief for ambulance).

The Canadian Men’s Health Foundation estimates that a staggering 72% of Canadian men live unhealthy lifestyles. As well, most forest industry workers are male; for example, Canfor’s BC operations employ about 3,620 men, but only 500 women.

Taken together, these two facts suggest that taking health care directly to pulp mills and sawmills could be a great way to help men improve their health.

With that in mind, the interprofessional health care team from the Chetwynd Primary Care Clinic reached out to Canfor’s Chetwynd mill and West Fraser’s Chetwynd Forest Industries mill to offer on-site screening and health education.

Good health care can, of course, dramatically reduce sick time. As well, there are lots of resources in Chetwynd to help make it easier for people to stay healthy, including a pool, rec centre, parks, and trails.

The two mills were on board, and everyone involved was excited to start this initiative.

Accordingly, nurses and the community paramedic visited the two mills, where they checked workers’ blood pressure and blood sugar, and offered tips for healthy lifestyles.

As well, they handed out information packages containing condoms plus HealthLink BC handouts on a number of topics, including:

  • Prostate exams
  • Breast exams
  • Sleep
  • Flu shots
  • Addictions
  • Mental health

“This was a great way to educate people,” said Chelsea Newman, Primary Care Nurse. “Surprisingly, plenty of people didn’t know Chetwynd even had a clinic. As well, as it gave people the opportunity to look through the [HealthLink BC] information privately.”

The healthcare team was even able to catch a couple of potentially serious health concerns: they sent two mill workers to hospital, where early treatment should help them stay as healthy as possible.

The screening and education were well received: the two mills have asked the healthcare team to come back for more education sessions, and to continue helping them promote healthy lifestyles.

“Overall, I think we now have a better and stronger relationship with the Chetwynd forest industry. This has opened more opportunities for the community as a whole, like more education, less wait times at the clinic, more screening to help avoid hospitalizations, and so on,” said Chelsea. “I’m looking forward to the New Year and working closely with industry to continue the path of health and wellness based on the primary care model that Northern Health is striving for.”

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.


Rural Nursing: A Love Story

chetwynd nursing team outside in fall weather

Teammates and friends! LPN Darlene, RN Bradt, RN Stephanie, MRT Megan.

“Why Chetwynd?”

“What’s in Chetwynd?”

“Can’t you find work in Prince George?”

These are all frequent questions that I’m faced with after I tell my friends and family where I work.

I know, it’s odd for a 24-year-old new graduate nurse to leave her home town of Prince George, a place of roughly 80,000 people, and move to a community of 2,500. So yeah… I can understand why these questions come up.

Let me tell you: “Why Chetwynd.”

Picture this: I’m commuting to work, and I barely get through two songs on the radio because the whole drive is a staggering five minutes – including my Timmies run. Upon my triumphant arrival, I’m greeted by every staff member, and I mean everyone, in the hospital (*cue Cheers theme song*).

You might think I’m being sarcastic, but the part I truly cherish most about my job is the friendships that I’ve made in the past year and a half. Working in a rural facility means that the x-ray department isn’t just the x-ray department; it’s made up of friends that you go out for wings with, and people whose strengths and weaknesses you know. You begin to appreciate not only the teamwork of your department, but of the healthcare team as a whole.

steph goulet with her team in chetwynd.

Steph and her team of physicians: Dr. Sadeer Hanoosh, Dr. Rafal Banas, and Dr. Osamah Hanoosh.

Another rural nursing benefit that I really enjoy is the amount of time I get to spend with patients. I always hear from friends who work in larger facilities that the patient turn-over rate is so high, you don’t really get time to see a full picture of your patients. In Chetwynd, not only do I often get to triage, treat, and admit clients, but I also get to follow through with their care.

I’ve enjoyed getting to see the whole picture, and I can confidently say that this continuity of care has given me a solid foundation in my overall client care-planning skills.

Though I’m leaving Chetwynd to return home while I specialize in emergency nursing, I won’t forget the experiences and knowledge that I’ve gained from being the “everything nurse.” I can’t imagine what my nursing practice would look like without the mentorship and guidance of the physicians and nursing staff in this awesome little community.

I plan to bring the positivity of rural nursing wherever I go, and I’d like to thank everyone at the Chetwynd Hospital, Primary Care Clinic, and BC Ambulance for their welcoming environment, and genuine good times. I’d proudly recommend Chetwynd to anyone looking for a great rural healthcare experience, and will look back on my time spent here fondly, with a permanent smile!

About Stephanie Goulet

Stephanie is a Registered Nurse with Northern Health.


Imagining accessible recreation in Chetwynd

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to a variety of groups with projects that make northern communities healthier. Our hope is that these innovative projects inspire healthy community actions where you live! Check out the story below and read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.

Recreational equipment

With the purchase of bikes, helmets, sporting equipment, bear bells, hiking poles, fishing rods, and life jackets the Imagine Chetwynd project provided access to recreational opportunities that may not have been available to people otherwise.

Last spring, the Chetwynd Visitor Centre set a goal to create more opportunities for people to experience fun activities in their area, with a focus on improving the health and wellness of residents and visitors. From this goal – and some seed funding support from IMAGINE Community Grants – Imagine Chetwynd was born!

Through the purchase of bikes, helmets, sporting equipment, bear bells, hiking poles, fishing rods, and life jackets – as well as strong partnerships developed with the Chetwynd Public Library and the Tansi Friendship Centre – the project provided access to recreational opportunities that may not be available to people otherwise. The library helped promote the project and ran a Facebook Page where people could share stories and photos after using the equipment. The friendship centre supported the distribution and storage of some of the equipment, which improved access for youth, seniors, and families.

The positive outcomes as a result of the project were the community partnerships. The combined effort to create or enhance activities within the community was a positive experience. Partnering with groups who have the ability and skills to promote and deliver helped create success in the project. Community members welcomed, and were pleased with, the opportunity for friends or out of town family members to join them in trail hikes, bike rides, and fishing lakes and local rivers in the area; the local sporting goods store owner supplied the tackle for fishing. -Tyria Plamondon, Chetwynd Visitor Centre

IMAGINE Community Grant funds supported the purchase of bikes, helmets, fishing gear, and a variety of sporting equipment to get the program started.

The Imagine Chetwynd project will continue to be a sustainable program as the equipment and supplies acquired through the IMAGINE grant funding have longevity and equipment maintenance or replacement costs have been budgeted for the future.

One of our most eye-catching investments was a vibrant, candy apple red tandem bike. This beautiful, strikingly unusual bike was an eye opener and head turner when it was out in the community. It caught the attention of young and old alike… The bike provided our community with a little treasure that sets us apart from other northern communities. -Tyria Plamondon

Two men on tandem bike.

One of Imagine Chetwynd’s most eye-catching recreational investments: a bright red tandem bicycle!

It has to be mentioned that the project is not just a summer project. Included in the purchase of sporting and recreational equipment (rackets, balls, horseshoes, etc.), funds received also supported the purchase of snowshoes and an ice auger for ice fishing, so residents and visitors can enjoy the outdoors all year long!

The Imagine Chetwynd project has opened opportunities for exposure to all of our parks, activities, courts, lakes, streams, and attractions through the use of free equipment and ease of access provided with the project. -Tyria Plamondon

This project is a great example of what some local initiative and thinking outside of the box can do to create fun, accessible, and health-promoting opportunities for people in the north!

For more information on the Imagine Chetwynd program and to see some cool photos of this project in action, check out the Chetwynd Visitors Centre on Facebook.

IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. At the time of this story’s publication, the deadline for the next cycle of IMAGINE Community Grants is March 31, 2017.

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

Mandy Levesque is Northern Health’s Lead, Healthy Community Development, Integrated Community Granting. Born and raised in northern Manitoba, Mandy and her family moved to Prince George in 2013. Mandy has a background in public health and health promotion and is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. She is passionate about innovation and quality, empowering northern populations, and promoting health and wellness across communities. In her spare time, Mandy enjoys spending time with her family and stays active by taking in the exciting activities, trails, and events northern B.C. has to offer.


Back to school… to the kitchen?!

Salad bar

Chetwynd Secondary School students with their salad bar.

When I was in high school, cafeteria food was a lot different than it is today! We didn’t have nutrition guidelines that I knew of, our pop machines were well stocked with what is now contraband pop and every Friday was (deep fried) fish and chips day. Nowadays we recognize that having healthy food in schools is important for students’ growth, learning and their health later in life. Some may argue that it’s too complicated or expensive to feed kids healthy choices in schools, but there are schools that are making it work and they are glimmers of hope across the north!

This week I went back to school, to Chetwynd Secondary School, to see how they’re making food skills a priority and getting the students involved in their cafeteria. Vice Principal and Foods Teacher Helen Toppin filled me in on some of their offerings, which includes a daily breakfast program (free to all students), daily hot lunch service, and a twice weekly salad bar. They also have vending machines that are filled with water, milk, juice, sandwiches, yogurt and granola bars. The best part? The students prepare all of the food daily in a credited cafeteria class led by Diane Mallia. As well, Ms. Toppin’s foods classes are mandatory for Grades 8 and 9, and her three optional senior foods classes are well attended.

Salad bar prep

Prepping for the salad bar at Chetwynd Secondary School.

I was never even encouraged to take a foods class (or home economics, as we called it) in elementary or high school. At the time I didn’t miss it, but I was also fortunate to learn those food skills in my home, from my parents and grandparents who knew how to cook and bake. If today’s parents are like me and didn’t get that educational opportunity, then it is even more important to ensure that their children are taught these skills at school! I’m happy to see that across B.C., foods courses are making a comeback and that schools are again recognizing the value of food skills for life.

When asked what they thought of the cafeteria class, the students had a lot to say. Some admitted that they only took the course because they needed the credit, but others shared that they now cook more at home with their families and enjoy eating the foods that they help prepare. It brought a smile to my face when one male student marvelled that making pizza is actually really easy and cheaper than buying it!  Another student told me that the food tastes better because it is homemade and she feels better knowing who has touched it.

The proof is in the pudding, as they say! Ms. Mallia informed me that they usually sell out of everything they make and the students know to get there early so that they don’t miss out. On the day I visited, the salad bar was offering Greek ribbon salad, Caesar salad, and white bean and vegetable soup. And yes, believe it or not there was a student excited about white bean soup, but I was told that “he’ll eat anything.” J

Did you take foods classes in school? Are your kids taking foods classes now? Do you live in northern B.C.? We’d love to hear your experiences!

[Editor’s note:  This is a great example of what the key message “Healthy eating supports healthy individuals, families and communitiesmeans to Holly. Tell us what it means to you! Visit our Picture YOU Healthy contest page for more details on your chance to win!]

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is a Regional Lead for Population Health. She has a passion for healthy living and health promotion and is a foodie at heart. Originally from Ontario, she has fully embraced northern living, but enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She swims, bikes and runs, and just completed her first marathon.