Healthy Living in the North

Northern Health launches emergency notification system for staff computers and workstations

A desktop computer screen showing a popup test message.

An example of a SnapComms desktop alert and ticker on a nurse workstation computer in Quesnel during pilot project.

The 2017 Cariboo wildfires had a big impact on our region. It also proved to be a good learning opportunity for Northern Health (NH).

Following the wildfires, an after action report put together by the Northern Health Emergency Management BC (NHEMBC) team said staff felt there was room for improvement in the communications about changing emergency situations. Email doesn’t always work for reaching frontline staff, nurses, physicians, and other health care providers.

The NH Communications team and Information Technology Services (ITS) worked with NHEMBC to explore solutions.

After a year and half of testing and a two-day pilot in Quesnel, we’re pleased to launch SnapComms. SnapComms provides desktop alerts and a non-intrusive ticker to provide updates to staff on their computers. The NH Communications team, in collaboration with NHEMBC, will control the alerts and messaging. NH alerts do not replace alerts or notices sent out by any government or forest service agency, and are specific to Northern Health services and region only.

“SnapComms provides another avenue for the organization to be able to communicate with its staff in emergency situations,” says Laura Johnson, NH ITS Project Manager for SnapComms. “This is extremely important for our region, particularly as we deal with growing wildfires each year. Instead of reaching staff just through email, a message can pop up directly on their workstation providing critical details in an emergency situation.”

SnapComms was rolled out to all NH computers early this month, excluding important clinical computers. Messages will be targeted to computers and users in the affected area (e.g. Quesnel won’t receive notifications about a code orange in Prince Rupert.).

In alignment with our value of Innovation, NH is the first health authority in BC to launch a tool of this kind.

Brandan Spyker

About Brandan Spyker

Brandan works in digital communications at NH. He helps manage our staff Intranet but also creates graphics, monitors social media and shoots video for NH. Born and raised in Prince George, Brandan started out in TV broadcasting as a technical director before making the jump into healthcare. Outside of work he enjoys spending quality time and travelling with his wife, daughter and son. He’s a techie/nerd. He likes learning about all the new tech and he's a big Star Wars fan. He also enjoys watching and playing sports.

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A 5-minute drill with Health Emergency Management

Image sharing the definition of a 5 minute drill.

How would you respond in an emergency? Tough one to answer, isn’t it, especially as emergencies can vary so much. Many of us probably remember doing fire or earthquake drills in elementary school, but even though emergencies can still happen at any moment, we don’t practice what to do that often. In a healthcare setting, there are so many different types of emergencies, threats, and risks that can occur on a daily basis. We write procedures and response plans for these things, but our Health Emergency Management (HEM) team is taking it further, with their new 5-minute drill.

The 5-minute drill is an exercise, either physically acted out or discussed, that simulates an emergency response plan or process for just a single function or time frame within the first five to 20 minutes of an emergency.

“This is an important activity for hospital staff to participate in so that we’re prepared in the event of an emergency, to discover how we’re not prepared, and to take away some of the assumptions of who should be doing what,” says Jana Hargreaves, Northern Health Coordinator, Health Emergency Management BC. “The benefit of doing these in this format is that it’s less taxing on staff as far as shift coverage, time constraints, and they can be done on duty with minimal impacts to staffing.”

The different kinds of codes to practice with 5 minute drills.

Drills are usually focused around the different hospital emergency codes, such as code red (fire), code orange (disaster or mass casualties), or code black (bomb threat), which according to Jana is “the most fun because it’s easiest to act out with a small group.”

The Northern Health (NH) HEM team has been engaging with site champions (staff volunteers) at NH sites to help roll out these drills since last May. So far, Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace, Wrinch Memorial Hospital in Hazelton, and the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George have been practicing the drills on a regular basis.

“We have been receiving some excellent feedback that the drills are a way to ‘start the discussion’ about emergency codes that are in place in our facilities,” says Jana.

The HEM team plans on releasing new sets of each year, with the next being slated for May 2019. Some hospitals have taken the templates Jana has made and created their own 5-minute drills.

If your Northern Health site wants to run their own 5-minute drill, contact the HEM team at HEMBC@northernhealth.ca.

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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Know the signs of stroke: It can happen to anyone

My husband is 32 years old, and last month, he had a stroke.

I came home late one evening to find my husband tired and feeling sick to his stomach. After an hour of napping, he sat up and looked at me with a weird expression on his face – his left lip was pulled up slightly and his pupils were dilated. I half-jokingly asked, “What’s wrong with your face – are you having a stroke?” He was aware enough to get up and go to the mirror to see for himself, where he tugged at his lip a bit, but it stayed put. I asked him how he was feeling and he said, “Ummm…” and seemed to be wracking his brain for the right response. When he couldn’t remember what my name was, I knew we had a serious problem.

warning signs of stroke

Do you know the warning signs of stroke? (From www.heartandstroke.com)

June is national Stroke Awareness Month and I wanted to share my story here in the hopes that I can encourage people to learn about the signs of stroke, as I’ve found that many people don’t understand how serious it is. Did you know the following stats?

  • Stroke is an urgent medical emergency that affects more people than you would imagine; the Heart and Stroke Foundation reports that more than 50,000 strokes occurs in Canada every year – that’s one every 10 minutes.
  • The first three and half hours are crucial in preventing long-term damage by receiving clot-busting drugs or other medical treatment, but about two-thirds of Canadians make it to the hospital too late to meet that target. Not surprisingly, adults under the age of 50 take the longest to call 9-1-1 due to denial, thereby risking death.
  • Stroke is the third leading cause of death in Canada.

When I realized there was something wrong with my husband, I admit I still wasn’t sure it was actually a stroke. Strokes only happen to eighty year olds, right? Not so. My husband had no risk factors. That night, he was walking around the house normally, and even went to put on socks when I told him we were going to the hospital, and he functioned as well as he does every morning. But he was experiencing a stroke.

My husband and I are extremely lucky. I got him to the hospital fast enough to save his life, and now, only a month later, he is back to his old self… except for the extreme health kick – a positive side effect of this life-changing experience. We’ve both changed some of our unhealthy habits for the better and look forward to a long and healthy life together.

Make sure you educate yourself and your family by knowing the signs of stroke. It might just save your life one day.

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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