Healthy Living in the North

Emergency Drills in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek

NH staff in vests sitting at a meeting room table talking.

Dawson Creek Drill. L-R: Jennifer Dunn, Dawson Creek Director of Care (green vest); Cheryl Danchuk, Manager of Support Services, NE (orange vest); Blaine Curry, Chief Technologist (blue vest); Dean Gagnon, Maintenance Supervisor (yellow vest).

Talk about being proactive! Teams in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek took part in training scenarios that simulated major emergency events in each community. The scenarios train Northern Health (NH) staff in emergency procedures that would be followed during events with mass casualties. Northern Health’s Health Emergency Management of BC (HEMBC) Team thought up the scenarios and in no way are predicting future incidents; they’re simply training exercises.

“The Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) training includes code drills and functional exercises that help to provide leadership with foundational knowledge,” says Mary Charters with the NH HEMBC team. “This knowledge would be used to effectively respond in an event where an EOC may be activated for an event that overwhelms daily operations of a department or facility.”

Two women look at a Google Earth view of a building on a projection screen.

Fort St. John Drill. L-R: Tanya Stevens-Fleming, Inpatient Unit Leader; and Bianca Krezanoski, Manager of Business Support, NE

Feedback received from the group included: “The exercises were excellent in getting me thinking about what I need to do for my part to ensure I’m ready to step up!”

A big thanks to everyone who participated and to the NH Health Emergency Management team for putting on the training sessions!

People stand around a meeting room table wearing vests and holding papers.

Fort St. John Drill. L-R: Bianca Krezanoski, Manager of Business Support, NE; Kathryn Peters, Director of Care; Corinna Fugere, Admin Assistant, NP Admin; and Teresa McCoy, Clinical Nurse Educator.

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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Fort St. John Intensive Case Management team helps client get identification

Intensive Case Management team smiles for a photo.

The hard working and dedicated members of the Intensive Case Management team (left to right: Tiffany, Lily, Sonia, Todd, Cindy, and Bridgette).

Intensive Case Management teams (ICMs) serve people with substance abuse challenges, the mentally ill, and the homeless through a team-based approach. Members of these health care teams provide more than direct patient care – they’re advocates for their clients, helping them any way they can. In Fort St. John, when a client named Peter needed help getting identification, his ICM team was there to help him.

“Shortly after his birth in the United States in the 1960s, Peter was adopted by a Canadian family,” says Todd Stringer, Support Worker with the ICM team in Fort St. John. “He didn’t have any documentation or identification to prove who he was. This was common for kids from the Sixties Scoop. Over the last couple of years, we’ve worked closely with Peter to help him get the documentation he needs. This involved getting a Louisiana birth certificate, filling out paper work, and working with multiple government agencies.

Peter is pictured.

The Fort St. John Intensive Care Management team’s client Peter.

“It’s been such a pleasure working with Peter and helping him overcome this hurdle. Advocating for clients is an important part of our job, and it’s always nice to have a positive outcome.”

Peter recently applied for his Canadian citizenship certificate, and they expect it will arrive shortly. Once it arrives, Peter will be able to receive his primary identification and finally prove his identity.

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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Fort St. John doctor brings new frostbite treatment to Northern BC

Dr. Wilkie and a woman stand beside each other outdoors. Dr. Wilkie holds a toddler.

Thanks to Dr. Wilkie (left), there should be less amputations due to frostbite this winter.

Few things can put an end to winter activities as fast as frostbite, but thanks to one Fort St. John doctor, Northern Health may soon have a better way of treating it.

Dr. Jamie Wilkie, a recent graduate of the UBC Family Medicine residency program, saw a need during his residency in Fort St. John to improve how we are dealing with frostbite.

“I previously lived and worked in Hay River [in the Northwest Territories], have dogsledded in the Yukon, and guided canoe trips in all three territories,” says Dr. Wilkie. “I have personally and professionally seen the impacts of frostbite and related exposure injuries.”

Frostbite treatment became the focus of Dr. Wilkie’s resident scholar project. He collaborated with Jessica Brecknock, Regional Medication Use Management Pharmacist, and Kendra Clary, Med Systems Pharmacy Technician, to create a prepackaged treatment plan (order set) for use of the drug iloprost in severe frostbite cases.

“The literature for the use of iloprost in severe frostbite shows a significant decrease in the need for amputations,” says Dr. Wilkie. “The goal of this project is to improve access to the best evidence-based treatments for severe frostbite in Northern BC.”

Northern Health approved this protocol, and it will be available for use this winter. Dr. Wilkie believes this is the first frostbite order set for iloprost in BC.

Dr. Wilkie moved to Fort St. John in June 2017 and is enjoying all the outdoor opportunities the area has to offer. He and his wife have been hiking around places such as Tumbler Ridge, Hudson Hope, and in Stone Mountain Provincial Park to name a few. They have canoed on the Peace River, and done lots of fishing.

“I knew that I loved the North and the access to fishing, hunting, hiking, and sledding,” says Dr. Wilkie. “I wanted to be in a small town and I wanted to practice full-scope family medicine. I looked at residencies all over the US and Canada, and only Fort St. John checked all those boxes.

“I also really like the people. They are hard working, generous, and generally very appreciative of having physicians in town.”

Mark Hendricks

About Mark Hendricks

Mark is the Communications Advisor, Medical Affairs at Northern Health. He was raised in Prince George, and has earned degrees from UNBC (International Business) and Thompson Rivers University (Journalism). As a fan of Fall and Winter, the North suits him and he’s happy to be home in Prince George. When he's not working, Mark enjoys spending time with his wife, reading, playing games of all sorts, hiking, and a good cup (or five) of coffee.

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IMAGINE grant: Guiding learning through imagery

Two computer monitors show materials from the Guided Imagery course.

Guided Imagery is a mindfulness practice that uses the connection between the mind and the body to promote relaxation, concentration, and performance.

Guided Imagery is a mindfulness practice that uses the connection between the mind and the body to promote relaxation, concentration, and performance. By imagining every detail of a peaceful setting like a beach or alpine meadow, you can relax the body and allow deeper concentration.

A well-known example of the effect of guided imagery is to picture a lemon, and imagine opening it. Imagine the colour, the texture, and the smell. Then, imagine taking a bite of that lemon. Many people will experience physical responses to this exercise, demonstrating that the mind is a powerful part of how the body functions.

Guided Imagery practitioners making an impact in the classroom

As practitioners of Guided Imagery, Megan Knott and Bev Berg of Fort St. John knew that the practice could help school-aged children achieve their full potential in the classroom. Their company, Rosy Window Productions, had already developed the Imagine If You Had a Cloud Program, which includes a book, guided imagery script and audio, instructions, and best use advice. They also developed an online course to give educators the tools they need to deliver guided imagery in the classroom. All that was left to do was apply for an IMAGINE Community Grant to help make their vision a reality!

Rosy Window shares resources with IMAGINE grant money

Fast forward to summer 2019, and 25 schools in School District 60 have received Megan and Bev’s resources, free of charge. Three teachers have completed the online workshop since it launched in June, and one school is fully committed to implementing the program in September. Rosy Window is now exploring ways to make their resources available to schools throughout the North, and all of BC. Rosy Window is a great example of how, with a little vision and determination, anything is possible!

Apply for an IMAGINE grant in September!

The fall 2019 intake of the IMAGINE Community Grants program opens for applications on September 1 and closes September 30, 2019. The program accepts applications that promote health in a wide range of areas, including physical activity, healthy eating, community food security, injury prevention and safety, mental health and wellness, prevention of substance harms, smoke and vape reduction, healthy aging, healthy schools, and more!

For more information, visit the IMAGINE Community Grants webpage today!

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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PETRONAS Canada donations give Peace Villa residents mobility and connectivity

Four women stand in front of the new PETRONAS Canada shuttle bus for Peace Villa.

Pictured left to right: Kelly White (Peace Villa program coordinator), Connie Rempel (Peace Villa resident), Julie Bourdon (Sr. Stakeholder Advisor PETRONAS Canada), and Betty Willson (Peace Villa resident).

Transportation in the North is tricky. We have big winters, great distances between communities, and ever-changing routes and conditions. Because of these factors, in many ways, mobility is a challenge for the average person. It’s even more challenging for many of our older population – especially those who can’t drive, have physical limitations, or have other health issues related to aging.

With this being a reality of life in the North, we’re ever grateful for organizations and companies that help alleviate the stressors of transport for our aging populations.

One such company is PETRONAS Canada, in Fort St. John.

In May 2012, PETRONAS Canada (formally Progress Energy) purchased a Ford shuttle bus and donated it to Peace Villa Residential Care. The idea was to help the residents of Peace Villa get out to events, attend recreational trips, and go for community/rural drives.

Along with a recently updated decal wrap that has riders travelling in style, PETRONAS has set aside $2,000 as a donation that can be used directly by Peace Villa. This donation helps individuals who can’t normally attend events due to financial restrictions pay for things like admission tickets.

Helping people out with a ride is one thing, but making sure everyone gets to take part is pretty special. These outings allow residents to try something new, participate in events that they enjoyed before moving to Peace Villa, and help them stay connected to the community.

The bus, which runs three to five times a week, carries up to 14 residents and two staff at a time, and can even accommodate people who need the use of a wheelchair.

Mobility is such a huge part of everyone’s life, and it’s great to see a service that helps people continue living life to its fullest! Getting older doesn’t mean you should be less mobile. Everyone deserves to get out, do the fun things they want to do, and enjoy life!

Thank you, PETRONAS Canada, for your continued support and making this idea a reality for the residents of Peace Villa and the community of Fort St. John!

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I came for… I stayed because… with Melinda Lau

Melinda stands on a train track that disappears in the distant forest. A sunny sky beats down on her.

Taking in the scenery on the Pouce Coupe Bridge.

I recently noticed a common theme in my conversations with many Northern Health staff members. They were planning on coming to the North for a short time, but they’ve stayed for a lot longer. Meet one such person: Melinda Lau, Chief Physiotherapist, Rehabilitation in Fort St. John. Melinda is from Toronto, and came to Northern Health in 2016.

I came for…

I originally came to Northern Health for a temporary maternity leave position in Dawson Creek. When that ended, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. I found the Chief Physiotherapist position posting in Fort St. John and decided to apply. I had limited managerial experience and I had only been in practice for a few years, so I was excited when I was offered the position!

I like the outdoors and the mountains, and wanted to live somewhere close to hiking trails and rock climbing. I had visited the area before, during a trip to the Yukon, so I knew what to expect when I came here. I liked the small-town feel in the Peace River region.

Melinda mountain climbs, suspended by a rope, hanging onto a rock. The rock fades from grey to brown and yellow.

Melinda working on her mountain climbing skills on Hassler Crag just outside of Chetwynd.

I stayed because…

There are a lot of different activities to get involved with, including cross-country skiing, the pottery guild, and so much more. I enjoy attending all of the different festivals, rodeos, and events in town.

I love the people I work with, and couldn’t ask for a better team. Everyone gets along great, and it feels like I’m working with a group of my friends.

I have been given so many amazing opportunities in this role. The leadership team has allowed me to develop many different areas in addition to my clinical practice. I’ve been given more areas to manage, and been allowed to develop my own interests. I feel valued as an employee; they are investing in me, which makes me want to stay here and grow and develop. My original plan was to stay here for a year, but I don’t feel the need to go 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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I came for… I stayed because… with Ibolya Agoston

Ibolya is in the front of a canoe on a clam lake, surrounded by mountains.

Ibolya enjoying time off at the Bowron Lakes in the Cariboo.

I recently noticed a common theme in my conversations with many Northern Health staff members. They were planning on coming to the North for a short time, but they’ve stayed for a lot longer. Meet one such person: Ibolya Agoston, team leader, Mental Health and Addictions Specialized Services. Based in Fort St. John, Ibolya is from Romania and came to Northern Health in 2003.

I came for…

I came to Canada for an adventure, where I could forge my own career path. I was living in England at the time, and wanted to experience the adventure of living in a Northern, rural community.

I was told about Health Match BC as a resource to learn more about nursing in BC. Their staff guided me to available positions in Northern Health. Well before Google maps, I had no idea where Fort St. John was located. To help me decide where I wanted to live, I went to the local library, and looked through photo books imagining what life would be like in the North. Then, I called the Fort St. John Health Unit and the receptionist who answered the phone sold me on the community. If it wasn’t for her sales pitch, I might have gone to a different community.

Iboyla takes a selfie. Behind her is a small valley and lake.

Iboyla participating in the Emperor’s challenge in Tumbler Ridge.

I stayed because…

The people. Leadership in the Northeast encourages the growth and development. They invest in their staff and encourage you to achieve your career goals. I work with amazing staff, and I enjoy impacting their career development. I’m able to coach them and encourage their own career growth.

I love the lifestyle I have in Fort St. John. We are close to nature and it’s a relaxed atmosphere. People who come here tend to have a similar mindset. Outside of work, I can canoe, hike, or cross-country ski.

Our patients are my immediate community. We’re serving people that I’m sometimes acquainted with, and interactions carry more weight because you have a different impact than in a larger community. People can be intimidated by the North, but once you embrace it, you love it!

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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I came for… I stayed because… with Stella Ndunda

Stella and her mother are bundled up on top of a hill, overlooking other snowy hills and a body of water.

Stella (left) introducing her mom to the Fort St. John winters.

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: Stella Ndunda, a primary care team lead based in Fort St. John. Stella is from Kenya and joined Northern Health in 2012.

I came for…

In 2003, I left Kenya and came to Canada to pursue my Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology. After completing my master’s, I worked casual positions for a year in Vancouver. I needed full-time hours, and at that time it was difficult to gain full-time employment in Vancouver. I was alerted to an opening at the Fort St. John office with the Ministry of Children and Family Development. It was a really good job where I gained lots of experience. In 2012, I started at Northern Health as a care process coach.

Stella in the mall. Beside her is a table with a sign that says "Zumba with Stella."

Stella promoting her Zumba classes at the local Fort St John shopping centre.

I stayed because…

I did not plan or anticipate that I would stay in Fort St. John for so long, and I’m often asked why I’ve stayed. I’ve gotten more involved with the community in Fort St. John than I ever did in Vancouver. I received lots of support and kindness from the community and I have built genuine friendships.

As an African woman, camping, swimming, hiking, or fishing are not typically things to do, but I had wonderful friends that I trusted to push me way beyond my comfort zone! Surprisingly, I’ve really enjoyed those activities. I like trying new things and, despite it being a small town, Fort St. John has lots of activities to offer. I’ve shared my love of music and dance through teaching Zumba. It’s been wonderful sharing a bit of myself with the community.

At Northern Health, I’ve had great leaders who’ve supported my career growth and development. The team at Fort St. John Community Services is wonderful and I’m excited for our future.

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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Selfies with the CEO: Fort St. John Community Action Team

From left to right, Cathy Ulrich, NH CEO; Colleen Nyce, NH Board Chair; and Julianne Kucheran, Community Consultant, Urban Matters smile into the camera as a meeting breaks behind them.

L-R: Cathy Ulrich, NH CEO; Colleen Nyce, NH Board Chair; Julianne Kucheran, Community Consultant, Urban Matters.

Welcome to my new blog series: Selfies with the CEO! As President and CEO of Northern Health, I have the opportunity to be involved with a wide variety of the amazing work being done in the North to improve the health and well-being of our residents. I get to travel the region, meet with a variety of staff, stakeholders, and partners, and be a part of projects, events, and meetings that make Northern Health an organization that I’m proud to lead.

During my travels across the North, I’m going to invite people to take a quick photo with me, so I can highlight some of the dedicated people, great work, and inspiring stories that I hear about.

Last week, the NH Board of Directors held their June meeting in Fort St. John, and we had the honour of hearing a presentation from Community Action Team (CAT) members about local efforts to tackle the opioid crisis.

The Fort St. John CAT includes representatives from more than 20 stakeholder groups and organizations whose goal it is to coordinate and communicate overdose response work in the city. This work includes:

  • Education, awareness, and partnerships
  • Intervention planning
  • Exploring treatment, recovery, and after care in Fort St. John
  • Strengthening the collaboration of the Fort St. John CAT

Thank you to Julianne Kucheran, Community Consultant for Urban Matters, and Amanda Trotter, Executive Director of Fort St. John Women’s Resource Society, for your great presentation!

More information on CATs and the response to the overdose crisis can be found on the BC Ministry of Health website.

Cathy Ulrich

About Cathy Ulrich

Cathy became NH president and chief executive officer in 2007, following five years as vice president, clinical services and chief nursing officer for Northern Health. Before the formation of Northern Health, she worked in a variety of nursing and management positions in Northern B.C., Manitoba, and Alberta. Most of her career has been in rural and northern communities where she has gained a solid understanding of the unique health needs of rural communities. Cathy has a nursing degree from the University of Alberta, a master’s degree in community health sciences from the University of Northern BC, and is still actively engaged in health services research, teaching and graduate student support.

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Lisa Davison: Community Health Star

The Northern Health Community Health Stars program shines a light on community members across Northern BC who are doing exceptional work, on their own time, to promote health and wellness in their community. One such person is Lisa Davison, a trail blazer in Prince George for the sport of badminton! Here’s her story.

Lisa tosses a birdie in a gymnasium as a group of young students watches.

Coach Lisa working with students.

Congratulations! You were nominated to be a Community Health Star by Vanessa Carlson! What’s your connection with Vanessa?

Vanessa is a past player in PG’s annual event, and now a friend, who lived in Watson Lake! For about six or seven years, her father would have her and her brother, Jason, come down to our camps and tournaments. I was in contact with the Carlsons on and off during those years, and eventually her father asked me to lead a camp in the Yukon to help them prep for the 2011 Western Canada Summer Games. They flew me up and we held a camp for a week, it was really special.

After that, I saw her and the Yukon team in Kamloops, where I was actually the manager for the BC team. It was pretty funny to see their team (one I had just trained and gotten close with) play, as I managed the BC team. The camaraderie was really great.

Why do you think Vanessa nominated you? What does it feel like to get that sort of recognition from a peer?

It feels amazing to be nominated, especially by Vanessa because she and her family are such amazing people – they’re a really neat bunch.

We keep in touch on Facebook but honestly, this is sort of out of the blue! Vanessa has always been very appreciative of me trying to grow the sport, [telling me], “You’re such an amazing supporter of badminton, way to go!” I’ve always enjoyed hearing that, because I know she’s being sincere, and it’s gratifying to be recognized for something that I’ve put a lot of time and effort into. She was one of the first people to connect with me after I broke the news that I had decided to hang up my high school coaching hat after 16 years, and she was one of the first to congratulate me on winning the Sport BC Community Sport Hero Award.

When you do a lot of volunteer work, you do it for the love of the sport, the kids, and to grow the game. And then, when you feel like “Ahh, I’m going to turn it in…” something amazing happens. A kid sees the light at the end of the tunnel, or you get a Vanessa that says, “Good job!” It keeps sparking you.

On a podium, several people high-five, while two young women hold a plaque.

Lisa and others celebrate a victory.

How did you get into badminton?

Well, that’s a funny story… I was in grade 9 at Kelly Road Secondary School in Prince George, and in the fall my friends kept disappearing after classes. When I asked them what they were up to, they told me that they were playing badminton, and that there was a tournament coming up at the end of the month and, “You should come play.”

I actually had never played badminton before – not even in the backyard! I wound up playing in the tournament and absolutely loved it. So from grade 10 and on, that was it. I was all in on badminton.

What made you want to coach and where did you start?

I was working at Prince George Secondary School in 1993, and I got a phone call from a parent [of a student] who lived in Fort St. John. She mentioned that she’d heard I might be interested in coaching badminton. At that point, I had helped out in some P.E. classes, had some drop-in after school practices here and there, so somewhere someone had made the connection between me and badminton, but I had never coached anyone. I informed the caller that I had no coaching certificates, but I’d give it a try. I had some skills that I could pass on, but I recognized that there was a lot more I had to learn from a coaching perspective.

That student was the start of my coaching life, and I knew that to help him more, I had to learn more. I took communication courses at the college, gradually started setting up classes, and my coaching career grew from there!

How did you start the North Central Badminton Academy in Prince George?

Some years into coaching high school, I started to notice that players quit after they graduated, because there was nowhere to continue competing. In 2000, I started coaching at Heather Park Middle School and some of the grade 8s were able to participate in the high school season at Kelly Road. It was noticeable that many kids were disappointed there was no badminton after the high school season. They had nowhere to practice or continue competing.

I had no idea what to do or how to do it, so I called Badminton BC, and told them that I wanted to start something. After that call, I began to organize visits from high level coaches that lived elsewhere, put on tournaments, and train groups of students. The North Central Badminton Academy was born and I have been happy to see it grow ever since.

Vanessa mentioned that you’ve developed a program that caters to all members of the community, regardless of experience/fitness levels and age. Tell us about that.

There are so many facets to badminton, and it plays into how someone can organize players and create a program that everyone has a place in. There’s the hand-eye component, the physical component, the game sense, and, of course, their age!

I found I had to create beginner programs, intermediate programs, high performance or development squad programs, but also programs for girls and ladies only, and para-athletes. I really enjoy the long term athlete development, and when you have each of these programs running, you get to see players grow, which is awesome.

Any plans for the immediate future?

I would love to take a group to Denmark. There’s amazing badminton over there, and it would be my total coup de grace as I slow things down!

Prince George is also hosting the 2020 Canadian Masters Badminton Championship, which will be great for the sport in Northern BC. I’m not very good at staying stagnant, there’s always pieces in motion! 

Congratulations Lisa!

Thank you Lisa! For all the countless hours of volunteering, and the energy you’ve put into growing the sport of badminton, Northern Health recognizes your efforts and commends you for getting the north moving with the sport of badminton. You truly are a Community Health Star!

To nominate a Community Health Star in your community, visit the Northern Health Community Health Stars page today!

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