Healthy Living in the North

“Catching people in the net of the team:” patient-centred care in practice

Headshot of Carey Mastre, Mental Health & Addictions Clinician in Mackenzie BC.For Carey Mastre, working in a patient-centred model makes total sense. She’s a Mental Health and Addictions Clinician in Mackenzie who trained in Calgary, AB, at a large not-for-profit agency.

“In practice, the expectation was that we would make contact with the patients’ doctors,” Carey says. “We were allowed to share information with each other, but the doctors and the mental health clinicians didn’t really have time for it. It was rarely fruitful…”

Carey started working with Northern Health in October 2016.

She was initially working offsite from the rest of the health care team, which wasn’t totally functional for her. In January 2018, she moved into the same building as the team and the primary care providers. Because they’re now located together, she can walk the patient to the doctor and vice versa. This has been particularly helpful for patients who are new to the community and for crises.

“At Northern Health, it’s so wonderful to have a scheduled time with the doctors and a working relationship to support client care,” Carey says. “We need to know and trust each other and trust each other’s judgment. Being co-located creates that sense of immediacy and we’re often able to better anticipate and meet the patient’s needs. Everything flows better.”

Another great thing about the team is the flow of information. There are clear ways to follow up with referrals and find out if appointments happened and to learn the outcome.

“It’s super helpful when you’re joining a team to have that regularity. Relationships are created far more quickly. There’s also so much culture to learn at Northern Health; belonging to a health care team allows you to become functional in your role much more quickly – so much is learned through osmosis,” Carey says.

There are two mental health and addictions care providers in Mackenzie and patients come to them either directly or through the doctor’s office.

On a health care team, the team members can also support the hospital, and help the patients when they transition out of hospital.

The team model ensures that “fewer clients fall through the cracks – people are typically caught in the net of the team,” Carey says. “We’re mentally prepared for care transitions and we can better anticipate needs.”

From her perspective, good things did happen in the old model – but she finds it far easier to work as part of a health care team in the new integrated model.

The team in Mackenzie in particular is “just so warm and inviting,” Carey says. “The leaders in Mackenzie really role-model ‘team’ — it’s just been the best thing.”

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.


Primary and Community Care transformation is hard: How one nurse changed her perspective

An NH Connections bus parked out front of the Mackenzie & District Hospital & Health Centre.

An NH Connections bus parked out front of the Mackenzie & District Hospital & Health Centre.

At first, changing the way she worked seemed like a terrible idea.

“I don’t like change and I knew I was retiring soon,” Kathy Sloan says.

She was not interested in going through a major career shift.

Kathy, 64, had been a Home and Community Care (HCC) nurse in Mackenzie for 17 years. She mainly worked alone, consulting with the Health Services Administrator on complex issues.

The new way of working, in an integrated primary and community care model, would mean she had to start working on an interprofessional team and in a different way with the primary care physicians.

Kathy didn’t see the benefit.

“I’ve always worked as a team,” Kathy says. “I had easy access to everyone and the doctors and other nurses were always close by.”

“I was in a groove in my role,” she adds. “I resisted the change so much that I wore a groove right in the pavement!”

But when Kathy realized that this new way of working was here to stay, she decided to shift her perspective.

“I started to think about the clients and the people I’m serving,” Kathy says. “If the change is better for them, then I need to get on board.”

Fast-forward a year or so, and now Kathy is on an interprofessional team that she describes as “great,” with “awesome support” for each other.

Kathy has seen many benefits from the new team approach.

“Everyone gets on board [to help the patient] quicker,” she says. “As we work together, it’s so fruitful.”

Other benefits Kathy has seen from working in an interprofessional team:

  • The team is very client-focused.
  • It’s amazing what comes out of team huddles in only a half-hour period.
  • Everyone is contributing – community paramedics, primary care nursing, life skills worker, doctor, mental health counsellors, etc.
  • There is more awareness of serving the client and helping out other team members.

“I really felt defensive to the change at first,” Kathy says. “It made me question, was I doing my job properly?”

But in the end she came to realize that the changes were not about her, they were about the people we are here to serve. Kathy has a great team lead in Mackenzie who has been supportive throughout the process and collaboration is so much easier now.

To anyone who is new to the work, or maybe even struggling with the change, Kathy suggests to just “keep going, you are always developing and changing at work, as a person and in life. There are good leaders out there that will help you in your transitions, connect with them, share your frustrations, ask for help and push past your comfort zone and take a chance on moving forward!”

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.


Mackenzie wins BCAA Play Here contest, construction to begin in September

The first view of Mackenzie's new playground's conceptual design.A new playground is coming to Mackenzie, thanks to the efforts of those who voted in the BCAA Play Here contest. Mackenzie won one of three $100,000 grand prizes, which will go directly into building a play space for the children in Mackenzie. See their bid video.

“When we got the call saying we had officially won, I felt thrilled and relieved,” said McKinnon. “We were all so happy that all that work paid off. The disappointment would have been gut-wrenching had we lost.”

When the Play Here campaign was first announced, Andrea Wolowski, Northern Health’s Health Services Administrator for Mackenzie, brought the idea to the “Mackenzie Gets Healthy” committee which she co-chairs with Joan Atkinson, who’s since retired from the District of Mackenzie.

“The addition of a new playground to Mackenzie will be beneficial to the community in the sense that it will provide a place for families to gather, form relationships, build community spirit and do it in a healthy way while enjoying the great outdoors,” said Wolowski.

One of the biggest issues was that the proposed site was on District of Mackenzie land. But Atkinson found someone at the district office who championed the idea and successfully secured the land for the bid. Leanne McKinnon, a Registered Nurse (RN) at the Mackenzie & District Hospital & Health Centre, stepped forward to put a bid together and lead the campaign.

The second view of Mackenzie's new playground's conceptual design.Since Mackenzie was announced as a grand prize winner, a playground design has been approved and work will get underway in late September. This will be a community built playground. About 25-30 volunteers will be split into teams of 5-6 to build the playground under the supervision of a certified playground installer. The hope is to have the play structure up in one day.

“This is a huge win for the community of Mackenzie. Currently we have no safe playground for the two- to five-year-olds and no community spaces in Mackenzie that will allow people to meet and socialize,” said McKinnon. “Playgrounds provide children an area to practice developmental skills from physical to social.”

The campaign organizers wish to thank everyone who was involved.

“When a town of 3,500 people wins a provincial-wide competition, you know we had some help. As soon as we realized we were the only community in Northern BC, we quickly created the “Unite the North” campaign,” said McKinnon.

Northern Health congratulates RN’s Leanne McKinnon and Hannah Clarkson for their work in getting a bid together and promoting the contest. Thanks also goes out to Andrea Wolowski for getting the ball rolling on this bid and to the District of Mackenzie for their cooperation and support.

About BCAA Play Here:
BCAA has a long history of protecting kids in BC, on and off the road. The goal of BCAA Play Here is to continue this tradition by giving children in BC better places to play.

Brandan Spyker

About Brandan Spyker

Brandan works in internal communications at 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 and daughter. He’s a techie and loves to learn about new smartphones and computers. He also enjoys watching and playing sports.


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 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)