Healthy Living in the North

Providing care from “cradle to grave” for people in McBride

Editor’s note: May 6-12 is Nursing Week! This story is one of several we’ll post this week to celebrate and showcase the many different types of nursing roles in Northern Health in honour of Nursing Week!

Headshot of Susan Umstot.

Susan Umstot, Primary Care Nurse (PCN) in McBride, BC.

Susan Umstot is a primary care nurse (PCN) in McBride, providing health services from “cradle to grave.” Susan started as a PCN in January 2018 and she loves the variety in her work, which includes education during and after pregnancy, newborn baby visits and checks, immunizations, school health, health fairs in the community, home health visits, palliative care, STI testing, well-women checks, and a caregivers support group.

“I really like the variety in it. I can see a newborn baby and then a palliative patient and then teach something about health at a school – all in one day!” says Susan. “I think my favourite part of the role is the school health part. And I like the newborn baby visit part and the women’s health care.”

Susan likes the health promotion part of the role and that it’s about keeping people healthy and making healthier choices. She sees patients from Dome Creek to Dunster, and likes working with so many different people in varying states of their health. She credits her team lead, Karen Desormeau, who is also a nurse, for providing her with such great support in all areas of her role.

“I like to think that parents and kids and people of all ages see me as someone who is approachable – who they can ask things about their health to,” says Susan.

In her role, Susan works to make sure health care is accessible to all. Depending on what the patient’s situation is, she will either visit them in their home, or they’ll come to the McBride community health services building. If a patient is receiving home care services, or it’s a newborn baby check or a palliative patient, Susan will go where they are to provide care.

“Being in your home is the best place to be,” says Susan.

The community health services building is a private space to go see Susan for an appointment. It isn’t attached to the hospital or the doctor’s office (it’s across the parking lot) so there are not as many people in the waiting room. In a small community like McBride, people may wonder about the purpose of your visit; the community health services building isn’t as front and centre as the waiting areas at the hospital or doctor’s office.

The role of the PCN is very patient-centered. It’s about working and thinking to see what works best for the patient and their family.

“A lot of what I do is support the complete person. When I speak with people, I always go back to all parts of their health,” says Susan. “For example, when I teach about sexual health in schools, I start by talking about their brains. Your brain needs to be healthy to make good decisions about your life.”

Overall, Susan wants to help the people of McBride live a happy and healthy life, and provide them with the health information and options to do so.

“I love to help people make a healthier choice – in whatever aspect of their life that may be,” says Susan. “It really is about the whole life spectrum, and helping people making a health choice by giving them the information they need.”

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.


“Urine good hands with us!”, say Robson Valley medical technologists

Lab/X-Ray Technologists from Valemount and McBride.

L – R: Antoinette Cinnamon, Lab/X-Ray Technologist, Valemount Health Centre; Dawn Hickerty, Lab/X-Ray Technologist and Robson Valley Diagnostic Supervisor; Sheila Anderson, Lab/X-Ray Technologist, McBride & District Hospital.

Technologists from McBride Hospital and Valemount Health Centre recently worked together to prepare for accreditation. They also took a minute to create some fun signage to mark National Medical Laboratory Week (April 21 – 27).

Together, these three technologists have a combined 86+ years of experience! Northern Health thanks all NH Laboratory and X-ray technologists for their years of hard work and dedication to their professions, and wishes them a happy and celebratory week.

Sheila Anderson

About Sheila Anderson

Sheila Anderson is a Lab/X-ray technologist at McBride and District Hospital in the Robson Valley. She has been working in her profession since 1993, and moved to BC from her home province of Saskatchewan in 2004. She keeps busy cheering for the Saskatchewan Roughriders football team, preparing for her first grandchild, and spending time with her husband on her days off.


“Local solutions to local problems”: The Open Gate Garden Project in McBride

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.

Garden entrance gate

For project organizers, the Open Gate Garden in McBride demonstrates “local solutions to local problems.”

The Robson Valley Community Learning Project in McBride received an IMAGINE grant for their Open Gate Garden Project.

We recently checked in with the project and asked how their story might inspire others. Here’s what they shared:

One of the interesting aspects of our story is that the Open Gate Garden has become established during a major economic downturn. Our project seems to be demonstrating local solutions to local problems.

The principles of inclusion, diversity and consensus structure the work of the Community Literacy Task Group. For this reason, most of the gardeners take ownership for the project and there is a high level of unity and commitment. The Open Gate Garden is an example of what is possible when we work together, using our gifts and combining our skills. Growing food is what most of the old timers in the community know how to do. For the newcomers, like the retired urban teachers, it’s what they want to learn. There is a transmission of knowledge in an easy and relaxed manner.

Potatoes dug up and laying above ground.

Potatoes grown and sold as part of the community garden project help to sustain the Open Gate Garden.

The metaphor of ‘community as a garden’ and/or ‘garden as a community’ could be used to tell this story. Our garden design is an asset to the McBride community because of its beauty. The beds are as unique as the gardeners who tend them.

Others would be inspired by the possibility that a healthy community can come from the wide range of folks that reside there. We believe that building the capacity, the optimum human resources of the tiny population in our valley, is what it will take to restore a stable economy. So often, we hear about ‘attracting outside investments’ to solve our economic problems. Yet, we all eat. There is a market for locally grown, whole foods. Most are aware of threats to food security, climate change, and environmental devastation. Surely developing independent food systems could be a start to establishing a local economy! Our story shows that community gardening is a start. From this start, engaged citizens are emerging, other related projects are blossoming, folks are becoming connected, and we are beginning to generate revenues from growing potatoes to sustain the Open Gate Garden.

Woman bagging potatoes

“We walk, bend, stretch, dig, rake, shovel and eat fresh, local food. We co-operate, collaborate and communicate in meaningful ways. Gardening together in the Open Gate Garden is a real joy.”

We also asked Nancy Taylor, Community Literacy Outreach Coordinator (pictured during harvest time in the garden), about the impact of the Open Gate Garden and the IMAGINE Community Grant they received:

Our IMAGINE grant funding has helped to pay for the infrastructure of the Open Gate Garden where lots of good stuff happens. Folks from all walks of life are included in the project. We share information, skills, and knowledge. We walk, bend, stretch, dig, rake, shovel, and eat fresh, local food. We co-operate, collaborate, and communicate in meaningful ways. Gardening together in the Open Gate Garden is a real joy. We are grateful for the support we have received from Northern Health. Our community is healthier because of the Open Gate Garden.

What project might serve as a start in your community? You can start planning now because the next call out for IMAGINE Community Grants is coming soon!

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. The next call out for IMAGINE Community Grants will be September 19, 2016.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)


A focus on our people: Robson Valley health care upgrades

In this edition of my CEO video blog, I explore the recent changes to health services offered in the Robson Valley. I speak with Debbie Strang, Robson Valley health service administrator, and Toni Cinnamon, Valemount X-ray technician, about the new and improved services.

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.


Men’s health event and screening in McBride was a huge success!

McBride Pioneer Days

The NH team promoting men’s health. L-R: Brandon Grant, Mike Benusic, Sheila Anderson, Roxanne Coates and Susanna Gasser.

On June 17th, I was able to participate in a great event held during the McBride Pioneer Days Pancake Breakfast at the Elk’s Hall. I was there to promote men’s health, along with other Northern Health staff who conducted blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol checks for men who came in for breakfast. We also had an information booth with a variety of health resources for residents.

As with most of our events across the region, the men we saw really stepped up and took on the challenge to learn more about their health, with over 30 participants lining up to get checked. As I spoke with some of the folks at the Elk’s Hall, it reminded me of the importance of the work we are doing to raise the spotlight on men’s health. The men and women who came by shared stories about their own health issues and real-life examples that have showed them how important it is to reach men at all stages of life, but especially when they’re young.

The best part about my job is visiting all the communities in our vast region, speaking with people about what good health means to them, and what we can do as a community and health authority to raise awareness about health issues of men living in the north. The work continues, but with the help of our committed Northern Health staff and our community partners, we can make men’s health better for all that call the north home. Thanks to the great folks that helped make this event possible!

Brandon Grant

About Brandon Grant

As the NH men’s health coordinator, Brandon Grant travels across the Northern Health region speaking with community members about the health issues men face and what we can do to improve men’s health. He has worked with a variety of community-based organizations, including the Nawican Friendship Centre and the Northern Family Health Society, and holds two master’s degrees, one in social work and one in public administration. To stay active, Brandon enjoys playing golf and tennis, and whenever possible, visits tropical destinations to go snorkeling. (Brandon no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)