Healthy Living in the North

In focus: Robyn Turner, Clinical Dietitian, Vanderhoof

Robyn Turner standing on a hill above a valley and river.Robyn Turner never thought she would have the career she’s had working as a clinical dietitian in Vanderhoof. Learn what it’s like to work in a rural Northern BC community and what kind of work she’s most passionate about.

Tell me about your career as a dietitian.

I never really anticipated coming to the North, let alone a rural community. My career turned out different than what I first had in mind. Nonetheless, it’s been very exciting!

By taking the opportunity to come North, I’ve been able to be myself as a dietitian and get my feet wet in a lot of areas – including working with individuals admitted to hospital through one-on-one nutrition counselling, and those living in complex care.

I’ve been able to use creativity and initiative to improve nutrition in my area, and because it’s not as congested here in Vanderhoof, I can do more things than I could in a bigger centre. When I was just starting as a dietitian, I thought I would be working casual for a few years, filling temporary roles, and then naturally work in a specific area. That’s definitely not the case with my work now, which I enjoy. I like being able to do a little bit of everything.

What’s your take on what dietitians do?

A dietitian supports individuals where they’re at in reaching their health goals. Doesn’t matter if they’re told to go see a dietitian or are self-motivated to change something about their health. Wherever they’re at, a dietitian is there to help support them and achieve their goals to improve their overall health.

Could you describe a day in your life as a dietitian?

There is no “regular” day. Generally my day starts with rounds, or I might go to another community. In a day I may see someone for a diabetes consultation, or modify a tube feed or do a swallow assessment. Sometimes I see children who are having challenges with eating or chronic constipation. My day always varies!

I pull a lot of areas of nutrition together when I’m working. I never know if I’m going to be doing acute care, or focusing on quality and enjoyment of life in complex care, or advocating for someone. I have to be ready to use all my nutrition knowledge. Sometimes I’m pulled into community practice meetings, quality improvement initiative meetings with the hospital kitchen staff, or community projects with schools or local First Nations.

For example, I was working on a family food skills project at the Men’s Shed in Vanderhoof. The Shed is a space for men in the community with a kitchen and a place to hang out. I was part of a food skills program there for men who were living alone for the first time or had partners with a change in health. These men were all of a sudden having to cook for themselves for the first time and didn’t know where to start. If people don’t have food skills, it’s something they need to build. Building those food skills is something I’m really passionate about.

Basically in my job you never know what hat you’re going to be wearing – it could be a counselor or advocate hat or a clinical dietitian hat. It’s always different, which keeps it exciting.

What’s one thing someone might not know about your role?

People often don’t realize that advocacy is a big part of my job. I’m not always seeing individuals one-on-one. I spend a lot of time helping people understand nutrition issues. My role involves a lot of nutrition awareness and advocacy. There’s a lot of collaboration and quality improvement involved in the different health improvement projects I’m a part of. If there’s a primary care community project focused on health and I don’t go – that’s a big part of health that’s not present. I represent nutrition and health and can provide education to other people on my health care team.

What part of your role is the most rewarding?

When you have those moments of success – those clients who are dedicated to change, who come to all their appointments with you, and take your recommendations and apply them to their life and see positive results in their health – that’s rewarding. It might take six months or a year for them to see those results. When you have clients who can get off medications or see their numbers come down – that’s when you know the stuff you’re saying and the recommendations you’re giving are working.

It’s nice too, when there are people in the community that show appreciation for my work, especially in a small town. I’ve had people recognize and draw on the importance of my role. There’s also a lot of doctors I work with who are appreciative and will advocate for me. When I came to the North I didn’t expect to have as much interaction with doctors as I do. They’re present and invested and actually want to hear my opinion. Overall, it’s been great being in Vanderhoof. Three years later and I’m excited to see where else I can go in this job!

 

How to see a registered dietitian

Do you think you, your patients, or someone you know could benefit from talking to a dietitian?

  • There are dietitians in various communities across Northern Health – you might need a referral. Talk to your health care provider to learn more.
  • BC residents can also access Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC, by calling 8-1-1 (or 604-215-8110 in some areas) and asking to talk to a dietitian.

 

Nutrition Month Eating Together contest

During Nutrition Month throughout March, we want to see how you eat together! Organize a date to eat together, show us, and be entered to win an Instant Pot! This could mean grabbing a coffee and scone with a colleague, organizing a lunch date with a friend, having a potluck with family – whatever this means to you! Set a date, eat together, and show us to win! See our Eating Together contest page for complete details.

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Fort St. John Hospital and other NH facilities win outstanding awards in lab services

The lab technologist team standing with the certificate awards.
Medical Lab Technologists Matthew Coburn, Laurel Coburn (related by marriage), and Carlee Bryson with Fort St. John Hospital’s three awards.

Congratulations to Fort St. John Hospital staff for recently receiving three outstanding achievement awards from the BC Provincial Blood Coordinating Office.

“The achievements are a testament to the donors of British Columbia, that our labs in Northern Health are great stewards, for their selfless act in helping others through their donation of blood products,” says Julius Valido, Quality Resource Technologist at the University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC) in Prince George.

The recognition is related to the hospital’s efficient usage of blood products, donor red cells, and IV immune globulin (IVIG).

“It is also a recognition that Northern Health is motivated to reduce the unnecessary cost to healthcare,” says Julius, “and to the public sector by diminishing inventory wastage and transportation of products to and from the suppliers and within lab sites.”

The three outstanding achievement awards are:

  • Award for Outstanding Achievement in 0% Red Cell Outdate Rate: The lab used all donor red cells before they expired. Red cells have an average shelf-life of 45 days.
  • Award for Outstanding 0% Expiry Rate of all Factor products: The lab used all blood products and derivatives, such as coagulation factors, before they expired.
  • Award for Outstanding 0% IVIG Discard and Outdate Rate: The lab used all IV immune globulin (IVIG) before its expiration date. IVIG is produced from healthy human blood to help fight infections for patients with a weakened immune system; and it’s very expensive, at $65 per gram. Some patients need 1000-2000 grams. The lab not only used the product before the expiration date, but it also handled it with care during shipping and receiving, and placed it in temperature controlled storage before being used for various approved conditions other than weakened immune systems.

Several other Northern Health facilities won awards and honourable mentions (see below). Keep an eye out for a full story in the upcoming Northern Way magazine. We’ll take an in-depth look at what these awards mean to Northern Health patients and how the lab teams achieved these amazing results.

Congratulations to everyone!

Honourable Mention for Achievement of a Red Cell Outdate Rate Below 1%

  • Prince Rupert Regional Hospital
  • University Hospital of Northern BC

Award for Outstanding 0% Expiry Rate of all Factor Products

  • Bulkley Valley District Hospital
  • Dawson Creek and District Hospital
  • Fort St. John Hospital
  • G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital
  • Mills Memorial Hospital
  • Prince Rupert Regional Hospital
  • University Hospital of Northern BC

Award for Outstanding 0% IVIG Discard and Outdate Rate

  • Bulkley Valley & District Hospital
  • Fort St. John Hospital
  • G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital
  • Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre
  • Mills Memorial Hospital
  • Prince Rupert Regional Hospital
  • St. John Hospital
  • Stuart Lake Hospital
  • Wrinch Memorial Hospital
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.

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Four-person show in Hudson’s Hope

The four staff members in Hudson's Hope looking at a document.
L-R: Cara Hudson, lab/x-ray technologist; Susan Soderstrom, primary care nurse; physician; Faye Fladmark, primary care assistant.

Think it can’t be done? Think again. One doctor, one nurse, one combination lab/X-ray technician and one assistant are managing 1,200 patients in the community of Hudson’s Hope.

They do it all. This team works together to manage any emergencies in the community before they are transferred to Chetwynd or Fort St. John, as well as provide regular family doctor visits and checkups to their patients. The team is small so they communicate well with one another.

Because the community is only about 1,200 people, the staff know their panel well and have good relationships with their patients.

On a typical day, Susan Soderstrom, the primary care nurse, could be out in the community assisting a patient and then come back to the clinic and need to help the doctor with a major emergency.

Cara Hudson, the lab/x-ray technologist, took combined training aimed towards working in rural communities so that she can provide both services. Normally, two different people would provide these services.

There is one solo doctor in the community, and he treats a wide variety of issues – everything from prescriptions to chainsaw injuries.

Faye Fladmark, the primary care assistant, deals with everything else that comes through the doors. Managing patient records, ordering supplies, etc.

Through collaboration, innovation, and great communication, this incredible team confidently handles anything that comes their way!

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.

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In focus: Allie Stephen, CBORD Quality Improvement Dietitian, Prince George

Allie Stephen sitting at her desk with a mug that says "Dietitians (heart) food."

After interning with Northern Health in June 2018, Allie Stephen, originally from Ottawa, worked in many different areas of nutrition. I recently talked to her about why she loves being a dietitian and how food services and quality improvement projects can create positive change for staff and patients.

Tell me about your career as a dietitian, and what is CBORD? 

After my internship, I started working at UHNBC [the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George] as a casual clinical dietitian, and got to work in different areas of the hospital with inpatients and outpatients.

In September, I started at the Northern Health Regional Diet Office in my current role as the CBORD Quality Improvement Dietitian.

CBORD is a food and nutrition computer system used in healthcare – it’s used to facilitate food services in all our hospitals and long term care facilities. Using CBORD, the Regional Diet Office maintains menus, patient/resident diet and allergy information, and supports other CBORD users (including Food Services staff, dietitians, speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists) in managing patient/resident dietary needs.

I really enjoy the variety this position offers, from training CBORD users to enhancing dining experiences in long term care, to implementing international safety standards.

What’s your take on what dietitians do?

There are so many places you can find dietitians! They’re in food service, public health, on primary care teams and in hospitals, but also in grocery stores, private practice, education, and government.

In food services, a dietitian uses scientific evidence to build/manage menus and meet general nutrition needs, with the understanding that there will be (and should be!) adjustments made to further meet individual needs.

No matter where they are, dietitians help make nutrition information practical and meaningful. Being a dietitian comes down to being an advocate for wellness through food.

Could you describe a day in your life as a dietitian?

Every day is different. Usually my day-to-day involves some troubleshooting with CBORD users to make sure patients and residents are receiving meals that are appropriate and safe, while aligning with their preferences and recommendations made by their dietitian or health care team. Often I’m trying to think like the computer – it’s kind of like detective work!

Another big part of my day is regional food/nutrition project work. Right now, for example, my team is working to implement the International Dysphagia Diet Standardization Initiative (IDDSI).  Dysphagia means “difficulty swallowing,” and IDDSI is a global initiative to standardize how food and beverages used in dysphagia management are named and described. This will help make sure we’re classifying them consistently, which ultimately promotes mealtime safety and quality of care.

A constant in my role is working alongside the Regional Diet Office, food services, and dietitian teams to look at innovative ways of providing enjoyable meal service to residents and patients.

Food is, after all, a big part of our lives and being able to enjoy our favourite foods is important!  

What’s one thing someone might not know about your role?

I support a lot of the day-to-day use of CBORD, but I also support teams to take on food and nutrition related initiatives and projects. Most of these initiatives have to do with improving services and patient experiences. I love seeing all the initiatives that come to fruition.

What part of your role is the most rewarding?

At every Northern Health location there are people and team members who are so invested in the services they provide to patients and residents – they’re proud of the work they do. At the Regional Diet Office, we support them so they can take on projects that are important to their teams and communities.

For example, in Masset, they recently transitioned to a core menu where they’re doing more scratch cooking and home-made recipes. A lot of care was put into the transition – their dietitian, kitchen staff, recreation staff, and residents were all on board. The change was very well received and everyone involved was very excited to be a part of it.

It’s a great example of how our people are invested in providing the best care they can for patients and residents. I’m really happy to be able to support these kinds of projects and interact with different people across the North. The dietitian and food services teams in particular are great – I have a lot of respect for everyone I’ve been able to learn from and work with. I’m proud to be a Northern Health dietitian!

~

How to see a registered dietitian

Do you think you or your patients could benefit from talking to a dietitian?

  • There are dietitians in various communities across Northern Health. A referral may be required. Talk to your health care provider to learn more.
  • BC residents can also access Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC, by calling 8-1-1 (or 604-215-8110 in some areas) and asking to speak with a dietitian.

Nutrition Month Eating Together contest

During Nutrition Month throughout March, we want to see how you eat together! Organize a date to eat together, show us, and be entered to win an Instant Pot! This could mean grabbing a coffee and scone with a colleague, organizing a lunch date with a friend, having a potluck with family – whatever this means to you! Set a date, eat together, and show us to win! See our Eating Together contest page for complete details.

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Northern Health MRI Improvements: Rikki Furmanek

“We also are able to accommodate surrounding areas such as Fort Nelson, Chetwynd, Taylor – people don’t have to travel very far, especially in the wintertime, so that’s great.”

In this video, Rikki Furmanek, Northern Health X-ray Technician, mentions the benefits that a new MRI machine brings to her hometown, Fort St. John, and what it does for the Northeast!

You can also see how the MRI machine was installed, which includes a big lift through a window at the hospital.

Thanks to additional provincial investments in MRI services across the province, Northern Health is expected to increase the number of MRIs performed by 70% over last year, and an additional 102 MRI hours of operation have been added (between the Fort St. John, Prince George, and Terrace MRI locations).

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Happy 100th birthday to the Auxiliary to UHNBC!

Lindy Steele and Colleen Nyce with the commemorative plaque.
Lindy Steele, Auxiliary President, receiving the commemorative bronze plaque from Colleen Nyce, Northern Health Board Chair.

Have you ever had the pleasure of celebrating a 100th birthday? I’m lucky enough to say I have – not once, not twice, but three times in my life!

The first centennial I attended was about four years ago, for a lovely lady who I’m sad to say has now passed. The second was a year and a half ago, celebrating a very dear friend, who I’m still lucky enough to visit with on a regular basis. The third was particularly special… and just this past week!

This birthday party was for the Auxiliary to the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia! This organization is run by volunteers, and spends countless hours (over a million during this 100 years) raising money to help the residents of Prince George and surrounding area get the health care they need!

Two Auxiliary members unwrapping the mural.
Two Auxiliary members proudly unwrap the mural that now greets anyone entering UHNBC.

Here’s to 100 more!

The special occasion was celebrated by a number of the auxiliary volunteers, members of the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation, local dignitaries, and residents of Prince George. A beautiful mural now hangs over the auxiliary desk in the main lobby, unveiled during the celebration alongside a bronze plaque commemorating their 100 years of tireless work! The tokens of appreciation were presented to Lindy Steele, Auxiliary President, by Colleen Nyce, Northern Health Board Chair.

In their century of service to the people of Prince George and neighbouring communities, the Auxiliary to UHNBC has donated over $5.5 million and, as previously mentioned, over one million volunteer hours, to help improve health care at UHNBC. Their goal is to provide service to the hospital community by raising funds through the Auxiliary Gift Shop, The Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shop, fundraising, and donations. They rely on the support of the community to assist them, and it’s obvious to me this partnership is working!

Humble beginnings

It all started in 1919, in the form of providing linens, drapes, and other incidentals to the hospital. From there, the Auxiliary continued to grow and take on different fundraising opportunities to raise money for necessary items, from linens, to operating equipment, and anything else you can imagine!

UHNBC Auxiliary 100 birthday cake.
Fact: you can’t have a 100th birthday without a cake!

Say hello!

If you’ve ever walked through the doors at UHNBC as patient, a visitor, or as an employee, you’ll have seen Auxiliary volunteers in their pink smocks, or burgundy vests, doing what they do best: helping others.

They’ll direct you to the room of a loved one or the friend you’re visiting, check you in for appointments at clinics, or help you through the gift shop in the hospital atrium, a hidden gem in my opinion!

I believe volunteers are a huge part of what makes this, and any, community thrive. Whether times were good or extremely hard, these volunteers continue to be the smiles that greet you and the helping hands that guide you where you need to go.

Thank you Auxiliary!

The Auxiliary to UHNBC is hosting the British Columbia Association of Health Care Auxiliaries (BCAHA) annual conference and AGM in Prince George in April of this year at the Prince George Civic and Conference Center. I don’t doubt they will all celebrate this milestone, as we all should, with the UHNBC Auxiliary members. If you see one of these wonderful people, please thank them for their service.

Lorrelle Hall

About Lorrelle Hall

Born and raised in Prince George BC, Lorrelle loves her hometown and is proud to be a PG girl, through and through! She and husband Lyn have raised twin daughters, and love being active in the community. Lorrelle works as an Executive Assistant to the Northern Health Communications team, and works closely with the Hospital Auxiliaries and Foundations. When not at work, she loves to spend time with her kids, mother, many siblings, and friends! She loves to volunteer, and travel wherever the sun is shining!

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Northern Health MRI Improvements: Marina Downs and Margaret Kostyshyn

“This has increased patient happiness, and the morale of our technologists.”

In this video, Marina Downs, Northern Health Diagnostic Imaging Manager, speaks on how the addition of the MRI machine in Terrace has reduced patient wait times and travel, directly affecting the experience of both staff and patients.

Margeret Kostyshyn, a recent UHNBC patient, mentions how her MRI experience was “very positive,” and how the reassuring staff took away her initial fears of the process.

Thanks to additional provincial investments in MRI services across the province, Northern Health is expected to increase the number of MRIs performed by 70% over last year, and an additional 102 MRI hours of operation have been added (between the Fort St. John, Prince George, and Terrace MRI locations).

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Northern Health staff and physicians volunteer at the 2019 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships

Laura Elsenheimer offering a tissue to Birgit Skarstein.
Laura Elsenheimer, Chief Technologist at the UHNBC Laboratory, offers a tissue to Birgit Skarstein, who had just finished the middle distance cross-country sit ski race. Skarstein, known as “the smile of Norway” won bronze. The athlete has been paralyzed from the waist down since 2009 as the result of a swimming accident in Malaysia.

World-class athletes are being showcased as Prince George hosts the 2019 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships (WPNSC) February 15 – 24 at the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club, and Northern Health (NH) staff and physicians are helping make it happen. 

Many NH staff and physicians are volunteering at the event, donating their time at the Medical and Anti-Doping site, Timing, the Volunteer Centre, Security, the Start/Finish areas, out on the course, and more. As well, Dr. Jacqui Pettersen, a neurologist with the Northern Medical Program, is the Lead for Medical Services.

The event, attended by athletes from 17 countries, is the second biggest for para Nordic sports after the Paralympics. Spectators are welcome – there’s no charge to watch these amazing world-class athletes in action.

Elisabeth Veeken, Volunteer Coordinator for the event, was invited to get involved by the local organizing committee. 

Cheryl Moors helping prep the finish area at the para nordic skiing championships.
Early morning volunteer: Cheryl Moors, RN, Interim CPL on Surgery North at UHNBC, helps prep the finish area on Day 1 of racing.

“I was honoured to be asked. If I’d known better, I would have run screaming the other way!” says Elisabeth, a casual in Recreation Therapy at Northern Health. “It’s a large and time-consuming job, but one that I know will bring me, and I hope others, great satisfaction, when all is said and done.”

Other volunteers concurred. Lory Denluck, an accountant in Northern Health’s Physician Compensation department, enjoyed the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help at such an exciting event being held in my community.”

Elisabeth Veeken standing with Collin Cameron.
Elisabeth Veeken, Volunteer Coordinator for the event, with Collin Cameron, gold medallist for Canada for the men’s sit ski sprints.

Dawn Taylor, a cook at Northern Health’s Rainbow Lodge, wanted to volunteer because she’s a lifelong cross-country skier. “Plus, I’ve also volunteered for Special Olympics and the Caledonia Club for many years,” she says.

And nursing student Melanie Martinson says it gave her “an amazing chance to watch world-class athletes competing in our own home town. It’s so rare to have such a high calibre of athletics in Prince George that it was an opportunity that I simply couldn’t pass up!”

As for Elisabeth, she’s a big supporter of the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club. Volunteering at the WPNSC was a perfect way for her to give back to the club.

“I’m so excited to be part of this amazing event!” she says. 

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Clinical simulation helps nursing school instructors provide better training

Simulation Debriefing Training Workshop Facilitators and Attendees.
Simulation Debriefing Training Workshop Facilitators and Attendees. L – R: Michael Lundin, Coordinator, Northern Clinical Simulation, Northern Health and Workshop Facilitator; Joey Zeller, CNC Instructor, Quesnel Campus; Suzanne Betts, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Shelby Montgomery, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Danielle Brandon, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Stacey Conway, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Lyndsy McFadden, Yvonne Mott, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Tara Green, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Lizann Schultz, CNC Instructor, Quesnel Campus; Liza Voliente, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Nancy Esopenko, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Anita Muchalla Yeulet, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Tanya Barrett, Clinical Nurse Educator, Northern Health and Workshop Facilitator; Crystal Patenaude, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Renee Peterson, CNC Instructor, Quesnel Campus.

For health sciences students, clinical simulation is an important part of learning. It lets them practice on realistic mannequins known as simulators without risk to patients. And of course, their instructors’ knowledge of simulation techniques is key.

On January 11, Northern Health’s Clinical Simulation Program hosted 16 nursing instructors from the College of New Caledonia (CNC) for a simulation training session.

The all-day session took place at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia (UHNBC) in Prince George, and instructors from CNC’s Prince George and Quesnel campuses participated.

The training focused on the debriefing part of simulation education. This is when the instructor and students discuss the simulation session after it’s over, discussing what went well and areas for improvement. This is the first time a debriefing workshop has been offered by Northern Clinical Simulation.

“This session is part of the evolution of simulation use in year 2 at the CNC campuses,” says Nancy Esopenko, a CNC instructor in the Northern Collaborative Baccalaureate Nursing Program. “In 2018 we began a pilot project for students around simulation. We wanted everyone to take part in simulation during their medical or surgical rotations at UHNBC and GR Baker Hospital in Quesnel. Before this, the students’ exposure to simulation varied. We wanted all our students to learn using simulation.”

By taking this training, instructors are increasing their knowledge around simulation. This makes the sessions with students even more valuable.

“Debriefing is a very important part of simulation training and overall learning. It enhances the experience for both instructors and students. This training has given our instructors the tools to have difficult conversations,” says Nancy, who’s also Year 1 & 2 Coordinator in the nursing program. “It was very valuable to watch experienced instructors word their questions. We appreciated the chance to practice before teaching students.”

The experience has been beneficial for both new and experienced instructors: “They’re more confident in their approach and communication style,” says Nancy. “All the instructors learned new ways to engage in conversations and provide feedback. They liked playing the student role during the simulation scenarios, too – it let them see things from the student perspective.”

The commitment shown by the CNC instructors in taking part in these workshops will a go a long way in training future nurses for years to come.

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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Thermometers help keep kids out of Dease Lake emergency room

Two staff holding thermometers.
L-R: Amy Bolton, Dease Lake Pregnancy Outreach Coordinator and Anna Fritch, Northern Health Nurse.

When someone goes to the emergency room with a cold or a mild fever, they often end up using some of the time and care needed for people with more urgent health concerns.

Anna Fritch, a nurse in Dease Lake, noticed this trend and decided to do something about it. Her goal was to cut down on the number of unnecessary emergency room visits.

She realized that many people who come to the emergency room don’t have basic health information on how to treat minor illnesses at home.

“I thought, ‘What do I know about taking care of a cold?’ I learned what to do from my mother as a child and how she self-treated us at home,” Anna says.

She realized one problem is that people don’t know where to get health information. Another problem is that people call emergency saying that their child has a fever, but when asked what their temperature is, parents respond that they don’t own a thermometer.

Anna works closely with the pregnancy outreach coordinator in Dease Lake, Amy Bolton. They meet a few times a month to collaborate and share information. When Anna mentioned the issues to Amy, Amy was immediately on board, offering to use some of her budget to buy thermometers.

Anna and Amy now wanted to work out how to give out the thermometers, but also educate people at the same time. They tried to do monthly pre-natal education sessions, but even though Dease Lake is a small town, the turnout wasn’t great.

The next step was to share the information with Dease Lake residents. At a community health fair, Anna provided thermometers, HealthLink BC info on how to take temperatures (children and adults), Northern Health info on treating a child’s fever at home, and a pamphlet from BC Children’s Hospital.

Now, Anna has the same information in her office, along with the thermometers. When a family or an elder comes to the emergency room, she takes the opportunity to educate them about fevers and gives them a thermometer. She teaches them what a fever represents, when to be worried about it, and what to do.

This education “makes a fever less frightening and puts a bit more agency into the hands of families,” says Anna. “People tend to think the moment they’re unwell, there’s nothing they can do.”

“It’s a willingness to partner and support people, but it’s also ‘here’s the tool you need and how to use it.’ These are the situations in which you can help yourself,” says Anna.

Anna says that now, when people call the emergency room to say they’re coming in with a feverish child, they can attach a number to their concern because they’re using a thermometer.

“There’s a difference between hot to the touch and clinically having a fever,” Anna says. “When I did the teachings, I tried to emphasize that ‘I’m giving you the thermometer because when you call me, I want us to be talking about the same thing.’”

Anna and her nursing colleagues are still working on increasing people’s confidence to care for family members themselves. But now, they can objectively measure temperature, which gives Anna and the other nursing staff a talking point to use when they call or come into emergency.

This is a great example of how a simple tool and a little education can help reduce emergency room visits.

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.

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