Healthy Living in the North

Mindful eating: 4 practical strategies you can do at work

A person holds a white plate of food. On the left of the plate is pasta noodles with spinach, on the right is a chicken breast covered in chunks of tomato.

Mindful eating focuses on paying attention to the eating experience.

Do you eat lunch at your desk? Eat until you are uncomfortably full? Inhale your meals?

If this sounds like you, keep reading — this blog post is all about how to incorporate mindful eating into your work day!

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating focuses on paying attention to the eating experience. The focus is more on how to eat, and less on what to eat. In practising mindful eating, the goal is to be present, use all of the senses (seeing, tasting, hearing, smelling, and feeling) without judgment, and to notice the emotional and physical responses that take place before, during, and after eating.

Why is mindful eating important?

Becoming more mindful while eating can bring awareness to your own unique habits, thoughts, and feelings around food. I know I fall victim to eating at my desk and working through lunch to try to “catch up” with a never-ending to-do list, or parking myself on the couch to watch Netflix and eat a bowl full of snacks. I know I’m not the only one!

Eating in these moments becomes mindless, not enjoyable, and provides a sense that eating is not important. But, eating is important! Not only does it nourish our bodies with the vital nutrients we need to survive, it provides us with enjoyment and an opportunity to appreciate food and regain food freedom.

Making time to eat helps productivity

Making time to just eat instead of also working during your breaks can help you be more productive at work. Taking a break and focusing on something else while you eat nourishing food can help you recharge your brain, reduce stress, and get you ready for the next item on your daily to-do list.

How to eat mindfully at work

Practising mindful eating at work can be challenging, but the routine of our job provides an opportunity to incorporate mindful eating as part of your own daily routine. Here are four strategies that you can do to practise mindful eating in the workplace:

  1. Be present – Put your phone down and step away from your computer. Most things can wait 15-30 minutes while you eat your snacks or lunch. Your breaks are built into your day, so use them to recharge! Eat with friends or find a quiet place to enjoy your own company while focusing on your eating.
  2. Listen to your hunger and fullness cues – Once you get to work, pay attention to when you start to feel hungry. If your breaks are flexible, try eating when you are truly hungry. Then try to eat until you’re satisfied, but not stuffed. Do you have food left over? Are you still hungry and looking for more to eat? Adjust what you bring in your lunch box tomorrow to meet your hunger needs.
  3. Eat slowly – Give your body time to recognize that you’re feeding it. This can take up to 20 minutes — whoa! Taking your time can help you eat until you’re satisfied, instead of hungry or uncomfortably full. Try eating your lunch slowly by chewing thoroughly and noticing how the food is making you feel.
  4. Engage your senses – For the first five bites of your meal, notice how the food tastes, feels in your mouth, smells, sounds, and looks. What do you think? Are you enjoying what you’re eating? You may be surprised with your thoughts!

Take action!

Pick one strategy from above that resonates with you. Write it down on a piece of paper, your note app, or set it as a daily reminder on your phone or in your Outlook or Google calendar.

Every day for the next week practice this one strategy. Remember, mindful eating is a practice, and it may be something that is completely different than your norm. Don’t fret! If you lose track, or get distracted, acknowledge it and then try again. It will get easier!

Have you tried these strategies and are looking to build a better relationship with food? Talk to a dietitian who can help you with your individual needs!

  • 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.
Erin Branco

About Erin Branco

Erin is a dietitian who works with residents in long term care homes in Prince George. She is passionate about supporting residents’ quality of life as well as fostering their reconnection to food. In her spare time, you can find her with her family and friends, enjoying a meal, playing in the garden, camping or supporting clients in her private practice. She loves being a part of making positive change in healthcare, and is an advocate for providing best practice nutrition support to our northern communities.

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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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Our People: Spotlight on Rosalind Layton, NH Connections

Rosalind, a middle-aged woman, smiles into the camera.

Rosalind Layton, NH Connections Operations Manager

One of the challenges of delivering health care in Northern BC is the distance that separates us. We love our nature, our wilderness, and our room to breathe, but this lifestyle also means being hours from neighbouring communities and their services.

Luckily for people who need to travel to their health care appointments, there’s Northern Health (NH) Connections. This shuttle service is operated by Diversified Transportation and runs all over the North, offering affordable transportation to those who need it, with buses captained by safe and compassionate drivers!

Behind the scenes, working tirelessly to ensure the fleet is organized and happy, is an incredibly humble, kind, camera-shy individual named Rosalind (Ros) Layton. Ros, the NH Connections Operations Manager, believes wholeheartedly in the program, and sees the benefits it’s brought to so many Northerners throughout the years!

Here’s a little of Ros’s background story and some of her thoughts on NH Connections:

Why did you choose your career with Diversified Transportation/NH Connections?

My last career at a local radio station was very stressful, so I took some time off to reflect on what I wanted out of a career. Northern Health Connections posted a position for a call centre representative and I jumped on it. I got to know the team and the program, and I loved it. Eight months later, I became the Call Centre Supervisor.

What keeps you at NH Connections?

I love the clients! It’s so rewarding to know that we’re helping people.

What would you say to anyone interested in a career with NH Connections?

The company is wonderful. They truly believe in helping staff members grow and succeed.

What do you like about the North?

My whole family lives in the North, specifically Prince George. The people are very friendly and the region is beautiful.

What do you think you bring most to the NH Connections team?

I try to put everybody else first. My team and the clients are the most important part of the job to me, so I try to prioritize them over… well, anything!

What is something that someone might not know about you?

I was recently awarded the BC Transit Superstar Award!

What is your favourite thing to do outside of work?

I love to spend time with my grandson. He plays basketball and football, so you can usually find me cheering him on at games!

What’s your guilty pleasure?

BEING PAMPERED!!!

Thank you, Rosalind, for everything that you do for NH Connections, and for caring so deeply about the program, the drivers, and our riders!

Visit the NH Connections page for more information or to book your trip today.

Fiona MacPherson

About Fiona MacPherson

Fiona MacPherson was born in Glasgow Scotland, but has spent most of her life in Prince George. She's spent the majority of her career at Northern Health in the IMIT department as a Project Manager, but most recently moved into the Communications department as the Lead for Northern Health Connections and Special Projects. Fiona loves to volunteer in her community and can be found at the local hockey arenas on the weekends watching both her boys play hockey.

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I came for… I stayed because… with Clare Hart

Clare smiles into the camera. Her brown and white horse is directly behind her. Mountains and forest is further in the background.

Clare with her horse, Graffiti.

If you’ve been following this series, you’ll be familiar with the common theme I’ve uncovered among many Northern Health staff: many of them had planned to come to the North for a short time, but have stayed for a lot longer! Meet one such person, Clare Hart, Director of Specialized Services for the Northwest, based in Terrace. Clare is from England and came to Northern Health in 2009.

I came for…

I was born in a coal mining village in the Northern part of England. It’s an industrial area that is not very clean. Growing up, I always dreamed of living somewhere green, with fresh air and nice woodlands.

I studied to become a registered nurse and had worked in different emergency room positions in England. When we were looking to move, there were a few different countries that needed nurses. English is the only language I speak, so that eliminated quite a few countries. Another big factor was that I wanted the time difference to allow me to talk to my family in England at somewhat normal times.

At that time, I had three children and wanted them to grow up in an area with different opportunities and be close to nature. We chose Terrace because of the job opportunities and natural beauty of the area. We’re surrounded by mountains, rivers, lakes, and an abundance of fresh air.

On top of a mountain, Clare smiles in front of a helicopter. She is surrounded by snowy mountains.

Taking a helicopter ride around Terrace to see all the scenery.

I stayed because…

My children have easily settled into life in Terrace. The schools are smaller and my children felt very welcomed from the moment we arrived. Community members have embraced us, and we have built a network of friends that feel more like family.

I really enjoy the outdoors and in the winter I like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. I love that I can pack a picnic and drive in any direction and have quality time outdoors with my family. We have a dog, horse, and a variety of other animals that are a huge part of my life.

I have been able to advance my career in Terrace. I started out as an emergency room nurse at Mills Memorial Hospital and have transitioned to a psychiatric nurse, team lead, manager of mental health and substance use, and now director of specialized services. I feel extremely appreciated by my team and other colleagues. I really appreciate that they always make me feel welcome, like I was born and raised here.

 

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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Our People: Spotlight on Lyndsey Rhea, Aboriginal Patient Liaison

On a dirt road with a creek in the background, a man in a motorized wheelchair holds a beige horse. Lyndsey stands to their right.

Stan Boyd (left) from Nazko First Nation and Lyndsey Rhea (right).

Lyndsey Rhea is an Aboriginal Patient Liaison (APL) from Quesnel, BC. Her career as an APL started in 2010, when she began working at the University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC) in Prince George. In 2011, the same role opened up in her home town and she was quick to make the move to G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital in Quesnel, where she’s worked since May 2011.

Not sure what an APL is? Check out “What are APLs and what do they do?

Why did you choose your career?

I attended UNBC in Prince George and received a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. I’ve always had an interest in medicine and, through a practicum placement in my fourth year, I learned about the APL role.

APLs have a unique role. We can act as a bridge for the medical system, Aboriginal patients, and communities. I’m passionate about Aboriginal health and making sure that patients receive high-quality, culturally safe care. The APL role combines medical, social work, and Aboriginal components into one job!

How did you end up at NH?

After my practicum placement, I worked as a casual Social Worker and APL in Prince GeorgeI’m from Quesnel, so I was very happy when the APL role came up [in Quesnel] and I was able to move back to my home community.

What would you say to anyone wanting to get into your kind of career?

It’s definitely a very rewarding career! Every day is different, which makes for an exciting and challenging job. I’m always learning something new, and have learned so much about local traditions and history from the Elders in my area. It’s also a good idea to look into volunteering opportunities that are in the field of your interest. Here in Quesnel, we have a Junior Volunteer Program that is a great way to get an understanding of what it might be like to work in a hospital.

Lyndsey Rhea sits at a desk at G.R. Baker Hospital.

Lyndsey Rhea at G.R. Baker Hospital.

What does a day in the life of an APL look like?

On a typical day, the first thing I do is go to our daily huddle on the inpatient unit. From there, I can plan my day. I would then see the patients who are in the hospital, help to support them throughout their stay, and help plan for their discharge.

I work in all areas of the hospital, including the emergency room, intensive care unit, acute care, psychiatry, and with residents in long-term care. I also work with clients in the community to help them navigate the health care system. This might include a home visit or attending a doctor’s appointment with a patient to help them advocate for their health care needs. Another big part of my job includes working with the First Nations Health Authority for things like patient travel, medical supplies and equipment, and prescription coverage.

I’m lucky to be able to work with our local communities and take part in events in both urban and community settings. Recently, I helped with an Equine Wellness event for youth in Nazko. I attend health fairs and other community events. I’ve found a huge benefit in getting to know community members outside of the hospital, so if they do need my services, I’m a familiar face.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being an APL?

The most rewarding part to me has been the relationships that I have built with Elders, patients, and local First Nations communities. I’ve been able to work with new moms having their first babies, Elders who are passing away, and everything in between. Accessing health care can be stressful and it is rewarding to know that I have been able to help patients go through the medical system easier.

What’s your favourite part about living where you do?

I like that Quesnel is such a close-knit community. We may lack resources compared to a larger centre, but the service providers in our community are able to work together to come up with creative ideas and solutions. Because Quesnel is a smaller community, I’m able to build relationships and connect with patients and clients in a way that is not possible in larger cities.

12 members of the G.R. Baker staff are wearing orange shirts in support of Orange Shirt Day.

Lyndsey and other G.R. Baker Hospital staff support Orange Shirt Day.

How can patients get a referral to work with an APL?

I have a very casual/informal referral process. Referrals come by phone. Patients are welcome to self refer, or I can get calls from doctors, nurses, First Nations health teams, or family members. Patients do not need to have a status card or be admitted to the hospital to use APL services.

What’s your favourite thing to do outside work?

Last summer, I started paddle boarding and can’t wait for the warmer weather so I can get out on the lake with friends. I also play the fiddle and enjoy doing that as often as I can.

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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Physician learning and family fun: the Jasper Spring Retreat and Medical Conference

Breakfast is served to physicians and their families in a Jasper conference room.

Breakfast at the 2019 Jasper Spring Retreat and Medical Conference for physicians in Northern Health.

Co-authored by Heather Gummow, Continuing Medical Education Program Coordinator, Northern Health

The Jasper Spring Retreat and Medical Conference for physicians in the North was held at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge on April 12-14, 2019. The event was hosted by the Northern Continuing Medical Education (CME) Program. Sixty-five physicians and medical residents attended the conference, with the social portions of the weekend increasing to over 100 people.

Participants were treated to 10 hours of CME-accredited talks, small group-learning world café rotations, and four simulating stations led by the Northern Clinical Simulation Program.

The Rural Coordination Centre of BC (RCCbc), Northern Health Physician Quality Improvement, and the BC Patient Safety Quality Council hosted resource booths at the conference, offering information about the supports that are available to rural physicians and medical residents.

Some conference participants and their families joined in on the Jasper Canadian Rockies Half Marathon. Marathon participants could run five, 10, or 21 kilometres, or take part in a family fun run. All proceeds from the marathon were donated to the Jasper Healthcare Foundation.

Dr. Justin Lo, Dr. Kristen Miller with their three boys are in running apparel with mountains behind them.

Dr. Justin Lo and Dr. Kristen Miller with their children participating in the Jasper marathon.

It was a memorable weekend! Participant evaluation forms reflected the high satisfaction and a much-heard sentiment: thank you for hosting this great conference with opportunities to relationship build and network!

Physicians and medical residents looking for more information on this event or future events, can contact Dr. Charles Helm at 250-242-1101 or helm.c.w@gmail.com.

Charles Helm

About Charles Helm

Charles Helm has been a family physician in Tumbler Ridge since 1992. He immigrated to Canada from South Africa in 1986. He is the author of seven books on the Tumbler Ridge area, two on the history of the northern Rockies, and one on dinosaurs for kids. He has been an active explorer in the Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society, designing, building and maintaining hiking trails. His palaeontological interests, expressed through the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation, have led to numerous fossil discoveries and scientific articles. He was instrumental in the successful proposal that led to the creation of the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark, the newest UNESCO site in western Canada. He and his wife Linda have two children, Daniel and Carina.

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Shared electronic medical record leads to better outcomes for Northern BC patients

Editor’s note: A condensed version of this story appeared on page 24 of the May 2019 issue of Canadian Healthcare Technology.

Dr Clifford and Alyssa posing together in front of a computer monitor.

Working together to design MOIS enhancements: Dr. Bill Clifford, Chief Medical Information Officer, Northern Health, and Alyssa Halliwell, Director – Support and Services, Applied Informatics for Health Society (AIHS). Photo by Darren Smit, smit,photography

Imagine being in charge of the health and wellness of 300,000 people scattered over a wild and remote area the size of France, where there’s one bear for every two people, ten-hour drives between communities are the norm, and winter brings temperatures of -20 C or below.

This is the challenge faced by Northern Health (NH), the organization responsible for providing health care in Northern British Columbia.

However, thanks to a new shared electronic medical record (EMR), health care providers in parts of Northern BC can now easily access the most up-to-date information about their patients at any time of the day or night, enabling them to provide better care.

The EMR in question is MOIS® (Medical Office Information System), developed in 1990 by Dr. Bill Clifford of Prince George, BC.

More than 11 years ago, Dr. Clifford selflessly donated the software to a not-for-profit, and now MOIS® is owned, collaboratively developed, administered, and licensed by the Applied Informatics for Health Society (AIHS). AIHS has been working with Northern Health ever since.

Recently, AIHS and Northern Health won the Technology in Healthcare Award at the 2019 Healthier You Awards in Prince George. AIHS and NH work together with health care providers to design and build a system capable of streamlining the often complex workflows involved in health care.

“We partner with Northern Health to improve efficiency and outcomes,” says AIHS CEO Bill Gordon.

“We’ve had a great partnership with AIHS for over a decade,” says Darren Ditto, NH Regional Manager, Clinical Applications & Specialty Care Solutions. “Things have changed and grown over the years, but what remains constant is that by working in partnership with our providers and AIHS, we collectively make MOIS® better able to serve our patients. Another huge benefit of AIHS is that they’re not-for-profit, so we can work on a system and not have to worry about the bottom line in deciding what features are included – it truly is for the good of the patient.”

Northern Health currently has several separate instances of the MOIS® EMR.

“We’re working with Northern Health to consolidate the instances and to reduce any barriers between health teams even more in an effort to provide the right information to the right people at the right time,” says Larry Chrobot, Senior Director at AIHS.

MOIS® functionality includes documenting and in many cases, electronically downloading, key elements of the patient medical record, including:

  • Encounter notes and measures
  • Prescriptions, long-term medications and labels
  • Health issues and rankings
  • Allergies and medication administration records
  • Past procedures
  • Diagnostic imaging reports
  • Consultation and referral reports
  • Patient preferences and care plans
  • Team-based communication, including EMR-to-EMR communication
  • Service documentation

Sharing this information between different members of the health care team is key in providing comprehensive, coordinated care.

MOIS® and Northern Health: Six stories of success

Headshot of a smiling Dr. Campbell.

Dr. Suzanne Campbell, a GP who works at the Omineca Medical Clinic in Vanderhoof.

Dr. Suzanne Campbell is a GP who works at the Omineca Medical Clinic in the small Northern BC farming community of Vanderhoof (pop. 4,439).

Northern Health is implementing changes to strengthen basic health care: they’re putting a model in place where an interprofessional team will support each physician’s or nurse practitioner’s office.

Depending on the size of the community, the interprofessional team can include nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers, and more. Dr. Campbell is an important part of the Vanderhoof interprofessional team: “While the patient has the most vested interest in their health outcome, the physician is the quarterback of team health care,” says Chrobot.

When the team began using the same MOIS® EMR, all team members, including Dr. Campbell, could view patient notes whenever needed, helping them provide continuous, coordinated care.

“The Omineca Medical Clinic in Vanderhoof was one of the very first clinics to put their hand up and ask for that integration in MOIS®,” says Chrobot. “They took that leap of faith in the pursuit of better patient outcomes. They were visionary, and one of the first in Northern BC to do that. For a clinic to take that on, that was tremendous.”

Below are six informal case studies highlighting the success of this new way of working, seen through the lens of this rural physician.

Checking in on a new mom’s challenges

Dr. Campbell’s patient Ashley[1] gave birth via c-section, returning afterwards to her remote rural home, where she struggles with cognitive challenges, as well as financial and transportation issues.

Dr. Campbell worried how Ashley would cope with a newborn, in addition to recovering from surgery, plus her other challenges. She feared that with Ashley’s transportation difficulties, it would be hard to provide the close monitoring and support she felt Ashely would need.

However, the interprofessional team was able to solve this communication problem using the shared MOIS® EMR: every time a nurse or community support worker visited Ashely at home, Dr. Campbell was immediately aware and could easily read their notes the same day. The team was able to support Ashley at home and minimize her travel. At the same time, Dr. Campbell was kept in the loop and was reassured that Ashley was recovering from her c-section, was coping with her other challenges, and that the baby was thriving.

Helping a senior stay out of hospital

Dorothy, a 90-year-old Vanderhoof resident, was clear about her priority to avoid spending time in hospital. She wanted to remain at home as much as possible, even though her health was declining. When she developed pneumonia and congestive heart failure, the interprofessional team was able to care for her at home thanks to daily nursing visits that were set up quickly with a simple message request through MOIS®.

The nurses who visited her each day recorded her vital signs and responses to treatment in the shared MOIS® chart, which Dr. Campbell could easily view. Dorothy also had a home visit from an occupational therapist, who arranged equipment to support her at home. As she responded to treatment, Dorothy’s nursing visits decreased as appropriate, to weekly, then monthly.

Throughout this time, the whole team, including nursing and occupational therapy, easily stayed up to date on Dorothy’s care because each member, including Dr. Campbell, was documenting their encounters with the patient in the same shared EMR.

Providing support after a fall

Debbie, 65, was recovering from a recent hip replacement when she fell and injured her knee. Dr. Campbell saw her in the emergency department on Friday afternoon and found that although Debbie wanted to be able to stay at home, her mobility and ability to look after herself were severely affected by both the hip surgery and new knee injury. To safely function at home over the next few weeks, she would need support and equipment from the interprofessional team in order.

Usually, in a rural area, someone like Debbie would have to spend the weekend in hospital while their doctor arranged the needed supports and ensured that everything was in place before discharge on Monday or Tuesday. Instead, Dr. Campbell was able to use the shared EMR to coordinate Debbie’s care. With a few messages sent through the EMR, she was able to confirm that the interprofessional team would see Debbie urgently on Monday, allowing her to feel comfortable about discharging this patient over the weekend.

On Monday morning, Dr. Campbell received a message in MOIS® to let her know that the team was looking after Debbie, and that the occupational therapist had already made a home visit that day. Because the team could communicate quickly and easily using the EMR, Debbie could avoid spending time in hospital.

Keeping everyone in the loop on a hospital readmission

Alyssa, a resident of Vanderhoof with multiple diseases and social challenges, had emergency abdominal surgery in nearby Prince George. Two days later, she was assumed to be stable enough to travel back to Vanderhoof and was discharged.

However, she quickly experienced complications and was readmitted to hospital in Vanderhoof for three days. Because of a delay in communication, Dr. Campbell didn’t know about Alyssa’s discharge and readmission.

The second time Alyssa was discharged, though, she was connected with the interprofessional team. The notes from this team in the shared chart now alerted Dr. Campbell that not only was Alyssa no longer in Prince George, but she’d suffered complications after her surgery and needed more support.

When Dr. Campbell discovered Alyssa was home, she also learned that the interprofessional team was already taking care of dressing changes and giving her the supports she needed. Although Dr. Campbell had been left out of the communication loop at first, she could easily see that Alyssa’s current needs were being met, because they’d been captured in the MOIS® EMR.

Heading off complications for an MS patient

Doris has severe multiple sclerosis, resulting in paralysis and many complications. With dedication and support from her husband, plus private home support, she’s able to live at home. However, she’s at a high risk of infection, and if she were admitted to hospital, this risk would significantly increase.

Doris lives in a rural area outside Vanderhoof. Dr. Campbell phones her regularly and makes occasional home visits. Recently, Doris was having some issues and it was important to determine whether she had an infection that needed treatment, or if it was something more complex.

Using the shared EMR in MOIS®, Dr. Campbell was able to connect with the nurse, who then made arrangements to visit Doris the next day. The nurse collected the necessary information and taught Doris’s husband how to provide the new care that his wife needed. This quick response helped to prevent unnecessary antibiotics, more complications, or a possible hospital admission for Doris.

Preparing for a difficult conversation

An oncology patient had an appointment to see a counsellor, but between the referral and the first appointment, her diagnosis sadly changed from hopeful to terminal.

Dr. Campbell was able to attend the daily meeting with the interprofessional team. This meant it was easy for her ask the counsellor to provide an update before the appointment that day. This direct conversation meant the counsellor was fully prepared going into the first support session with the patient.

Supporting a senior’s wish to die at home

Elaine, a 99-year-old Vanderhoof resident, wanted to die at home. She had significant medical problems, but was alert and could direct her own care and express her wishes. Elaine’s situation was complicated by the fact that she lived on a rural property many miles out of town.

Providing end-of-life care at home in a rural area is challenging because there’s limited medical home care available in the evening and on weekends. It’s only possible with a dedicated family and an excellent communication system.

The interprofessional team, including Dr. Campbell, regularly visited Elaine at home to look after her needs and keep her comfortable. All the team members charted their visits in MOIS® so they could stay updated in real time on any changes in Elaine’s needs and condition.

Eventually, Elaine’s life came to a peaceful end at home, according to her wishes.

Summary

To sum up, a shared electronic medical record in MOIS® benefits Northern BC patients in many ways. The fact that all members of the interprofessional care team can access the same information helps ensure coordinated care and leads to better outcomes for Northerners.

“AIHS and MOIS® for us means reliability, efficiency for our practice and organization,” says Dr. Cathy Textor, a family physician in Prince George, and the same is definitely true throughout Northern BC, including Vanderhoof and the Omineca Medical Clinic.

[1] All patient names and identifying details have been changed.

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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I came for… I stayed because… with Cathy Czechmeister

A young Cathy Czechmeister smiles in front of the camera, wearing a blue and white nursing uniform, including cap, from 1978.

Cathy in 1978 during her first year as a student nurse in the United Kingdom.

If you’ve been following this series, you’ll be familiar with the common theme I’ve uncovered among many Northern Health staff: many of them had planned to come to the North for a short time, but have stayed for a lot longer! Meet one such person: Cathy Czechmeister, Lead, Professional Practice Nursing, based in Prince George. Cathy is from Edinburgh, Scotland and came to Northern Health in 1992.

I came for…

We came to Prince George two weeks after my husband and I got married. He was a teacher and had just graduated from university. At that time, teaching jobs were few and far between. He applied to positions all over the world, and was fortunate to get a job in Prince George. I am a nurse and I had been working as an acute care head nurse in Scotland. We planned on staying for a year or two, then move on to somewhere else.

I stayed because…

My husband and I learned to love the North and all of the outdoor activities we have access to! I enjoy hiking and kayaking. As a family, we cross-country ski and one of our daughters has competed in biathlons. The quality of life is so fantastic here and you have more time for yourself and family.

Two women sit on a wood structure high atop a mountain. They are high above forest and a body of water in the distance.

Cathy and her daughter, Sophie, hiking Mount Pope near Fort St James.

After having children, we made more friends and became engaged in the community. We have found people to be very friendly. Plus, everything is so convenient. Since we have been in Prince George, the community has grown so much: we have a great university, cultural activities, shopping, and much more!

I’ve had lots of opportunities for growth and education. Throughout my time at Northern Health, I’ve held multiple positions in community care including team lead, manager, and educator. I don’t think I would have had the same career and leadership opportunities if I had lived somewhere 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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Smokeless summers start with us

Robbie Pozer (left) and TJ Sweetnam (right) with their forest firefighting gear on.

Two young men, arms over each other’s shoulders, are facing the camera and are dressed in forest fighting gear, including backpacks, pouches on their chests, helmets, and gloves.

I can still hear it. The sharp, piercing noise of the air horn that signaled a fire call from the Fire Centre, closely chased by the “wok wok wok” sound of our helicopter winding up. The memory brings back the emotions that always followed those sounds: initial excitement, slight anxiety, and the “I hope this isn’t the one that burns down the province” thought.

Such is the life of an Initial Attack Crew Leader with BC Wildfire Services, which I was from 2013-2015.

Wildfires are part of our ecosystem’s cycle. Truthfully, getting to see the full-circle effect of a wildfire is pretty cool – it was one of the more rewarding parts of the job for me. The green that comes through the burn after the fire has been out for a while is pretty spectacular. In no time, the buzz of insects returns and all sorts of creatures start stirring, preparing to make the area home again.

But, despite how positive all of this sounds, there are good fires and there are bad fires. And sadly, it’s only a 60:40 ratio.

A good fire (60%)

In a good fire, the weather has dried out the ground fuels (leaves, grass, downed branches) and lightning storms have come through, smacking a few trees around, sparking them up, and starting the natural renewal cycle. There’s also the elusive fire where a beaver chews through a poplar too quickly, lighting the deciduous tree up through raw friction. The beaver – an impressive and underrated species, in my opinion!

Whatever the cause, responders fly out, make a decision on whether or not the fire is safe to action, and then decide on the steps and resources needed to contain the fire effectively. They put the wet stuff on the hot stuff, direct the fire into a zone where it will burn itself out, and consider hundreds of other options and actions to end the fire and smoke.

A small forest fire burns in northeast BC.

A large fire, although small by forest-fire standards, is surrounded by trees.

A bad fire (40%)

Here’s an example of a bad fire situation:

A group of campers decide that they are exempt from the campfire ban, and are going to enjoy the weekend in whatever way they please. They make a campfire that doesn’t follow BC’s campfire regulations, they light off fireworks into the dry forest, and they take their squad of ATVs, equipped with piping hot exhausts, into the tall grass.

The emergency response? The exact same as a good fire, but with a few kicks.

These fires typically start in protected areas or close to structures, putting our parks and communities in danger. This means the crews have to issue fines, protect structures, or worse: knock on doors to let people know that they need to evacuate their homes for safety.

What you can do?

It’s our job to minimize our footprint on the forests each fire season. Instead of looking back on the summer, wishing that we had fewer smoky days, let’s be productive!

  • Check the current campfire restrictions for the area you’ll be in.
  • Completely extinguish your campfire before you go to sleep or leave your fire for any period of time.
  • Do not discard smoking materials from vehicles.
  • If you see a fire, report it! Dial 1-800-663-5555 or *5555.

Check out more tips at the Government of BC’s Wildfire Prevention page.

If you do find yourself in smoky skies this summer, it’s best to limit your exposure and try not to exert yourself – it can be hard on your health. Check out Paula’s blog, Breathe easier during smoky skies, for ideas on what to do if wildfire smoke causes poor air quality.

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What are Aboriginal Patient Liaisons and what do they do?

Lloyd McDames smiles at the camera. Text highlights what Llyod, an Aboriginal Patient Liason at Mills Memorial does and provides his phone number: 250-638-4085.

Llyod McDames is the APL for Terrace and Kitimat at Mills Memorial Hospital. The contact information for your community’s APL is available on the Indigenous Health website. It’s also on posters and screens at your local hospital.

Maybe you’ve seen their smiling faces on a TV screen at one of our hospitals or maybe you’ve heard the term “APL,” but you’re still not sure what exactly Aboriginal Patient Liaisons are, much less what they do. Let’s find out!

So, what are Aboriginal Patient Liaisons (APLs) and what do they do?

There are 10 APLs across the North. They work to make sure Indigenous patients, clients, residents, and their families have access to high quality, culturally safe care. They also help close gaps between Western and traditional medicine, ensuring a holistic health approach.

Lloyd McDames is the APL for Mills Memorial Hospital, which serves communities in and around the Terrace and Kitimat areas. In Lloyd’s role, no two days are the same.

“When I reflect on my role as an APL at Mills Memorial Hospital I find my role is that of: a travel coordinator, a comforter, a family researcher, a cultural awareness educator, a support person, an advocate, an outreach worker, a facilitator, a mediator, a problem solver, a community liaison, a social worker, and my favourite: a telephone-tag player,” says Lloyd.

Lloyd and the other APLs across the region work with a diverse group of community members and health care providers. They must learn to adapt quickly to make sure each unique individual receives culturally safe care.

Northern Health created the APL program because we are committed to:

  • Partnering with Indigenous peoples.
  • Building a health care system that honours diversity and provides services in a culturally relevant manner.

The program runs in partnership with community agencies in Prince George and Smithers (Carrier Sekani Family Services and the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre Society respectively).

Northern Health’s Indigenous Health team supports the APL program by:

  • Providing training opportunities and mentoring.
  • Supporting a community of practice.
  • Developing communications materials and resources.
  • Collaboratively planning, developing and evaluating the program.

What can an APL assist you with?

Indigenous health is holistic and seeks balance. At the heart of this view is an understanding that all things are connected and in relationship to one another – land, water, air, animals, individuals, families, and communities. Holistic health is a process that demands a broad and inclusive perspective for addressing health issues.

Here are some of the ways that APLs can work to make sure your health care experience is holistic:

  • Arrange for translation services.
  • Help patients understand the health care process, procedures, and terminology.
  • Help to ensure admission and discharge planning goes according to patient needs.
  • Assist with advanced health care planning.
  • Facilitate communication and cultural understanding between patient and care providers.
  • Assist patient with end-of-life resources.
  • Coordinate spiritual/cultural advisors.
  • Support and comfort family and friends.
  • Assist with referrals within Northern Health and to community agencies.
  • Help link patients to non-insured health benefits.
  • Assist with transition to and within long-term care.

How can you get in contact with an APL in your community?

There are 10 APLs throughout Northern Health in the following communities:

Contact information for each area can be found on the Indigenous Health website. Patients are invited to reach out to their APL directly or ask their health care provider for a referral.

Whether you are a health care provider or a patient seeking care, the team of APLs is here for you.

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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