Healthy Living in the North

The Northern Table: Farm to School BC blossoms in the Northwest

People creating a garden.

Students working the school garden at Smithers Secondary School.

How do you get students excited about healthy, local food? According to Farm to School BC, the winning formula is simple: get students involved by providing opportunities to grow, prepare, taste, and explore healthy, local food!

Established in 2007, Farm to School BC (F2SBC) is a diverse and expanding provincial program that works to support healthy eating and sustainable regional food systems. This is done by working to have local food in schools, providing hands-on learning activities, and building school-community connections. Farm to School BC programs are tailored to the interests and needs of each school and community.

To date, F2SBC has supported 33 Farm to School initiatives across Northern BC, and is committed to supporting and inspiring even more programs across the region. Recognizing the need to provide on-the-ground support, the Northwest Regional Hub was launched, with Margo Peill as the Hub’s Community Animator.

A tray of sprouting plants.

A classroom project at Ecole Mountainview in Terrace, BC.

The Northwest Hub includes the geographic areas of the Coast Mountains School District (#82) and the Bulkley Valley School District (#54). Margo will be working with schools, farmers, and community partners to strengthen local partnerships and networks that will support sustainable F2SBC programs in the years to come.

I caught up with Margo to learn more about Farm to School BC in the Northwest, and some of the exciting opportunities she is supporting! Here’s what Margo had to say!

What are some examples of current Farm to School initiatives in the region?

We have some fantastic projects happening in the Northwest region! Each school develops their own unique projects that work within their school and community. Some projects include:

  • Cultivating bountiful school gardens
  • Experimenting with tower gardening and microgreens in the classroom
  • Incubating and hatching chicks
  • Dehydrating fruit gathered from their community for school snacks
  • Salad bar programs
  • Field trips to forage traditional and wild foods

The projects really do look different in each school, and so far, that is something we’ve seen the Northwest Hub really excelling at — coming up with creative solutions to incorporate Farm to School BC projects into the curriculum and classroom!

Can you tell me more about your role and the role of the F2SBC Northwest Regional Hub?

We’re really excited to take a community development approach to growing Farm to School BC programs in the Northwest region. Through the Northwest Regional Hub, we’ll be building networks, growing strong relationships with community partners, supporting their initiatives, and working to secure additional funding and support for the Northwest Hub.

One of our core values is to support school and community connectedness, so we really want to ensure that teachers and school champions have a strong network around them to help support the sustainability and growth of their projects. We’ll be hosting learning circles, professional development days, networking events, and an annual spring celebration to highlight and share the inspiring work that is happening here in the Northwest region.

How can local community members and groups get involved in Farm to School activities?

We are always looking for collaborations, even unlikely ones! On May 22, we’ll be hosting an official Northwest Hub launch and networking event at Cassie Hall Elementary (2620 Eby St., Terrace). Everyone is welcome to attend, share, and learn more about Farm to School BC programs while making community connections. The event will take place from 4:30 pm to 6 pm and some light refreshments will be provided. We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Note: Farm to School BC is administered by the Public Health Association of BC and supported by the Province of British Columbia and the Provincial Health Services Authority.

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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I came for… and I stayed because… with Davey MacLennan

Three men standing next to the river with fishing rods.

Davey fishing with his dad and brother during one of their trips to Canada.

I’ve recently noticed that many of the conversations I’ve had with multiple Northern Health staff have uncovered a common theme! These staff members were anticipating coming to the North for a short amount of time, but have stayed for a lot longer. Meet one such person, Davey MacLennan, Regional Manager, Clinical Education based in Terrace. Davey is from Elgin, Scotland and came to Northern Health in 2004.

I came for…

My wife’s father is from Newfoundland and we were looking to move to Canada. I am a registered psychiatric nurse and at that time only western provinces recognized my profession. We found the Lower Mainland too busy, and my wife wanted to live by the ocean. Northwestern BC was our obvious choice. I was alerted to a position at the psychiatry unit in Terrace, and was successful! The lifestyle in the area appealed to us. I could fish, hunt, and enjoy outdoor activities.

I stayed because…

Davey and his family.

Davey, dressed in his Scottish kilt, attending a celebration with his wife, son, and daughter-in-law.

We were only intending on staying in Terrace for two years, then we wanted to move on to somewhere else for a new Canadian experience. In 2005, we were on vacation and quickly realized that although Terrace may not have everything you want, it has everything you need. It is a great place to put roots down. Over the years I have built fantastic friendships and gotten involved with different things in the community.

I have received a lot of support from Northern Health with my career development. I have had great leaders who have provided valuable mentorship; having supportive leaders makes it easy to come to work every day. Staff are dedicated and have a “can do” attitude no matter the situation. They step up to the plate and help when asked. I enjoy being part of the Northern Health family and the professional relationships I have built.

We are very settled in Terrace. My wife works at Mills Memorial Hospital as a booking clerk in nuclear medicine. We have property and raise pigs, chickens, and turkeys. Our youngest son lives in Terrace with our granddaughter and we enjoy spending time with them. Terrace is our home and we are happy to have settled 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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Celebrating our Northern physicians

Physician residents in a simulated OR setting.

A group of residents participating in an OR simulation in Fort St. John.

Happy National Physician’s Day!

Join us on this day to recognize all the physicians who have contributed to the health of our Northern communities. We appreciate your commitment and dedication to your patients and the health of our families.

Please join us in thanking the physicians who work in the North!

A group of physicians sitting around a table.

A physician learning group sessions being hosted by Dr. Rob Olson, BC Cancer Centre for the North.

A group of people listening to a presentation.

Dr. Collin Phillips presenting at the 2019 Jasper Retreat and Medical Conference.

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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What brought you to the North? A Q & A with Shannon McRae, Nurse Practitioner

Shannon posing at UNBC.

Shannon at UNBC in Prince George for the Nurse Practitioner Face-to-Face Gathering in April 2018. “It was a great opportunity to connect with my colleagues from across the region,” she says.

Shannon McRae, a family Nurse Practitioner (NP), is a relatively new graduate, having been an NP for over a year. She works in Fort St. John in a private family practice with a team of physicians.

What do you like about being an NP?

I initially went to school to be a registered nurse, then worked in the emergency department for seven years. You don’t spend a lot of time there getting to know your patients — you treat the ailment that brought them in, then send them home. I wanted the opportunity to be more involved in the long-term care of patients.

As an NP, I get to spend more time with patients, getting to know them and helping keep them healthy. It lets you have an impact in their lives, and you feel like you’re improving the overall health of the community.

Shannon standing on a cliff above the river with a fishing pole.

Shannon fishing in the Besa River in Redfern-Keily Provincial Park, a remote area north of Fort St John that can only be reached on horseback or by using all-terrain vehicles.

What made you choose Fort St. John?

I’m from Fort St. John and I grew up here. I enjoy the size of the community and the type of lifestyle you have living here.

You have quick access to lots of outdoor activities including camping, hiking, cross-country skiing, and river boating. Our airport has multiple flight options so if you like to travel, you can easily get to your destination. Plus, my commute to work is only five minutes!

What do you like about working in Fort St. John?

I’m fortunate to work with a great group of health care providers!

Our physicians are really supportive, and they’re a great group of people. I enjoy working with our interprofessional team too – it’s a group of nurses, dietitians, social workers, and mental health professionals.

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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The Boon Docs: Excuses

The Boon Docs comic, "excuses," by Caroline Shooner, frame 1 of 3.

The Boon Docs comic, "excuses," by Caroline Shooner, frame 2 of 3.

The Boon Docs comic, "excuses," by Caroline Shooner, frame 3 of 3.

About the Boon Docs:

The Boon Docs is a comic about practicing medicine in a small town. It’s about raising chickens and having sheep instead of a lawnmower. It’s about being nice to your neighbours (or else). But don’t be fooled: it is not always simple or idyllic. There are hungry bears and peckish raccoons out there. Rumors get around faster than the ambulance, and the store often runs out of milk.

Caroline Shooner

About Caroline Shooner

Originally from Montreal, Dr. Caroline Shooner joined the Queen Charlotte medical team in 2007 and has been living and practicing as a family physician on Haida Gwaii ever since. Caroline is interested in how the arts and humanities can help promote health and allow us to look more critically and meaningfully at how we practice medicine. In 2015, she completed an MSc in Medical Humanities at King’s College London. During that year, she was introduced to the field of Graphic Medicine and started creating a series of cartoons inspired by the comic side of small town medicine: The Boon Docs.

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“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.

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Community paramedics partner with Northern Health communities to increase access to care

Community paramedics are changing patient care in some communities in Northern Health. They’re helping increase access to basic health care services in non-urgent settings, in patients’ homes, or in the community. Throughout Northern Health, 26 communities have community paramedics helping patients.

Patients can see a community paramedic if they’re referred to them by their doctor or health care team, or when they’re discharged from the hospital.

Community paramedics are employed by BC Emergency Health Services, but they work very closely with the teams of health care professionals in the community.

In Fort St. James, the “biggest positive is she [the community paramedic] works really well and has a positive relationship with the First Nations bands. She’s a great liaison for information and understanding their culture,” says Cathy York, team lead for Fort St. James.

The health care team and the community paramedic in Fort St. James are encouraged to share information and they all have a great working relationship. The community paramedic does a lot with the First Nations bands on naloxone training for overdose prevention, and also educates people on diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and heart disease. She’s also starting to work with local schools to do naloxone training.

Fraser Lake saw benefits when the first community paramedic started. At the time, they were short on nurses, so it was difficult for them to have eyes on some of the people they were concerned about in the community.

“We’re so thrilled to have the program start here, and the paramedics are such an asset to the team,” says Lora Lee Pacheco, team lead for Fraser Lake.

The community paramedic attends team meetings (called “huddles”) in Fraser Lake, which has helped close loops and encourage open communication. If there’s a concern with a patient, the community paramedic will bring it up to the team and sometimes suggest that the physician pay a home visit. They’re proactive in their care and address people’s health concerns early on.

“For example, a man used to come in every second week to the doctor’s office and was going to the hospital once a month. Now, because of the home visits of the community paramedic, he hasn’t been in the hospital since July,” says Lora Lee. “It just goes to show how important it is to check in on people and how far this program goes to prevent hospital admissions.”

Fraser Lake’s community paramedic has also taken over naloxone and CPR training in the community itself, as well as in surrounding First Nations communities. To save time, she’s also spending 1-2 hours a week at the Autumn Services Centre to follow up with people she would normally do a home visit with.

In Burns Lake, the community paramedic started only a few months ago. Since then, the team has found that he’s able to catch concerns with patients earlier on than if they waited to see their doctor. To help prevent crises, he’ll bring patients with any concerns directly to the health care team – another great example of how community paramedics are partnering with Northern Health and the local community health care teams to provide better patient care.

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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Where can nursing take you? Discover Erin Wilson’s journey

Erin Wilson in the bushes, hiking.Nursing is one of the most rewarding careers in health care: You can work in a variety of areas and the opportunities for career advancement are endless. Erin Wilson’s nursing career of nearly 20 years has taken her across Western Canada and down many educational paths.

Growing up in rural Saskatchewan, Erin had an experience that helped shape her career choice: “A man with an intellectual disability worked with my dad. He was the most kind and generous person. He went to the hospital with calf pain and was sent home — his concerns were not validated. He ended up dying because of an undiagnosed blood clot. The unfair feeling of not being heard when asking for help has never left me.”

The many different career options available to nurses also appealed to Erin. “I wanted a career with a lot of opportunities. With nursing, you can work in hospitals or rural communities. You can also teach and conduct research.”

After graduating with her Bachelor’s degree in Nursing, Erin worked in Red Sucker Lake, Manitoba. This was a valuable learning opportunity for Erin on the inequalities and inequities faced by many First Nations communities.

“It was a fly-in community where only 30% of the residents had running water. We had to take a boat to get to the store,” she said. “I learned a lot about access to care, safe housing, and how systems impact people.”

After leaving Red Sucker Lake, Erin worked at other two-nurse stations in BC and in tertiary care in Manitoba. Tertiary care is a high level of hospital care that requires specialized equipment and knowledge.

In 2004, Erin enrolled in a Master’s of Science in Nursing – Nurse Practitioner (NP) program at UBC in Vancouver, while living and working in the Yukon during the summer months. She registered as a NP in BC in 2006, but didn’t move back to the province until late 2007, becoming one of the first nurse practitioners hired by Northern Health, where she worked at the Central Interior Native Health Society in Prince George.

In 2011, looking to further her research capacity, Erin was accepted into the first cohort of UNBC’s PhD in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences. She defended her dissertation in 2017 and is currently an assistant professor at UNBC’s School of Nursing. She also continues to practice one day a week as an NP.

“Practice is an essential link between teaching and research. It allows me to be engaged with what’s happening in our community and patient experiences while maintaining my practice,” said Erin. She’s currently involved with research studies examining NP practice, rural nursing, health inequities, and implementation science.

Not all nursing careers are the same, and Erin’s is a prime example of that. Her education and experience have taken her to various roles across Western Canada. What will she do next? Only time will tell!

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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Valemount knows granting season

Kids and adults on x-country skis.

X-country skiing gives the winter some much needed outside boost!

As you’re probably aware, it’s the spring IMAGINE granting season, and applications are coming in from all over Northern BC. Through our social media promotions of the program, I was lucky enough to connect with Rita Rewerts of the Canoe Valley Community Association (CVCA) in Valemount BC. During her tenure with the CVCA, Rita has applied and been selected for two IMAGINE Community Grants. What a pro!

We chatted about her background, the mountains in the area, how rad Valemount is… oh and how the grants have affected Valemount’s community. Here’s what she had to say!

How long have you been in Valemount and what’s your involvement in the Canoe Valley Community Association?

I moved to Valemount from Vancouver Island (Nanaimo) 25 years ago! I’m now happily retired from my job as a homecare nurse. Currently, I’m the vice president for the Association, and one of my main roles is to act as a liaison between the board and employees for programming. It’s awesome – how can you not love doing things for the kids!?

Cooking equipment on a table in a kitchen.

IMAGINE the creations this cooking equipment will whip up!

What did the IMAGINE grants help with and how were they successful?

We’ve applied for two grants and started two great programs: x-country skiing and a cooking program. I think both of the programs have been very successful, and our community has benefited too!

For our skiing program, we partnered with Yellowhead Outdoor Recreation Association (YORA) to help instruct participants on how to ski. The IMAGINE grant helped us purchase the skis and gear, but wow, is it ever expensive to buy skis for growing kids! So, we opted to buy a wide range of sizes, from youth to adult. Now as a lasting bonus, we’re able to offer skis and gear to the community during the winter for a small fee. It’s been great, and hugely beneficial for the community. Kids, adults and whole families love to get out and ski. Skiing for everybody!

For the cooking program, the grant helped us go from small to big. The idea was to partner with the high school to teach cooking from scratch, but it became too successful for the space we were using. So we moved to the Lions Club, where the IMAGINE grant helped buy cooking equipment like mixers, pans, and utensils.

It’s been very rewarding to see this idea take flight. The kids love cooking. Right from six years old, they take on Food Safe, learn about canning, baking cakes, cookies, whole meals – you name it. Our next project to enhance the program is to build a permaculture garden to grow our own ingredients!

Is there another IMAGINE grant application in your future?

Yes, there sure is! I’m in the process for writing another grant for this cycle. We really believe that programming should be based on what community interests are, and you have to be in constant contact with the community to find out what they want. So for this cycle, we polled kids for ideas through the school! There seems to be a real hunger to learn how to draw and paint. So we will be looking into artsy things: art classes, easels, paints, broad spectrum things. Should be exciting!

Do you have any advice for someone who’s thinking about applying for a grant?

Don’t be afraid! If you have the passion and a good idea, just go for it. Northern Health has been really helpful through all of the granting process, so you don’t really have much to worry about! What’s the worst that can happen? Your idea might be the next best thing for the whole community, which is so positive. Just do it!

Apply today!

Grant applications are being accepted March 1 through to March 31. Check out the application guide and form and get started! If you’re looking for tips on applying, check out our handy blog, IMAGINE Community Grants: Key factors for success in community!

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Peritoneal dialysis and home hemodialysis are helping people with kidney disease have more freedom in their lives

A home hemodialysis educator shows a patient one of the machines.

Dialysis patient Jerry Beck and Home Hemodialysis Educator Susan Rawlings. The dialysis machine pictured is one of the two types of home hemodialysis machines available to patients.

For many, dialysis can feel like a loss of independence because of the ongoing need for hospital appointments and time spent away from home. The availability of peritoneal dialysis (PD) and home hemodialysis allows many people to be involved in their daily treatments and bring back a sense of freedom to their self-management and care.

“I truly believe in the benefits of people being able to do this at home. At first it can sound complicated, but when people start training even after the first day, their anxiety goes down and they feel very proud of themselves,” says Karen Walkey, Patient Care Coordinator, UHNBC Peritoneal Dialysis. “It’s very doable and very learnable, and I am very proud of our patients who are willing to take this on and do such a good job with it and continue living their lives.”

A Peritoneal Dialysis system and diagram of a kidney.

Peritoneal Dialysis twin bag system with all the supplies needed to do a dialysis exchange.

PD is a type of dialysis that is done at home on a daily basis. It involves having a small tube in the abdomen and uses the lining of the abdomen (called the peritoneum) and a cleaning solution to clean the blood. The solution absorbs waste and fluid from blood, using the peritoneum as a filter.

There are many health and lifestyle benefits of PD that help patients combat the challenges they face living with kidney failure. PD treatments can be done in any place that is clean and dry, allowing a person more freedom to work, travel, or do other activities they enjoy without worrying about scheduling dialysis appointments. And, importantly, patients have the opportunity to improve their quality of life by participating in their care plans.

For those patients who are unable to do PD, home hemodialysis may also be an option. In hemodialysis, a machine and a special filter called a dialyzer are used to clean the blood, with the dialyzer acting as an artificial kidney. This requires having an in home hemodialysis machine.

Living outside of an area that has a dialysis unit can sometimes mean a patient having to move out of their community; with home hemodialysis, patients are able to stay in their communities and receive the treatment they need.

Two Home Hemodialysis Educators posing.

Angela Robinson (left) and Susan Rawlings, Home Hemodialysis Educators at the Northern Independent Dialysis Unit at Parkwood Mall in Prince George.

“We want to keep our patients in their communities. Instead of hemodialysis running their lives, we want to fit hemodialysis into the lives they already have,” says Angela Robinson, Home Hemodialysis Educator.

Lifestyle benefits of this mobile dialysis therapy and flexible schedule allow for most patients to perform therapy while at home, at work, at school, or on vacation. Patients can spend more time with loved ones, doing the things they enjoy.

Northern Health has the highest percentage of independent hemodialysis patients in the province, with 34% of dialysis patients on PD and 13.3% on home hemodialysis. These figures are well above the suggested provincial amounts in communities such as Prince Rupert, Fort Nelson, Quesnel, Prince George, Dawson Creek, and many others in between.

For more information and resources on independent dialysis, visit the BC Renal Agency website.

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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