Healthy Living in the North

I came for… I stayed because… with Gillian McCutcheon

Gillian and her four-year-old daughter, wearing life jackets, in a boat on the Skeena River. The river, forest, and mountains are behind them.

Gillian’s daughter, Polly (4), giving a thumbs up to her first rafting trip on the Upper Skeena.

Recently, I’ve noticed a common theme in my conversations with Northern Health staff! Many staff members planned to come to the North for a short time, but have stayed for a lot longer. Meet one such person: Gillian McCutcheon, a human resources advisor based in Terrace. Gillian is from Squamish and came to Northern Health in 2015.

I came for…

My husband and I were trying to move to Terrace for about six years. He had been working in the area for a number of years. We knew the area quite well, and liked the closeness to so many activities. It was important for us to be close to water, and not be land locked. We are winter people, and Terrace has all of the winter activities we love to do.

I like the small town feel, and Terrace reminded me of what Squamish felt like 20 years ago. I commuted to Vancouver for work everyday. With our children being so small, it was hard to juggle daycare, the commute, and all of my responsibilities at home. A short commute was very important to me, which made Terrace even more appealing.

Gillian and her eight-year-old daughter wearing their ski gear on a chair lift.

Gillian and her oldest daughter, Maggie (8), skiing at Shames Mountain.

I stayed because…

My work-life balance is great. There are lots of career opportunities at Northern Health to move around and try new things. We’ve always wanted to live on acreage, which we are able to do in Terrace and it’s still only a few minutes from town.

We’ve only been here for four years, which isn’t long, but it feels like home already. Our children really like it here, and there are lots of activities for them to be involved in. Our oldest is really involved in skiing, dance, and Taekwondo. Our youngest has tried dance, t-ball, and yoga already.

We truly feel like part of the community. Unlike Squamish, people live and work here, which is very noticeable. We are active in the ski hill, and enjoy camping, ice skating, and snow shoeing. We recently bought a white water raft and we’re anticipating spending most of the summer on the river. There’s lots to explore, and we feel like we’re only getting started.

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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I came for… I stayed because… with Rai Read

Rai and her horse are check to check. The sun beams into the picture.

Rai spending quality time with her horse, Macy, on a sunny day.

Recently, I’ve noticed a common theme in my conversations with Northern Health staff! Many staff members planned to come to the North for a short time, but have stayed for a lot longer. Meet one such person: Rai Read, Elderly Service Clinician, who’s based in Terrace. Rai is from England and came to Northern Health in 2011.

I came for…

Honestly, my husband and I came to Terrace thanks to Google Maps. We immigrated to Canada in 2008, and originally moved to Edmonton. Our picture of Canada was a country filled with mountains and trees, and that was not our experience there. Edmonton wasn’t the place for us, and we decided to see what opportunities were available elsewhere.

Two women are horseback with the backs to the camera. They're in a flat, sandy area with mountains and blue sky in the background.

A horseback ride with friends near Thornhill.

We wanted a smaller community with outdoor space to raise our son. Since we were unfamiliar with the area, we spent time looking at photos and maps to learn more. After searching online, we found job postings in Terrace, and I was the successful applicant. If it wasn’t for Google Maps and the internet, I never would have found out about Terrace and moved here.

I stayed because…

For me, a big factor is the innovation at Northern Health. They are constantly looking for ways to change and improve. Leadership supports innovation and encourages staff to learn new things. We have developed new programs and processes that have been extremely beneficial for patients and staff. Having rural and remote communities means that we need to be really creative in how we deliver care, and using telehealth allows us to easily collaborate with different professions and experts.

A boy of approximately 10 stands in front of several paintings, which are hanging on the wall.

Rai’s son Dylan at the Terrace Art Gallery attending local artist Mitchell’s Brager’s exhibit.

At Northern Health, we are fortunate to have lots of strong female leaders. From our CEO, Cathy Ulrich, to my direct manager, Clare Hart. As a woman, it makes me feel empowered knowing our organization supports females to grow and develop. I’m lucky to have such a great manager, and I’m proud to be part of her team.

I’m not into fishing, kayaking, or skiing, but Terrace has much more to offer. We have a fabulous farmers’ market, and options for arts and culture. It’s a great place for our son to grow up. There’s truly something for everyone, and I have no intention of going anywhere 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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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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Northern Table: An Elder’s impact on community food security

Elder Semiguul sits on a boat, smiling at the camera.

Metlakalta Elder Semiguul (Fanny Nelson).

Not having enough food to eat affects one in six children living in Canada. This can impact a child’s physical, mental, and social health.

The effects of food insecurity on health

Household food insecurity” means not having access to food because of inadequate income, and it’s connected to negative health and well-being. Those who experience food insecurity are at an increased risk for health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, depression, and suicidal thoughts [1]. However, amidst these challenges, there are people who are making a difference in building community and household food security.

One Elder making a difference

Elder Semiguul (Fanny Nelson) is from Metlakatla, a First Nations community near Prince Rupert. Metlakatla’s population is about 80 people and it’s only accessible by boat or plane. Semiguul’s parents taught her how to harvest traditional foods (gathering seaweed, digging clams, and picking berries) as well as how to prepare them.

Today, Semiguul regularly takes family and community members with her when she goes harvesting. Back at home, she prepares these foods and teaches others how to prepare them too.

“I teach them to gather and put away enough food to last, so that they don’t have a tough time in the winter months,” says Semiguul.

Semiguul and another person are on a rock shore, looking for food. Semiguul is handing down a bucket.

Semiguul regularly takes family and community members with her when she harvests traditional foods.

Learning from our Elders

Elders have a lot to teach us about how to live off the land and waters, and about values such as generosity and caring for the environment. Reigniting harvesting strategies that have worked for millennia is called Indigenous food sovereignty. It’s an important part of ensuring community members have access to healthy foods that are sustainable and build community self-reliance (community food security).

First Nations traditional foods

First Nations traditional foods are nutritious and some have been used by Elders for generations.

“My mom told me that black currants would reduce a fever,” shares Semiguul. “I have put a spoon of black currant jam in water and it works. The fever goes down. I also gave seaweed daily to someone who had low iron and it helped.”

Respecting traditional territory and teachings

If you want to gather foods from the land, it’s important to speak with Elders or the local First Nation on whose traditional territory you are on, to learn about respectful food gathering practices. For example, Semiguul shares with children, “only take want you need to last from season to season. Break off the ends of the seaweed and leave it there as it is the seed for next year.”

More food security information

Here are some other programs that are building community food security in the region:

If you’d like to learn more about household food insecurity, take a look this three-part blog series on household food insecurity:

  1. What is household food insecurity?
  2. Food costing in BC
  3. A call to action

[1] PROOF food insecurity policy research.

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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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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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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Sharing of cultural practices in health care transitions

“I can’t emphasize how important it is for health care professionals to take the lead in asking these questions (about cultural practices), in peeling back the layers of assumptions, and finding out specifically how we can assist and make any transition smoother. Things will go better if those questions are asked right away and then I’ve always found when that happens, those questions are met with relief almost and answers are immediate” -Coco Miller, Kitselas, Tsimshian Nation

Young boy carrying drum

A young drummer at a video launch event in Kitselas.

The Terrace/Kitimat and Area Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee (AHIC) is pleased to launch two videos that share information for health care providers about the Tsimshian, Tahltan, Haisla, Gitxsan, and Nisga’a peoples’ cultural practices and how they impact their health care needs.

In 2014-2016, Aboriginal Health provided financial support for each of the eight AHICs in the north to develop local cultural resources. Development of these resources was guided by the question: “If I were a new health care provider in Northern Health, what you would want me to know?”

The Terrace/Kitimat and Area AHIC produced the following videos which focus on cultural practices for important life transitions:

These videos cover important topics relevant for life events that often take place in the health system including:

  • the importance of families gathering and being together,
  • the cultural roles of the family,
  • the diversity of practices among families and Nations,
  • how Northern Health staff can support families and their cultural practices, and
  • the importance of communication between the patient/family and care providers.

“I think it’s very important to have family there and friends to be around us to support us, pray for us. They are there to feed us. Especially for the young ones to be there to witness what we have to go through during the time of a death. It’s very important for them to know how we feel and see the experience.” -Roberta Grant, Haisla Nation

Group of six adults with gift bags.

Celebrating the launch of the AHIC videos in Kitselas.

“The Grandmother comes to visit and is in the delivery room also. She will take the baby and examine the baby to look for any recognizable birth marks on the baby because, in our belief, our family comes back through reincarnation. An aunt of the father also needs to be in the delivery room because we have her role to be to cut the umbilical cord because this signifies their role as the father clan. The child is no longer just belonging to the mother’s family (the maternal family) but the child also belongs to the paternal family.” -Verna Howard, Gitxsan/Wet’suwet’en Nation

I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch these videos and share them with others. The information contained in these videos is an amazing gift from the Tsimshian, Tahltan, Haisla, Gitxsan and Nisǥa’a peoples.

I hope the videos inspire all of us to continue collaborating and learning and that you find them helpful in your life and your work.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more, I encourage you to contact Lloyd McDames, the Aboriginal Patient Liaison in Terrace.

Another way to develop your understanding of First Nations and Aboriginal peoples is the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training, an online course by the Provincial Health Services Authority.

Find more work done by the AHICs from across the north in this booklet of local cultural resources.

 

Cultural practices around birth

Cultural practices around illness and death

Jonathan Cooper

About Jonathan Cooper

Jonathan Cooper is the Health Service Administrator for Kitimat. His role includes many aspects of health care responsibilities for acute, complex care and community services in Kitimat. Jonathan has been in this role approaching 8 years, during which time he has been actively participating in many health committees, including the Terrace, Kitimat & Region Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee. Jonathan immigrated to Canada from the United Kingdom where he worked for the National Health Service. Jonathan enjoys outdoor pursuits, cooking, reading, and spending time with his family and children.

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