Healthy Living in the North

It’s Canadian Intensive Care Week!

Celebrate Canadian Intensive Care Week Oct 21 – 27. Each year, over 100,000 Canadians receive life-saving care in ICUs. Thank you to Northern Health’s critical care nurses, ICU physicians, and other ICU care providers for all the hard work you do every day!

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

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

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Excellence in Northern Health nursing: Valerie Waymark & Leslie Murphy

Last week, I had the privilege of introducing you to two Northern Health nurses who received Nursing Excellence Awards from the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia in 2014. This week, I am excited to share the insights of two more award winners, Valerie Waymark and Leslie Murphy, who shared their thoughts on the award and on working in northern B.C.

Valerie Waymark holding award

Valerie Waymark, regional manager of community care facilities licensing, was one of six Northern Health nurses recognized by the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia in 2014.

Valerie Waymark, regional manager, community care facilities licensing, Prince George

What does this award mean to you?

This award carried a lot of meaning and poignancy for me. Over 15 years ago, I decided to get more involved in the professional group that was to become the CRNBC. I was elected to the board for two terms. I learned so much over those terms and my position on the board gave me the chance to be involved in past award galas. One year, I pinned corsages onto the award winners; another year, I handed the recipients their roses as they walked onstage. As I was helping out at those galas, I’d often think: “Wouldn’t it be cool to get that award?” And now, over ten years later, I was one of the nurses walking across the stage!

For me, there was so much synchronicity getting this award, this year. This is the last year that the CRNBC will be giving out the awards (the awards are being transferred to the Association of Registered Nurses of BC) so it was really poignant, given my past involvement in the CRNBC, to be part of this final group of CRNBC award recipients. It was also special to see that the awards in 2014 were presented by Rob Calnan, who was the president of the organization during one of my terms on the board. I hadn’t seen Rob since my time on the board so to be recognized by Rob and the CRNBC in the last year that this would be possible was quite special.

The award also feels special because it confirms the values that I hold near and dear. For years, I’ve been persistent about sticking to my personal values related to leadership so to be recognized by my peers feels very validating.

And, sadly, my husband passed away less than two months after the awards ceremony. He was with me for the presentation and I know he was very, very proud. That is a memory I will hold close to my heart for many years to come.

What do you enjoy most about working in northern B.C.?

I have lived and worked all over the place but have been in northern B.C. for about ten years. What I find most distinctive is the opportunity that the region provides – doors open here that may not have opened elsewhere. Also, there are unique circumstances that make the job more challenging and more fun. For me, our region’s uniqueness is proven every time that I sit in on health care discussions with representatives from around the province. Whenever I’m at these meetings, people always seem to ask: “What is the northern perspective?” To me, the reason that this question keeps coming up is because people in the north have, and are not afraid to express, different viewpoints. I value and appreciate those differences.

I also feel like there is a different camaraderie in northern B.C. People here come together unlike any other region I’ve lived and worked in. I am inspired every day by the generosity and compassion of people in the north.

Leslie Murphy holding award

Leslie Murphy, manager of maternal child services, was one of six Northern Health nurses recognized with a CRNBC Nursing Excellence Award in 2014.

Leslie Murphy, manager of maternal child services, Prince George

What does this award mean to you?

It is such an honour to be recognized by your peers! The award was very humbling and, for me, this feeling was driven home at the gala event itself. I kept seeing the other award recipients and wondering how it was that I fit amongst them! I also found it really meaningful to see the letters of support that had been written for my nomination – and even more special to be able to share those letters with my mother, who was very proud. There were letters written by students I had mentored, physicians with whom I have worked, nursing mentors, and peers who have all played such integral parts in my career.

What do you enjoy most about working in northern B.C.?

I have worked with Northern Health in northern B.C. for my entire 22-year career so I can’t really compare it to anything else! What strikes me as special about the north, though, is that despite (and perhaps because of) the huge territory that Northern Health occupies, nurses get to develop strong relationships with others across the region. We share policy, procedures, insights, and experiences. I love getting requests for information and advice from across the province. It seems to me that northern nurses are able to work together despite geography and demographics, which I see as a testament to the spirit of collaboration and teamwork in northern B.C.

What’s more, I get to be a jack-of-all-trades! I love working in small, remote regions and try to encourage students to get a taste of rural nursing, like I had in my career.


In all, six Northern Health nurses won Nursing Excellence Awards: Lisa Cox, Celia Evanson, Linda Keefe, Leslie Murphy, Barb Schuerkamp, and Valerie Waymark. Visit the CRNBC website to read their full bios.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

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

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Excellence in Northern Health nursing: Barb Schuerkamp and Linda Keefe

I recently joined the Northern Health team and one of the first emails that I received was a news release about six award-winning nurses working in northern communities. The nurses received Nursing Excellence Awards from the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia (CRNBC) at a gala in the fall. It was a real treat to be able to spend part of my first few days at Northern Health talking to some of these award-winning professionals.

With so many diverse experiences and communities being recognized, I wanted to know what the award meant to each of the winners. Also, as a relatively new resident in northern B.C., I was excited to hear what these nurses enjoyed most about the region. This week, I’m excited to share what I learned from two of the award winners and next week, I’ll share the insights of two more exceptional Northern Health nurses.

Barb Schuerkamp holding award.

Barb Schuerkamp was one of six Northern Health nurses who were recognized with Nursing Excellence Awards from the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia.

Barb Schuerkamp, head nurse, Tumbler Ridge

What does this award mean to you?

The gala event was very elegant and I had many colleagues and friends who were able to attend, so the day itself was special. As for the award, there is really no greater honour than being recognized by the professional body to which you belong so I was humbled because it is my peers who nominated me for the award. For me, it feels like this award is the gift that keeps on giving because after the gala, the CRNBC shared the letters of support with me so I was able to read about how my peers perceive my work and service, which was a truly special experience.

What do you enjoy most about working in northern B.C.?

For me, it is the people and the geography. Working in northern B.C. allows you to develop close relationships with your working team. In Tumbler Ridge, we have two doctors, two lab techs, and four nurses and we have created a very cohesive team with a lot of mutual respect amongst team members. We focus on getting the job done and everyone checks their ego at the door, which is a great environment to work in. What is especially neat is to see how visiting professionals and doctors on locum also fall into this culture.

In addition to the people, I love the beauty and peacefulness of our region. Northern B.C. is a great place to recharge your batteries and to stay centered. Tumbler Ridge has amazing trails and dinosaur tracks and I see deer ambling up and down our streets all the time. Our whole staff team loves the outdoors and there is lots of team support to meld work and the outdoors. I think that this is unique to northern B.C. What’s more, in October, with the dedication and hard work of a group of citizens, Tumbler Ridge and a large surrounding area were declared an international UNESCO Geopark. We’re only the second Geopark in North America and this designation provides an opportunity for us to pursue a new level of tourism and local engagement that celebrates our history, geography, natural resources, people, and more!

Professionally, I love the challenges of northern B.C. I’ve been a nurse for 38 years and have spent the last 27 with Northern Health. What I like about small northern communities is that you need to be a generalist in order to respond to various emergencies. Because of the incredibly diverse nature of medical situations in northern B.C., I get to be creative and think about things differently, which keeps things very interesting.

Linda Keefe holding award

Linda Keefe was one of six Northern Health nurses who were recognized with Nursing Excellence Awards from the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia.

Linda Keefe, HIV/AIDS prevention program coordinator, Prince George

What does this award mean to you?

This award was a huge honour for me because I was nominated by my peers. For me, this is particularly meaningful because it is my peers who truly understand the complexity of the clients and their environments in which we work. So, to be recognized for the work that I’ve done by folks who know this particular and complex context is really special and validating, as a nurse.

What do you enjoy most about working in northern B.C.?

What I enjoy most about working in northern B.C. is the fact that I get to wear a number of different hats. This is home for myself and my family. Having grown up in northern B.C., I bring several perspectives to my work. I’m a nurse (health care service provider), a member of the community, a health care consumer, a parent, a daughter, and more. Because I approach my work with all of these different hats on, when I’m working with individuals, I’m able to look at their care needs through a variety of perspectives. It also allows for me to consider health care provision through the lens of impact on an individual and the larger community. This ties to the relevance of individualized care, to the bigger picture of health care delivery in northern B.C. I really enjoy this part of my work.


In all, six Northern Health nurses won Nursing Excellence Awards: Lisa Cox, Celia Evanson, Linda Keefe, Leslie Murphy, Barb Schuerkamp, and Valerie Waymark. Visit the CRNBC website to read their full bios.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

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

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Your health HQ

A thumbs up in front of the health link BC website

A thumbs up for HealthLink BC.

Please tell me I am not the only one to ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of health information out there! A Google search for “health tips” will yield well over one million results in a quarter of a second. It doesn’t matter how good you are at making sense of information, even the savviest of researchers can be stunned.

Even for a healthy individual without a clinical diagnosis of disease, the situation can be confusing. For example, some of the things I wonder about:

  • How many servings of dark green vegetables should I get each day?
  • How many hours of sleep am I supposed to get?
  • Should I get a flu shot?
  • Is it better to walk 10 minutes each day, or 20 minutes every other day?

In one of my previous jobs, I worked with cancer survivors and learned about their experiences in northern BC. One of the interesting things that I took away from that job is that people care about finding quality information. That is, information that is trusted and true; people value information from a reliable source.

Have you ever heard of HealthLink BC? While it may not be as sexy as the cover model on the front of the magazine at the checkout stand, it is written by experts who live and work in your province and it’s developed with you in mind.

HealthLink BC is a free resource to all British Columbians where you can find any and all non-emergency health-related information. You can search healthy lifestyle tips, medications, and diseases and their symptoms. All information is medically-approved, so it can be trusted.

HealthLink BC is accessible. They have a user-friendly website and you can talk to a registered nurse (a real person!) on the phone any time of the day or night by calling 8-1-1. Translation services are available for more than 130 languages. They even have an app!

But, 8-1-1 is more than just nurses! When you first call, you will talk to a Health Service Representative. This person will talk to you about what you are looking for and get you in touch with the right people.

  • Pharmacists – talk about your medications (available every night, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.)
  • Dietitians – talk about healthy eating and nutrition (available Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
  • Nurses – talk about symptoms, procedures, or whether you should go to the doctor for your inquiry (available all day, every day of the year!)

You can even call any time of the day or night to learn where the closest health services to you are, including walk-in clinics, travel clinics, and immunizations.

Bonus tip: Did you know that you can talk to an exercise specialist for free by calling the Physical Activity Line? By talking to them, you can get physical activity guidance tailored to your needs and lifestyle. Their number is 1-877-725-1149. They are available Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

I can hear that little voice in your head saying, “It’s great to know that these resources are there, but I’m not going to call them.” Why not?! I challenge you to pick up that phone and to call a nurse next time you are Googling a symptom. Chances are you will get better, more accurate information than using “Dr. Google.”

Have you ever been overwhelmed by health information? Do you think this resource might help you?

Win a $300 GC to help support your healthy habits in 2014!

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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