Healthy Living in the North

Northern Health emergency guides spark national interest

The cover of the Relocation Guide is pictured.

The Relocation Guide, for use if your community is under evacuation alert, and NH wants to relocate patients or residents proactively.

Two unique Northern Health handbooks developed in the aftermath of the 2017 wildfires are inspiring other health organizations in BC and across Canada.

One guides hospitals and other health care facilities on how to safely relocate their patients during an emergency (for example, moving them to another community).

The other gives tips on how to receive patients being transferred from elsewhere – like when 254 hospital patients and care home residents from the Cariboo were evacuated to Prince George and Quesnel in 2017.

“Together, the two guides can help an organization cope in the face of emergency,” says Jana Hargreaves, Coordinator, Northern Health Emergency Management, who led the guides’ development. “Having clear guidelines in a crisis should result in better care for the patients involved.”

Other health authorities in BC have expressed interest in making their own versions of the Northern Health guidebooks, and there’s also been interest from Nova Scotia and the Yukon.

The cover of the Receiving Guide is pictured.

The Receiving Guide, for facilities and communities hosting evacuated patient/residents from another community.

“The concept of a quick-access document that an emergency operations centre can refer to during a crisis is unique and has been championed by Jana,” says Jim Fitzpatrick, Director, Northern Health Emergency Management. “Other organizations are requesting the information to see what we’ve done and how they could adapt it to their operations.”

The team at Northern Health likes to think of the two guides as “evergreen pathfinder” documents – in other words, they’re constantly evolving.

“It’s important to always be on the lookout to improve them,” says Jim. “There may be similar documents out there, but we haven’t found them yet. If we do, we’ll definitely review them with the intent to learn and adopt as appropriate.”

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!


Celebrate World Patient Safety Day – September 17, 2019

A graphic says, "Speak up for patient safety! No one should be harmed in health care."

On September 17, speak up for patient safety!

This year, the World Health Organization declared September 17, 2019 the first annual World Patient Safety Day. They’re encouraging people to speak up for patient safety.

At Northern Health, we’ve been working hard to remove the potential harms associated with health care. In 2018, we had an external review by Accreditation Canada surveyors, who assessed us against standards of excellence. They identified what is being done well and what needs to be improved, and we’re proud to have met 100% of the infection control and medical device cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization standards.

On World Patient Safety Day, help us break the silence and speak up for patient safety.

There are three ways to get involved:

  1. Check out the documentary – Attend the screening of the patient safety documentary To Err is Human on September 17. It starts at 12 pm PST. Register through the Canadian Patient Safety Institute.
  1. Take part on social media – Use Twitter and Facebook to share content and follow the hashtags #Patientsafety and #WorldPatientSafetyDay, and the slogan “Speak up for Patient Safety.” This is your chance to add your voice to the conversation and see what everyone else is saying.
  1. Talk about it – Talk about World Patient Safety Day (September 17) with your friends and family. Encourage others to speak up for safety while receiving care, and share stories that will help make care safer.

Learn more about the World Patient Safety Day on the World Health Organization’s website.

Marlene Apolczer

About Marlene Apolczer

Marlene is the Quality Improvement Lead for the Northern Interior and is based in Prince George. Marlene is a longtime health care employee and worked in a number of program areas before bringing all of her knowledge and experience to her current role. When she is not working, you can usually find Marlene in a school gymnasium or hockey arena cheering on her teenage sons!


Tammy Rizmayer: Everyday Champion

Photo of Tammy Rizmayer

Tammy Rizmayer goes above and beyond for the patients she works with and is now one of four finalists for this year’s BC Patient Safety & Quality Council’s Everyday Champion Award!

Meet Tammy Rizmayer, one of four finalists for this year’s BC Patient Safety & Quality Council’s Everyday Champion Award. The award celebrates an individual who shows a passion and commitment for improving quality of care, even though his or her role does not necessarily specify participation in quality improvement activities or leadership responsibilities. You can help Tammy win the Everyday Champion Award by voting for her, which I’m sure you’ll want to do after reading about the impact she’s making to northerners in B.C.

Based out of UHNBC in Prince George, Tammy has been the Renal Social Worker for Northern Health’s regional renal program since 2009. In her role, Tammy works with patients suffering from kidney disease and their families, many of whom live outside of Prince George and on low incomes. To reduce the financial burden of travel to Prince George and Vancouver, Tammy has partnered with accommodation and travel providers to help patients and their families travel to and from medical appointments at a reduced cost. She was also instrumental in establishing a $25,000 bursary fund that helps patients overcome travel cost barriers. Tammy is a tremendous resource for her patients as they navigate the medical system.

I had the pleasure of talking to Tammy about what motivates her to be such a positive influence on the lives of her patients:

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born in Quesnel and my family moved to Prince George when I was 5. I have been in the social work field for almost 30 years. I am married and have a daughter and a one-year-old grandson. I enjoy reading and my husband and I are avid snowboarders and skiers and we love ocean fishing.

I began my career as a home support worker and taught parenting skills to at-risk families. I joined Northern Health in 2007 and worked in a variety of departments. I started working in the renal department six years ago. My goal is to ensure that the patients we serve have the services and supports in place to keep them out of the hospital and off dialysis for as long as possible. I get to follow patients through the journey of their illness – from chronic kidney disease, through dialysis, and then through to post-transplant when they return from Vancouver. It’s amazing to see the difference in the quality of people’s lives post-transplant.

What inspired you to get involved in the work that you are doing?

My mom was a big influence for me getting involved in the social work field. She was a single mom raising four children and pursued her degree in social work. She was an instructor in the Social Services program at the College of New Caledonia and taught and mentored me and many of my colleagues. I was also impacted by the people that I worked with in my home support role and wanted to make a difference in their lives. I wanted to advocate for and support people that I was working with and saw getting my social work degree as a way to show them that someone was on their side and wanted them to be successful and healthy.

I’m continually inspired by the patients that I work with and I learn as much from them as they do from me. They are the experts in their own health and their medical condition. They are living their journey and need to tell us what is going on, and we use our expertise to support them.

What are some of the challenges that you have faced in your career and how have you dealt with them?

I deal with patients who are dying and I need to support patients in the clinic who have experienced that loss. Our patients develop close relationships, seeing each other multiple times a week over a number of years, and when a patient dies it has a significant impact on the other patients in the clinic, as well as the staff. It is also difficult to manage the information sharing when someone dies, as confidentiality does not allow us to share that information in the clinic. We have an excellent team of caregivers within the renal team and social work team, and we all look out for and take care of each other.

(Editor’s note –As we were speaking, Tammy realized there was an opportunity for improving the process of sharing information and she plans to work towards improving this process!)

What does being nominated as an Everyday Champion mean to you?

It means that people are recognizing that I love my job and the patients that I work with. It is quite humbling that I am being recognized this way. To have a formal recognition of my work warms my heart. Every one of my colleagues does an extraordinary job and it feels odd to be singled out when you are a member of such a great group of professionals.

If you had to choose one reason for going above and beyond, what would it be?

For me, it’s asking “how can I give back to the patients that I work with and how can I make a difference and be a positive presence in someone’s life?”

What advice do you have for someone who wants to go above and beyond to provide quality care for our patients?

Be genuine and do it for the right reasons. If you want to go above and beyond, you should not care if anyone notices what you are doing. If you are doing it because it is the right thing to do, recognition should not play a part in why you are doing it.

She may not desire recognition, but she certainly deserves it! Support Tammy as the Everyday Champion by voting on the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council website. You can vote every day, once on every device you have!

Marlene Apolczer

About Marlene Apolczer

Marlene is the Quality Improvement Lead for the Northern Interior and is based in Prince George. Marlene is a longtime health care employee and worked in a number of program areas before bringing all of her knowledge and experience to her current role. When she is not working, you can usually find Marlene in a school gymnasium or hockey arena cheering on her teenage sons!