Healthy Living in the North

Our People: Shelley Bondy

“I feel like I have a purpose here.” Find out what makes Prince Rupert so special for Shelley Bondy (Manager, Perioperative Services and Registered Nurse).

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Advisor – HR at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.


Creative new approaches help people in Prince Rupert get occupational therapy

Emily Bennett posing with a spectacular mountain landscape view.Northern Health has a strong vision for creating teams of health care professionals that centre on the person and their family, but making big changes can be challenging. This article is my story of bringing better care to people in Prince Rupert.

I’m an occupational therapist (OT). This means I help people solve problems to make it easier and safer to do everyday things:

  • Self-care: getting dressed, eating, or moving around the house
  • Being productive: going to work or school, or participating in the community
  • Leisure activities: sports, gardening, or social activities[i]

The problem

In 2017, I started working as an OT on the community health care team in Prince Rupert. When I started, there was a large backlog of referrals for me, some from as much as three years ago. It was impossible for me to see everyone quickly enough.

This meant a lot of clients were getting by at home without much support. Some of them suffered falls. Others couldn’t leave their homes because they had pain or problems with mobility. Others weren’t using equipment, like walkers, that could have made them safer.

I wanted to set things up so that people could get therapy earlier, before things got serious. This way, we could head off problems before they happened, and we could help keep people independent and out of the hospital.

But, using the normal channels, I didn’t have time to see all the clients. To solve this problem, I had to think creatively and try new things. I’m passionate about quality improvement, so I enjoyed this process. Here are some of the solutions I came up with.

One-time sessions with clients

The community health care team helped me set up sessions with clients. With their support, I was able to set up one-time face-to-face visits with people who needed help. During the visits, I offered education and gave people advice, such as how to use equipment, and also gave them referrals to community resources and programs.

A couple of months later, I checked in with the clients. They reported that they’d made changes based on my advice, and that they now felt safer at home and more confident. Some of them had started using walkers regularly, some had adapted their home setups, and others had asked for more support from family.

This was a great example of how health care teams can work together to improve their practice and build partnerships with other team members.

Really understanding where people needed help

In collaboration with other OTs across Canada, I created a questionnaire called Occupational Therapy Outcome Indicators to measure people’s overall functioning and quality of life. This made it easier to figure out exactly what areas people needed help with so that we could set goals and make recommendations. It also helped clients understand what I, as an OT, could and couldn’t do.

Working with other health care professionals

I also started three other partnerships with health care professionals with the idea of making services more efficient, enhancing collaboration, and making clients more able to cope on their own:

  • Together with a physiotherapist and rehab assistant, I set up a walker clinic.
  • I presented as a guest speaker to the Adult Addictions Day Program.
  • I presented to a falls prevention group at the Prince Rupert assisted living facility.

These programs let me see more clients at once and provide education and treatment in groups.

It was so beneficial to work with the physiotherapist and rehab assistants on the walker clinic. We completed assessments together and this model offered an opportunity for students that were on clinical placements at the time to learn to work collaboratively with other healthcare providers.

Making changes and trying new things can be difficult, but a preventive approach can help people stay safe, independent, and out of hospital. This also helps reduce the demand on the health care system and, most importantly, gives people improved quality of life and better health.


[i] From

Emily Bennett

About Emily Bennett

Emily is an occupational therapist from Northern British Columbia. She returned to work for Northern Health after completing her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy in Hamilton, Ontario. She is invested in the well-being of our northern communities and is passionate about quality improvement and health promotion. When she is not immersed in her clinical practice, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her friends, her family, and her dog, appreciating the beautiful nature throughout


Fatherhood, community, and culture: Reflections on parenting in Prince Rupert with Duane Jackson

Duane Jackson and daughter

Between his professional and personal life, Duane Jackson has had the opportunity to glean a great deal of wisdom with a child-centred focus.

Duane Jackson has worn many hats in his years serving children and families on the Northwest Coast. His many positions held include former Aboriginal Coordinator for Success by Six and Regional Coordinator for Children First. He now works with the Hecate Strait Employment Development Society as a Trainer/Facilitator and Employment Counsellor. Jackson is also co-chair on the Aboriginal Steering Committee with the Human Early Learning Partnership.

Most importantly, Jackson is a family man – he and his wife are the proud parents of three children. Between his professional and personal life, Duane Jackson has had the opportunity to glean a great deal of wisdom with a child-centred focus.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I grew up on the Northwest Coast, but I’m Gitanmaax from Old Hazelton. I actually lived at one of the fishing canneries, North Pacific Cannery on Inverness Passage, when it was an operating cannery – now it’s a museum! I’ve been in Prince Rupert the majority of my life, grade 3 on, and went to high school here.

When I was 26, I met my wife, Christine, and we’ve been together for 23 years now. We have three children, a 17-year-old, a 14-year-old and an 8-year-old.

As a father of three, what have you found most unexpected in fatherhood?

I didn’t expect it to be the humbling experience that it was. I realized right from the birth of my first child that the importance of this job was so completely over and above anything that I understood in my life at that point. This small individual was going to encompass me so completely. With my first boy, with Caleb – I actually never put him down once! I carried him everywhere. I never put him in a buggy or a stroller; I carried him. He was in my arms all the time.

The biggest thing was the level of humility that was required, and the beauty of that was how much growth was involved in that process because of the fact that if you don’t embrace that humility, it will totally uproot you.

You graduated from college at age 40 and immediately began your work in serving children and families. How do your life experiences and education combine in your approach to your life and work?

Throughout my Early Childhood Education learning, the one thing that really got me was advocacy. But then of course, according to my culture, as a Gitanmaax person, I must advocate for children. Every child within my society is my responsibility. Not every Gitanmaax child, every child. My culture speaks to it, and as an Early Childhood Educator, my code of conduct speaks to it as well, that every child is my responsibility.

Prince Rupert harbour front

For Duane, Prince Rupert’s many activities and diverse population make it a healthy community for kids. Access to activities, however, can be a challenge.

What makes Prince Rupert a healthy community for children?

We have many activities for children, from minor league soccer and basketball, to the recreation centre for more activities. But we must remember that Prince Rupert is leading the province in unemployment. There is a huge societal barrier to accessing some of these activities. It’s not just Indigenous people who believe these programs just aren’t for them. It’s societal. In Canada we have the lowest percentage, globally, of children and families who access community programming.

We see a lot of families out at some great community events here: the Halloween Fest, the Winter Fest, the Children’s Festival … you see all generations of families out together, from the elders down to the smallest children.

One of the things I am always excited to see is children from diverse backgrounds who speak their language. Not just Indigenous languages, but all cultural groups. When they speak the language of their parents, I think that’s really exciting. You see that a lot here in Prince Rupert because there are many ethnicities represented here.

In your opinion, what small things do you do, that others can do, that may have big impacts in supporting healthy childhoods?

I think it’s in doing things together – doing activities together – and getting kids off of the computer. Getting kids off of screens! We’re steadily raising a generation of young people that will not have the ability to communicate effectively and positively. There’s just no amount of emoticons that you are going to attach to a text message that are actually going to tell me how you feel. This is starting younger and younger. You can go to a restaurant and see a family of four where all four people are on screens, no one is having a conversation. At our table here at home, where we have dinner together every night, there are no phones. My phone goes away. I have that deal with my family – and we talk. At the table – no one is watching TV!

These are the pieces – do things together, be involved, be supportive. And not just going out and watching your children do their activities. One of the most exciting things for me this year was having my daughter come and watch me coach basketball. She would come and watch my team play, and watch me coach. Bring your children with you into a social setting so that they can see how you are in that setting. All of us are different in our own homes than in a social setting. I think the secret is to get your children out with you in social events.

Knowing what you know now – if you were to go back to those early years with your children – what would you try to do more of with them?

Play, play, play. Hold onto them as much as possible, which is what I do now – even with the older boy and my 14-year-old. Squash ’em, squash ’em, squash ’em as much as I can! And never show them anger. I can show them disappointment, I tell my children I can be disappointed with your decisions, but at no time, ever, are you a disappointment.

If I were to go back, punishment would go out the door. I would go with restorative justice. I would walk, and talk, and teach and do nothing else but that.

If I was to talk to a parent, or talk to myself when I was a new parent, I’d tell them just to love and give and respect your children unconditionally. To give them these three things throughout our lives together and expect nothing in return. That’s what I would do … and advise.

This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story and lots of other information about child health in the Summer 2016 issue:

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!


Screening & follow-up care to prevent cardiovascular disease in women in Prince Rupert

This article was co-authored by Justine Derksen and Janice Paterson

Doctor in scrubs

Evidence has shown that pregnancy is a great place to evaluate cardiac risk. In Prince Rupert, Dr. Marius Pienaar has developed a screening program and software to identify and support women with cardiovascular risks.

Scientific evidence has shown that pregnancy is a great place to evaluate cardiac risk. In Prince Rupert, Dr. Marius Pienaar, a gynecologist, has developed a screening program and software which uses the data collected during a woman’s pregnancy to assess for cardiovascular risks and to coordinate referral and follow-up to prevent cardiovascular disease.

During the pregnancy, some basic measurements such as blood pressure and weight are recorded and a panel of blood tests are performed, including blood lipids and glucose. This data is then entered into the program to calculate a risk score for future cardiovascular disease. Women with elevated risk are then offered interventions, and their primary care provider is informed of this risk.

We have a golden opportunity to evaluate pregnant women with cardiovascular risk and this should not be missed. -Dr. Marius Pienaar

Dr. Pienaar explains that if a woman has diabetes in pregnancy, she is at a higher risk of having diabetes later in life and should be tested 6 weeks to 6 months after pregnancy. Currently, only about 20% of women are tested after pregnancy. Dr. Pienaar’s new software actively follows his patients and has created a referral and reminder system where every patient can be contacted and given opportunities to attend the North Coast Maternal Health Clinic for evaluation.

Walking in snow with mountain background.

Dr. Pienaar is hoping to make this unique program and software available across the province.

Currently, Dr. Pienaar’s clinic seeks to intervene by providing clinical care to at-risk women as well as offering smoking cessation resources, on-site dietitians and diabetes nurses, and more. 100% of postpartum patients who are screened and are identified as having increased risk are offered the postpartum health clinic visit. The program is expected to increase patient awareness of their own risk of cardiovascular disease and support women to access additional health care services to help reduce their risk.

I am very appreciative of the care and information I received in the North Coast Maternal Health Clinic. This program provided me with valuable information/assessment regarding future health risks. Such insight allows me to intervene early in order to improve my modifiable risk factors and ensure my future health and well-being. -Cherie Harvey-Malthus

The clinic has been a success so far and is very efficient and cost effective. Dr. Pienaar has seen success with this quality improvement project and hopes to make the program and software available across the province. There has already been interest from Fraser Health and the Lower Mainland to emulate the clinic model at other hospitals. This is the first such clinic in B.C. and the first rural clinic in Canada specifically geared to evaluate cardiovascular risk in postpartum patients.

Check out the full version of this article: An Innovative Program in Prince Rupert is Screening and Providing Follow-up Care for Women with Risk for CVD

Justine Derksen

About Justine Derksen

Justine works for Northern Health in Medical Affairs as the Coordinator, Physician Engagement Initiatives in Prince George. Justine loves the north and enjoys the seasonal activities with her husband and adorable Bernese Mountain dog any chance she gets. Justine is currently pursuing her masters of Public Health degree, which she was inspired to pursue through her work with Northern Health. When not at work, Justine enjoys cooking, outdoor recreational activities and crafting.


Partnering for Healthier Communities Grants available

Sheila and Jane, partnering for healthier communities

Sheila Gordon-Payne, health service administrator for Prince Rupert, and Jane Boutette. They are happy to announce the Partnering for Healthier Communities Grants, available to support projects aimed at improving health and wellness of youth or seniors in Prince Rupert and Port Edward.What makes a healthy community? What’s my role in helping to create a healthy environment in the place where I live and work?

[July 31, 2014 editor’s note: The deadline for applications has been extended to October 15, 2014!]

What makes a healthy community? What’s my role in helping to create a healthy environment in the place where I live and work?

I first really thought about these questions while I was working at a local food bank during my summers off from nursing school. During my time there, I met people from all walks of life who were doing their best to get by in tough circumstances. On top of their financial troubles, many were also facing significant health challenges and I was eager to complete my studies and find a way to “really help.”

After graduating, I took a job in the Northwest Territories working as a rural acute care nurse and spent my days in the emergency department, mostly looking after people with preventable injuries and complications from chronic conditions. Many of the people I helped had similar challenges to the clients I worked with at the food bank: too little money, too much stress and limited resources to cope with it all.

After a particularly long shift, I decided to head out on my bike for some much needed exercise and I found myself reflecting back on my time at the food bank. I was struck with the thought that I still hadn’t found a way to “really help.” I was proud of the work that I was doing but the reality was starting to set in that as a nurse, I didn’t have the capacity to provide the kind of supports that my clients really needed in order to live healthier lives. In fact, the health care system on its own didn’t even have this capacity. Those simple realizations set me on the path to a career in public health and ultimately, to the work that I am now doing with the Healthy Communities Integration Committee in Prince Rupert and Port Edward.

“With rare exceptions, all of your most important achievements on this planet will come from working with others – or, in a word, partnership.” -Paul Farmer

Several years ago, Sheila Gordon-Payne, the Health Services Administrator for Prince Rupert (pictured here with me before another post-work bike ride!), approached me and some colleagues at Northern Health with the task of pulling together a group of community stakeholders to talk about the challenges that we face as a community and to begin some conversation about what we might do to start addressing them. We had representatives from Northern Health, the Transition House, First Nations Communities, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, the RCMP, the City, the Senior’s Center, the School District and even the Salvation Army food bank! We called ourselves the Healthy Communities Integration Committee and came to the table as equal partners, each with a part to play in making our community a healthier place to be. We poured over community data and health status indicators for our areas and learned a lot about our local strengths and challenges. In the end, we chose two key focus areas to start our work: youth and seniors.

Today, we are very excited to announce the Partnering for Healthier Communities Grants, available through our Healthy Communities Integration Committee. These grants of up to $3000 are available to support grassroots, multi-sectoral approaches aimed at improving the health and wellness of youth and/or seniors in Prince Rupert and Port Edward.  We are looking for proposals that will support collaboration and partnerships and that will have the potential to make a positive impact on seniors and youth.

The deadline for applications is June 3, 2014.

For more information on the Partnering for Healthier Communities Grants, the application process, and opportunities in other northern B.C. communities, please email us at:

Jane Boutette

About Jane Boutette

Jane Boutette is a Public Health Nursing Program Manager for Northern Health. She provides front line clinical and administrative leadership for nurses working in Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii. She has a BSc in nursing and a master’s of sience in public health research. Jane is passionate about public health and has a strong interest in community development. In her spare time she loves to be outside at the local ski hill, on the running trails or on a bike!


A focus on our people: All Native Basketball Tournament

Northern Health participated in the 54th annual All Native Basketball Tournament last month by setting up general health screenings, mental health screenings, and  information booths for aboriginal health, the STOP (seek and treat for optimal  prevention) HIV/AIDS program, environmental health, and more.

In this edition of her CEO video blog, Cathy Ulrich explores Northern Health’s involvement at the tournament. Cathy speaks with Angela Szabo, Home and Community Care Manager for the northwest, and Bill Wesley, a participant in the health screenings at the event.

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.


Congratulations Karen Skarpnes, NH’s Health Care Hero!

Karen Skarpnes receiving her award.

Karen Skarpnes (centre), 2012 Health Care Hero for Northern Health, pictured with Michael Marchbank, HEABC President & CEO (left) and Betsy Gibbons, HEABC Board Chair (right), receiving her plaque and Gold Apple. (Photo courtesy of

Last week, Northern Health’s very own Karen Skarpnes, was recognized as a Health Care Hero at the Excellence in BC Health Care Awards, presented by the Health Employers Association of BC (HEABC).

Karen is a physiotherapist at Prince Rupert Regional Hospital, and started her work there in 1979. You can watch HEABC’s video about the amazing work she does for her community and why she was awarded with the very well-deserved Gold Apple.

I had a conversation with Karen to talk about the award and get her own words about the work she does, the people she works with and the importance of sharing innovations and resources across our province.

How did you come to win this award?

It is a peer-nominated award, so I’m very grateful to my peer who nominated me. It’s a lot of work to put one of those nominations together.

What work and projects have led up to this?

One of the focuses of my practice has been to look for some prevention solutions to various injuries or difficulties that I see a repeating pattern of.

Most recently, I worked with Judy Rae, the oncology nurse in Prince Rupert; Elaine Lohnes, the exercise leader; and Joan Patriquin, an RN and the coach for the Rainbow Warriors, to develop a weight training program for women after breast cancer surgery.  We based that on work that had previously been done, but introducing the program to the Prince Rupert audience. We needed to find funding to do that.

Before that, I was working with frail older adults, along with a colleague, Tanya Boudier, an NH occupational therapist. We felt that frail older adult falls prevention program would be important to introduce to Prince Rupert. Again, this was not our original work, but us taking other work and incorporating it in the Prince Rupert area. Tanya and I managed to get grant money to do a pilot project on falls prevention in the residential care facility. We perceived a need, looked for who had begun this work, and approached them to see if we could get information. In this case, we collaborated with Dr. Vicky Scott, a fabulous researcher in Victoria, who invited us to be part of the BC coalition, a collaborative group on falls prevention in BC.

Even before that, I worked for about 10 years with the local swim program, developing a program with Margaret Harris, another physiotherapist in Prince Rupert. We looked at harm reduction for young competitive swimming around shoulder injuries, and developed a land-based program for preventive stretches and strengthening exercises to encourage better muscle balance and improve posture.

What is this award about to you?

This award is about collaboration and seeking the best practice that we know about that’s out there. There is some fabulous work being done provincially and nationally that we can access easier than 20 years ago and a lot of good folks working in the health authorities that seem willing to share. That’s what keeps me excited.

How was the Awards ceremony?

I felt very honoured to be in a room with the other recipients and their fabulous projects – there is some fabulous work being done around B.C. I think it would be great for others in Northern Health to take a look at that HEABC website to see what our colleagues are doing around the province. It’s another opportunity to network together or contact folks that are doing like work, or work that we’ve recognized could be useful to be applied in our areas.

On behalf of everyone at Northern Health, congratulations Karen!

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of health promotion and community engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care.
(NH Blog Admin)