Healthy Living in the North

“I always knew that I would come back to nursing”: Richelle’s story

Nurse behind a cart

Thanks to her prior training, Richelle recently transitioned from a position in the private sector to a position at Rotary Manor in Dawson Creek where she’s found some great opportunities and benefits!

Richelle Cooper counts herself as one of the lucky ones. In April 2015, she was riding the Peace Region’s energy boom doing logistical work in one of the industry’s camps when prices began to plummet and she was laid off.

How is that lucky for Richelle? Thanks to Richelle’s prior training as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) from Northern Lights College, she was able to take her career back to the public sector where she’s finding fulfillment in her work, rediscovering the value of being part of a team, and establishing a sense of professional security in spite of the economic downturn.

Born and raised in Dawson Creek, Richelle was inspired to enter health care by her grandmother who worked as a care aide at Rotary Manor.

Given her recent transition, Richelle took some time to speak with me about the differences she has experienced between the private sector and the public sector and how this change has affected her life so far.

Richelle, what was “camp life” like?

For me, the routine and experience became a bit mind numbing. After work, I would just go back to my camp, eat, sleep, and then go back again the next day. I didn’t have family around and I was the only woman in my camp, which meant I had to toughen up. One nice thing was that I didn’t have to cook or clean out there.

And how is your life different now?

The biggest difference I’ve noticed is the pride and appreciation I feel from colleagues and patients when I go to work. While working in the camp, my experience was that people only cared if my job was done, they didn’t necessarily appreciate how well it was done.

Also, now that I live full time in Dawson Creek, I have a great deal of closeness with my friends and family. It was hard to maintain relationships when I was out of town for two weeks at a time.

Do you have more work-life balance?

I do for sure! I have found eight hour shifts to be easier to manage. I now find that I have lots of time left in my day. I coach hockey, go snowboarding, and can do lots of other activities that I couldn’t do when I was living in camps.

Woman standing outside

Born and raised in Dawson Creek, Richelle was inspired to enter health care by her grandmother who worked as a care aide at Rotary Manor.

Did you have a moment when you knew that going to the public sector was the right move for you?

Actually, I had that moment just before I ended up getting laid off. I knew that I wasn’t as happy as I could be in that position, and I felt like there were no opportunities for me to advance in my career there. I need goals; while camp life didn’t offer that for me, my nursing career did! As I was thinking these things, it was a great comfort knowing that I could return to my previous nursing career.

I always knew in my heart that I would come back to nursing. I knew it deep down. It’s part of who I am.

Tell us about the team at Rotary Manor. How does working on that team differ from the team you worked with in the camps?

Our team is awesome! I feel like everybody is on the same page, and if we are not, the discussions are really helpful. Everyone really wants to be there. I find that really refreshing after some of my experiences in the work camps. There, I often got the feeling that we were just there to do a job and get paid. People rarely went the extra step to improve things; they mostly just did what was required with no extra effort. I live by the quote “if it’s good enough, it’s hardly ever good and hardly ever enough!” I feel like I can live by that quote at Rotary Manor and as a nurse!

What advice would you have for anyone looking to get into health care? What would you tell someone who’s thinking about making the jump from the private sector to the public sector?

I would definitely tell them to do as much research as they can and to not be afraid of doing something new – you might like it! Also, while you might find that there is a difference in wages between the public sector and working camp jobs like I did in the oil patch, my return to nursing also brought with it job security and membership in a union that provides me with a number of supports and opportunities.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in health care, Northern Lights College offers Health Care Assistant and Practical Nursing programs.

Start your career with Northern Health at careers.northernhealth.ca.

Steven Prins

About Steven Prins

Steven is a recruiter with Northern Health. He advertises, markets and gets in contact with health care workers throughout Canada to sell Northern Health careers. Steve has a bachelor’s degree in business administration. In his spare time, he is an active fisherman and golfer and a passionate geocaching hound!

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Getting to know our region

Person standing on top of mountain with a view of mountain peaks

One of many mountain vistas in northern B.C.

So I’m a Northern Health recruiter now. But what the heck does a recruiter do? That was my first question when I started this new role a few years ago. My first instruction was to “get to know your region, get to know your people” and I was asked to do this in whatever way made sense to me. I had never been to northwest B.C. and had no idea what I was signing up for. What I did know was that I had to figure out why people would move there and, more importantly, why they love it so much and want to stay there.

Person walking along a glacier

From beaches to glaciers, northern B.C. is a spectacular place to live, play, and work.

When I asked my managers what they liked to do, almost everything was related to the outdoors. Coming from southern B.C., I thought: yeah, yeah, go outside to a crowded campground where you are shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers, fighting over space on land and on the water to maybe catch a two-pound rainbow trout before you go home after a long weekend. Boy, was I wrong. The northwest was different. Here, nature and outdoor activities are part of everyday life, not just long weekend ventures. Getting to know my area and my people as a new recruiter soon consisted of me asking my colleagues what they liked to do in their spare time after work and then awkwardly responding with: “Sounds awesome! Can I come?”

Young woman holding a fish in a boat.

Taking a fishing adventure wasn’t necessarily confined to a special occasion – it was part of everyday life!

This simple question – “Can I come?” – culminated in some of the most exciting adventures of my life. I have hiked up spectacular mountains with 360 degree views of jagged mountain ranges and islands. I went on an ocean fishing expedition and caught a 40-pound spring salmon. I crabbed along a deserted sandy beach at sunset. I joined staff as they fished in a nearby river on their lunch hour. I ate lunch at the top of a mountain overlooking one of the largest glaciers in North America. And I walked through incredible old growth coastal rainforest.

Person standing in front of very large tree

Northwest B.C. also has a number of old growth rainforests.

The best part about these experiences is that they were not confined to special occasions or monthly long weekends; they are a part of everyday life. This is why people move to northern B.C. and this is why they love it. By experiencing the day-to-day lifestyle of our staff, I quickly learned the type of person I needed to recruit to this amazing region. In the Lower Mainland and Interior, the question circulating around the water cooler on Monday morning is often “what did you buy this weekend?” In northern B.C., you are more likely to hear “what did you do?”

It is no wonder that many of our staff opt to work part time in northern B.C. One reason, of course, is the affordability: why work more than you have to? But the main reason, I think, is that there are so many outdoor activities right at your doorstep. Whether you like to cross-country ski, downhill ski, kayak, fish, hike, row, or just hear the calming, natural silence that comes with the absence of crowded chaos, you can have this within minutes almost anywhere in northern B.C. If that sounds appealing to you, this is where you need to be.

Young woman sitting on a log on a beach

Beautiful beaches provide places for adventure and reflection in northwest B.C.

Ashley Ellerbeck

About Ashley Ellerbeck

Ashley has been a recruiter for Northern Health since 2011 and absolutely loves her job and living in northern B.C. Ashley was born and raised in Salmon Arm and then obtained her undergraduate degree at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops before completing her master’s degree at UNBC. When not travelling across Canada recruiting health care professionals, Ashley enjoys being outside, yoga, cooking, real estate, her amazing friends, and travelling the globe.
(Ashley no longer works at Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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