Healthy Living in the North

Occupational Therapist on Board: the 2018 Cassiar Travelling Road Show

What do you get when you give thirteen enthusiastic health care students a microphone, a Powerpoint slide, a table of equipment, and four secondary school gymnasiums full of students considering life after high school?

The group with a big sign showing towns.

The answer’s easy – The Healthcare Travelling Roadshow!

On April 29th, 2018, thirteen students and two UNBC staff piled into a roomy, Northern Health Connections bus and headed from Prince George to Smithers. By May 5th, our crew had covered over 2400 kilometers, travelling through Smithers, Dease Lake, Watson Lake, and Fort Nelson, visiting four high schools along the way.Looking out the bus window viewing bison.

As a second-year occupational therapy student at UBC, I am well-versed in the shortage of not only occupational therapists (OTs) in northern and rural communities, but all health care professionals. I’ve seen postings for long-empty positions in rural hospitals and community-based teams, and I’ve met hospital administrators waiting for qualified OT and other health professionals to hit send on an email with cover letter and resume attached.

The Healthcare Travelling Roadshow is a grassroots initiative born of a firm belief in the proven concept: ‘train-and-remain’.The Northern Health Connections bus in a mountainous pass. If a student from a northern, rural community, becomes a health care professional, that student is more likely to return to the north to practice than a student from a major urban centre. The question is – how do eligible ‘train-and-remain’ students learn of all the various, much-needed professions, such as OT?  Well, who better than current health care students to provide interactive demonstrations with equipment and tools, and to share with high schoolers all aboutWoman standing on a mountain. OT standing at display table.the application process, why the career is exciting and rewarding, and what a day in the life of a health care professional looks like? An added bonus to all of this touring, is the health care students learn more about their future colleagues, increasing their capacity for interdisciplinary practice.

I was honoured to share my passion and commitment to OT and challenge students to think of creative uses for adaptive equipment, to consider the amazing rehabilitative neuroplastic powers of the brain, and to engage in discussion about inclusion and even the social model of disability. I asked students if they had any plans for careers after high school, and I heard, “Well, I had thought about being a nurse, but this is pretty cool.” Another student replied, “I have so many ideas now!”

Thank you to everyone who made this week possible; to the creative minds that saw a solution to workforce shortages and made it a reality, to the organizers of the Roadshow, to Northern Health Connections for the wonderful bus, and especially to the students at each high school who asked such thoughtful questions, and showed genuine care for both individual and community health! Thanks for the opportunity to showcase OT!!

 

The Healthcare Travelling Roadshow was conceived as a grass roots initiative to address rural healthcare workforce shortages. It brings together a multidisciplinary group of health-care students from post-secondary institutions around B.C. to showcase career opportunities to rural high school students. Since 2010, the roadshow has connected with more than 8500 students in 43 communities across the province. There are now two roadshows run each spring through the Northern Medical Program, as well as one through the Southern Medical Program (Kelowna).

Catherine Lloyd

About Catherine Lloyd

Catherine is currently finishing her 5th and final placement for the Master of Occupational Therapy program at UBC. She’s split her final fieldwork placement in Prince George between 3NE at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia, and at a role emerging placement at Central Interior Native Health Society. In the spring of 2018, Catherine was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit many remote communities during her placement via the Healthcare Travelling Roadshow, and through an outreach program delivering rehab services in Takla, Nadleh and Stellat’en. Catherine is dedicated to deepening her understanding of how occupational therapy and allied health can answer the Calls to Action that address our healthcare system in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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“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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