Healthy Living in the North

Patient translators making a difference at UHNBC

Headshot of Julius Okpodi.

Julius Okpodi is a Social Worker at the University Hospital of Northern BC, and a volunteer translator in 5 Nigerian languages, plus Spanish.

Patient translators at the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George are a busy group.

“When you need a translator, you need them in the heat of the moment,” says Linda Locheed, a social worker who initiated the program. “People come from all over the world to Northern BC and they’re heli-skiing or biking and they have an accident. Sometimes we have to contact their families in other countries.”

The program connects patients who don’t speak English with Northern Health staff members who act as volunteer translators.

A total of 36 languages are represented from all parts of the globe. Examples include Portuguese, Urdu, Mandarin, Kiswahili, Farsi, Dutch, American Sign Language, and German.

Social Worker Julius Okpodi hails from Nigeria and has been a volunteer translator ever since joining Northern Health four years ago. He speaks the Nigerian languages Etsako, Afemai, Edo, Bini, and Pidgin English. (The latter is understood by all Nigerians, regardless of their first language.)

“Through translation, we’ve been able to bridge communication barriers, especially when expressing feelings and explaining treatment options,” Okpodi says. ‘We can let patients or family who are immigrants or visitors know what’s required and what the expectations are, such as the effectiveness or after-affects when a treatment is made.”

Okpodi has been called to translate in the short-stay medical unit, internal medicine, the psychiatric ward, and rehab. “I enjoy making a difference in the life of others,” he says.

Locheed notes translation can be even more important during emergencies. “When we had the fires and everybody was evacuated and came to Prince George, the translators were invaluable. Elderly people came without their families, people came from all walks of life,” she says.

If you’re an NH staff member and you’re interested in becoming a translator, please contact Linda Locheed with your name, the languages you speak other than English, and your phone number (not your email). For confidentiality and safety reasons, you must be an NH employee.

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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Wellness Teams at Work

20130920wellnessteam

Participants in the Wellness Team’s curling “funspiel.”

Social connections matter to our health and wellness. In lots of work sites, social wellness committees develop to support those “fun” things we do while at work. These recreational activities break up the monotony of the everyday at work.

In this, Northern Health is similar to other organizations. These groups typically rest on the corners of desks and are the initiatives of a dedicated person or small group of people. In Prince George, Northern Health is fortunate to have Kimberly Chysyk. Kimberly’s primary role is the Administration Assistant for UHNBC. She also serves as administration support for the Director of Patient Care and the Director for Diagnostic Services. In her “spare” time at work, she is the Chair of the Northern Health Wellness team in Prince George.

I connected with Kimberly to learn more about the Prince George Northern Health Wellness Team and their work.

What does the Wellness Team do? What types of events do you offer?

The Wellness Team offers fun events for staff employed by Northern Health. Some of these include nature walks where families and their four-legged friends can come out and enjoy an afternoon, learn about plant life, etc.

We offer discounted yoga and zumba lessons and we offer some of the materials so people can participate, like mats, blocks and straps. In the past, we have also offered swing dance lessons. This was a huge success; however, finding long-term space for this event is a challenge and one that we are continuing to seek.

Our most popular event is the Annual Best Ball Golf Tournament. As this event grows, so do the prizes. We also brought back curling and had a “funspiel.” This was a lot of fun and was very well received. We will definitely be doing more of these in the years to come.

We also try to offer smaller, fun things for staff to partake in, such as yearly crib tournaments, Easter basket raffles, pumpkin carving contests and Christmas basket raffles and decorating contests. This year we also raffle baskets for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and that will now occur yearly.

We also support two community events each year: a team in the annual Cancer Relay and a team in the Heart & Stroke Foundation’s Big Bike. You do not need to be on the Wellness Team to participate with us. You and your family/friends can join our team, Cure Determination North, or enter a team of your own. If you’ve never rode the big bike before, you have to sign up with us and come out and try it!

You are a very active group! How do you find the resources to host all of these events?

We do a lot of fundraising. In the past, we’ve done 50/50 draws and raffles. The basket raffles are a huge success! The golf tournament requires a lot of money to host (e.g., prizes). We are also always looking for new team members and new ideas. Becoming a team member does not mean that you have to participate in “every” event, but help out with events that interest you and/or take on an event that might bring staff interest that you have knowledge of or about.

What do you think the Wellness Team provides to staff?

I hope it encourages staff to get involved in healthy activities after and during work that they may not be able to access otherwise. For example, we work around work hours so that people don’t have to go home and then come back to do the activities. We bring awareness to locally operated businesses. We also hope that we help to keep staff in good humour. Our events allow staff to do something outside of the norm and they get to work together.

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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The making of a flash mob

Flash mob 1You know we want people to live healthier – what better way to get the idea that every move counts in your head than to show you?!

Last month, a group of us at Northern Health decided to create the September Healthy Living Challenge to get northern B.C. residents thinking about ways to live a healthier lifestyle. We wanted to show you examples and offer practical advice around eating healthier, getting more activity and bringing the balance of health into your day-to-day life – all following the guidelines set out in NH’s position work.

In order to wrap up this month with a bang, we started organizing Northern Health’s first ever flash mob, with the very enthusiastic and talented choreographer Lisa Cassidy from Be Unique Fitness. I’ll admit that at first, I wasn’t entirely sure how this idea might be received by NH staff and administration, but I’m very proud to report that everyone embraced the idea with excitement!

Flash Mob 2With every rehearsal, more and more participants showed up, eager to be a part of this event and dedicated to learning the steps. Lisa was a fantastic help – she created videos to help us practice at home and attended several rehearsals to walk us through the steps personally. By the big day, we had over 30 people ready to move and groove in the University of Northern BC atrium!

The crowd was bigger than we expected, but nerves did not get the better of us. The music started, and as we counted our beats, I heard someone from above suddenly yell, “Flash mob!!” and with that, we were off. Everyone did a fantastic job with their parts – the dancing mob and the staff that held up signs with some of our healthy living messages, tips like “Sit less, move more” and “Cook a meal together!”

Thank you so much to everyone who practiced, practiced, practiced – and to those that came out to watch and cheer us on! A huge thanks also to Lisa for her hours of time; to Nicole and Ben Gibson from Yellow Ribbon Photography for taking these fantastic photos (more of which can be seen on our Facebook page); and to Paul Alberts from Ardor Media for taking the video.

Remember, health can be fun – even if you’re dancing around to your own beat! Just get moving!

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of digital communications and public 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 manages NH's content channels, including social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, 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)

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Making a difference, one paw print at a time

Sandra Wyatt with dogs

Sandra Wyatt with Jazz (left) and Bella (right).

In the paediatrics unit at the University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC), we like to do what we can to bring smiles to the faces of our patients and their families – and what better to bring smiles than the wagging tail of a cute happy dog?

Meet Bella. A friend of mine adopted Bella from a Chihuahua rescue centre after a not so great start to her life. With much love, affection, good food, daily walks and training, in a positive manner, by a loving family, my friend and I began teaching her the many new skills necessary in the hope she would qualify for therapy work with sick children.

Bella and Jazz

Bella, 5 years old, and Jazz, 6 months old, honourary UHNBC staff members.

Finally, after much work, she graduated to twice weekly visits to the paediatric floor at UHNBC where she became, with staff approval, an honorary staff member! We have a photograph of her, proudly wearing her paediatric sweatshirt, on the wall for all to view.

Her main role is to calm and distract worried patients when they are having blood work done, examinations, or shots. Bella’s calm presence lifts the spirits of both staff and patients, and while she snuggles up to a patient who cuddles her back, it often brings contentment and a touch of normality to a scary situation. There are a lot more smiles when Miss Bella is around.

Bella’s family recently moved to Vancouver Island, but she still continues to do the “work” she loves and keep up her skills when her family flies or drives her up for monthly visits. Bella now has a new job too – training a replacement! Jazz is another therapy dog that now visits regularly to “fill in” for Bella and keep the smiles coming in the paeds unit.

Your turn to share – have you heard of pets helping in the recovery of people with an illness?

Sandra Wyatt

About Sandra Wyatt

Sandra Wyatt is the child life specialist in the paediatrics department of UHNBC in Prince George. She spends much of her "not so spare" time, developing and running her small dog daycare/boarding business. With rescue dogs of her own, walking 10km in a day is a usual day for her. Besides walking and working, Sandra loves gardening and this past spring, she re-arranged her whole garden to also “rescue” new plants a friend left behind after moving.

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A Zamboni sighting at UHNBC

Tynsel Webber is the Zamboni driver at UHNBC.

Meet Tynsel Webber. Her job? Northern Health Zamboni Driver!

I spotted this Zamboni and her driver, Tynsel, during a recent visit to the University Hospital of Northern BC. There might not be ice involved, but I learned that the Zamboni Saber Glider zips through the halls of UHNBC cleaning the floors every day.

Tynsel has been driving this machine for eight years and quickly tells me, with a big smile on her face, that she certainly does like her job.

“I get to go around the whole hospital and see different people, I’m not stuck in one spot,” says Webber. “A lot of people come up and say, ‘I want your job!’ or ‘Can I have a ride?’”

Webber says the kids in the paediatric unit especially love seeing her when she glides by – it brightens their day and in turn, their smiles brighten hers.

Do you have a little-known fact about one of Northern Health’s hospitals or facilities? Leave a comment and share your story!

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of digital communications and public 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 manages NH's content channels, including social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, 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)

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