Healthy Living in the North

Vanderhoof nurses drawing blood at patients’ homes

Jade stands at a counter.

Jade Ginter is one of the primary care nurses in Vanderhoof who does blood draws for patients at their home.

The Vanderhoof primary health care team has started a new blood-drawing program for people with severe mobility issues who can’t leave their home (for example, cancer patients or palliative patients). It can be challenging for these patients to go in person because the lab in Vanderhoof is only open from 8:30 am to 12 pm.

In the program, the team’s primary care nurse receives a request from the patient’s doctor to do a blood draw in the patient’s home. This lets the patient stay home instead of travelling to the hospital to get blood work done. While the nurse visits the patient in their home, they also assess the patient to determine if they need any other care and connect them with other members of the primary health care team as needed. The team has been providing this service for about three months.

Currently, the team has a patient that receives the service every two weeks. The patient is very ill and struggles to travel. The nurse does the blood draw, the blood work is done, and then the patient goes in for additional treatment. This service saves the patient a trip to the lab.

In the future, this program may assist home-bound people with severe multiple sclerosis or diabetes who need testing done every three months.

The team in Vanderhoof is excited to be able to offer this service to patients and to help them receive the best care possible!

Bailee Denicola

About Bailee Denicola

Bailee is a communications advisor in the Primary Care Department and was born and raised in Prince George. She graduated from UNBC with an anthropology degree and loves exploring cultures and learning about people. When not at work, Bailee can be found hanging out with her dogs, building her house with her husband, or travelling the world.

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Our People: Spotlight on Dr. Aryn Khan, Physician in Vanderhoof

Dr. Khan at the hospital with her three children. One child sits in a chair with a newborn baby.

Dr. Khan doing her medical rounds with her kids. The beauty of rural medicine!

You might remember Dr. Aryn Khan from the fantastic story she wrote about taking part in a Mama Mia production in Vanderhoof. Her enthusiasm for her job and life in Vanderhoof makes Dr. Khan a great person to include for the “Our People: spotlight” series!

Dr. Khan, how’d you get into medicine?

I was born in Burns Lake, BC and always dreamed of becoming a rural family doctor. The road was winding as I previously worked in laboratory sciences, biochemical sales, and as a registered dietitian. I took a few years to travel and study abroad in England. In 2009, I started my medical degree at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. I managed to juggle having our first daughter with medical school and residency without taking any time off, and still found time to snowboard, volunteer in Cambodia, partake in the multiple sclerosis (MS) off-road bike tour in Hinton, and enjoy window shopping at West Edmonton Mall. We moved to Vanderhoof in March 2016 and I literally hit the ground running.

What do you do in Vanderhoof?

I work more than full time in clinic, obstetrics, and emergency medicine. I offer circumcisions, lumps and bumps clinics, and I “scrub in” for surgical assistance. I do rounds on hospital patients, provide community detox/addictions support, and am now learning endoscopy. I am currently on the Medical Staff Association for St. John Hospital and am chair of our Facility Engagement. I love the variety of rural family medicine!

I also love coffee, cooking, visiting with friends and family, camping, fishing, travelling, kickboxing, biking, and gardening. My life is crazy-busy with three amazing kids, two dogs, three cats, two parrots, my husband, and the best job in the world: rural family medicine in Vanderhoof!

What would you say to anyone wanting to get into rural family medicine?

You have to have a lot of energy because you’re always busy, but the variety is amazing. You can do anything you want to do and visit with anybody. You help all of your patients, right from pregnancy, delivering, doing home visits, and long-term care. It’s totally full scope, I love it. Staying organized is very key, because you are very busy and it’s great to have people in your court helping you.

Dr. Khan stands in her yard with a cherry tree behind her.

Dr. Khan enjoying time in her garden.

What do you like about the community you live in?

Everybody is amazing here in Vanderhoof! The community, all the doctors are incredibly supportive; they’re all my friends and my family. My kids call them all aunts and uncles. They’ve just totally adopted us and taken us in. We don’t have any direct family here and it still feels like home. Everyone just wants you to succeed. All of my colleagues here are so supportive and they have all jumped to help one another. The collegial environment is amazing. I promote that strongly to our new recruits. It’s really a family of people who work together to make the best team. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else. The support here is honestly amazing. They support you with anything! After the birth of my third child, all the doctors came in to congratulate me. If you’re sick, people will ask if they can help with the kids. That doesn’t happen with most jobs. We’ve lived here for three years and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else because they make you feel so great.

When you aren’t super busy, what do you like to do?

I love baking and cooking. Before I became a doctor, I was a dietitian because I love food. I’m a total foodie. I love going out to restaurants and experimenting with new recipes. The kids and I are always baking and trying new things. My husband planted me this big garden and greenhouse, so we’ve been eating lots of homegrown things. Being in a smaller community, I find all sorts of farmers, so we get a lot fresh and local from the farm.

What’s something someone might not know about you?

I really like to go out boating and, funny enough, fishing. We bought a boat a couple years ago, and we love to take the kids out on the tube and go swimming in the middle of the lake. We also like to do ocean fishing and crabbing. We’re off to Haida Gwaii this year. It’s like my little sanctuary. We probably go there every year and just hang out.

What’s your guilty pleasure/vice?
A fabulous glass of red wine, and it has to be served with some sort of amazing cheese platter or a charcuterie board.

Thank you Dr. Kahn for your enthusiasm! Your story and the zest you have for your community reminds us all of the opportunities in the North!

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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The St. John Hospital acute care garden: improving quality of life for people waiting for long-term care

The acute care garden gives seniors waiting for long-term opportunities for engagement, socialization, and mobility.

This spring, the residents and staff at St. John Hospital (Vanderhoof) came together to start a garden for acute care patients who are on long-term care waitlists. Acute patients who are waiting for a long-term care spot can have limited access to activities and recreation. This project gives them opportunities for engagement, socialization, and mobility on the acute floor.

Many of the residents grew up in or around Vanderhoof, and were avid farmers and gardeners throughout their lives. Now, they can tend, water, weed, and enjoy this garden. Doing so reconnects them to their past, sparking old memories, and contributes to their sense of purpose.

This project was started by the Rehabilitation Department at the St. John Hospital, which includes occupational therapist Valerie Padgin, rehabilitation assistant Roxanne, and myself (also an occupational therapist). It’s part of a DementiAbility initiative.

Thanks to the generous donations and support from several family members, the acute care garden is now thriving, growing tomatoes and lettuce! This project wouldn’t be possible without:

  • Maya Sullivan from the Vanderhoof Community Garden for loaning the hospital a wheelchair accessible planter, which got the project started.
  • The Men’s Shed for building two additional planters.
  • The Co-op and Home Hardware in Vanderhoof for donating soil, potting mix, gloves, hand tools, and a watering can.
  • Eileen at Maxine’s Greenhouse for donating dozens of beautiful plants that are flourishing in the garden.
  • Allan Pagdin and Joanne Petrie, who put in several hours of time and labour to make the project a success.

We hope the garden continues to grow and improve the lives of our residents and acute care patients!

Laura Giroux

About Laura Giroux

Laura is an Occupational Therapist at the St. John Hospital in Vanderhoof. Originally from Vancouver Island, Laura has been in the North for nearly four years, and enjoys all of the recreation and outdoor activities that it has to offer. She recently joined the Rehabilitation Department at St. John Hospital and is excited to work on such a creative and compassionate team.

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Shared electronic medical record leads to better outcomes for Northern BC patients

Editor’s note: A condensed version of this story appeared on page 24 of the May 2019 issue of Canadian Healthcare Technology.

Dr Clifford and Alyssa posing together in front of a computer monitor.

Working together to design MOIS enhancements: Dr. Bill Clifford, Chief Medical Information Officer, Northern Health, and Alyssa Halliwell, Director – Support and Services, Applied Informatics for Health Society (AIHS). Photo by Darren Smit, smit,photography

Imagine being in charge of the health and wellness of 300,000 people scattered over a wild and remote area the size of France, where there’s one bear for every two people, ten-hour drives between communities are the norm, and winter brings temperatures of -20 C or below.

This is the challenge faced by Northern Health (NH), the organization responsible for providing health care in Northern British Columbia.

However, thanks to a new shared electronic medical record (EMR), health care providers in parts of Northern BC can now easily access the most up-to-date information about their patients at any time of the day or night, enabling them to provide better care.

The EMR in question is MOIS® (Medical Office Information System), developed in 1990 by Dr. Bill Clifford of Prince George, BC.

More than 11 years ago, Dr. Clifford selflessly donated the software to a not-for-profit, and now MOIS® is owned, collaboratively developed, administered, and licensed by the Applied Informatics for Health Society (AIHS). AIHS has been working with Northern Health ever since.

Recently, AIHS and Northern Health won the Technology in Healthcare Award at the 2019 Healthier You Awards in Prince George. AIHS and NH work together with health care providers to design and build a system capable of streamlining the often complex workflows involved in health care.

“We partner with Northern Health to improve efficiency and outcomes,” says AIHS CEO Bill Gordon.

“We’ve had a great partnership with AIHS for over a decade,” says Darren Ditto, NH Regional Manager, Clinical Applications & Specialty Care Solutions. “Things have changed and grown over the years, but what remains constant is that by working in partnership with our providers and AIHS, we collectively make MOIS® better able to serve our patients. Another huge benefit of AIHS is that they’re not-for-profit, so we can work on a system and not have to worry about the bottom line in deciding what features are included – it truly is for the good of the patient.”

Northern Health currently has several separate instances of the MOIS® EMR.

“We’re working with Northern Health to consolidate the instances and to reduce any barriers between health teams even more in an effort to provide the right information to the right people at the right time,” says Larry Chrobot, Senior Director at AIHS.

MOIS® functionality includes documenting and in many cases, electronically downloading, key elements of the patient medical record, including:

  • Encounter notes and measures
  • Prescriptions, long-term medications and labels
  • Health issues and rankings
  • Allergies and medication administration records
  • Past procedures
  • Diagnostic imaging reports
  • Consultation and referral reports
  • Patient preferences and care plans
  • Team-based communication, including EMR-to-EMR communication
  • Service documentation

Sharing this information between different members of the health care team is key in providing comprehensive, coordinated care.

MOIS® and Northern Health: Six stories of success

Headshot of a smiling Dr. Campbell.

Dr. Suzanne Campbell, a GP who works at the Omineca Medical Clinic in Vanderhoof.

Dr. Suzanne Campbell is a GP who works at the Omineca Medical Clinic in the small Northern BC farming community of Vanderhoof (pop. 4,439).

Northern Health is implementing changes to strengthen basic health care: they’re putting a model in place where an interprofessional team will support each physician’s or nurse practitioner’s office.

Depending on the size of the community, the interprofessional team can include nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers, and more. Dr. Campbell is an important part of the Vanderhoof interprofessional team: “While the patient has the most vested interest in their health outcome, the physician is the quarterback of team health care,” says Chrobot.

When the team began using the same MOIS® EMR, all team members, including Dr. Campbell, could view patient notes whenever needed, helping them provide continuous, coordinated care.

“The Omineca Medical Clinic in Vanderhoof was one of the very first clinics to put their hand up and ask for that integration in MOIS®,” says Chrobot. “They took that leap of faith in the pursuit of better patient outcomes. They were visionary, and one of the first in Northern BC to do that. For a clinic to take that on, that was tremendous.”

Below are six informal case studies highlighting the success of this new way of working, seen through the lens of this rural physician.

Checking in on a new mom’s challenges

Dr. Campbell’s patient Ashley[1] gave birth via c-section, returning afterwards to her remote rural home, where she struggles with cognitive challenges, as well as financial and transportation issues.

Dr. Campbell worried how Ashley would cope with a newborn, in addition to recovering from surgery, plus her other challenges. She feared that with Ashley’s transportation difficulties, it would be hard to provide the close monitoring and support she felt Ashely would need.

However, the interprofessional team was able to solve this communication problem using the shared MOIS® EMR: every time a nurse or community support worker visited Ashely at home, Dr. Campbell was immediately aware and could easily read their notes the same day. The team was able to support Ashley at home and minimize her travel. At the same time, Dr. Campbell was kept in the loop and was reassured that Ashley was recovering from her c-section, was coping with her other challenges, and that the baby was thriving.

Helping a senior stay out of hospital

Dorothy, a 90-year-old Vanderhoof resident, was clear about her priority to avoid spending time in hospital. She wanted to remain at home as much as possible, even though her health was declining. When she developed pneumonia and congestive heart failure, the interprofessional team was able to care for her at home thanks to daily nursing visits that were set up quickly with a simple message request through MOIS®.

The nurses who visited her each day recorded her vital signs and responses to treatment in the shared MOIS® chart, which Dr. Campbell could easily view. Dorothy also had a home visit from an occupational therapist, who arranged equipment to support her at home. As she responded to treatment, Dorothy’s nursing visits decreased as appropriate, to weekly, then monthly.

Throughout this time, the whole team, including nursing and occupational therapy, easily stayed up to date on Dorothy’s care because each member, including Dr. Campbell, was documenting their encounters with the patient in the same shared EMR.

Providing support after a fall

Debbie, 65, was recovering from a recent hip replacement when she fell and injured her knee. Dr. Campbell saw her in the emergency department on Friday afternoon and found that although Debbie wanted to be able to stay at home, her mobility and ability to look after herself were severely affected by both the hip surgery and new knee injury. To safely function at home over the next few weeks, she would need support and equipment from the interprofessional team in order.

Usually, in a rural area, someone like Debbie would have to spend the weekend in hospital while their doctor arranged the needed supports and ensured that everything was in place before discharge on Monday or Tuesday. Instead, Dr. Campbell was able to use the shared EMR to coordinate Debbie’s care. With a few messages sent through the EMR, she was able to confirm that the interprofessional team would see Debbie urgently on Monday, allowing her to feel comfortable about discharging this patient over the weekend.

On Monday morning, Dr. Campbell received a message in MOIS® to let her know that the team was looking after Debbie, and that the occupational therapist had already made a home visit that day. Because the team could communicate quickly and easily using the EMR, Debbie could avoid spending time in hospital.

Keeping everyone in the loop on a hospital readmission

Alyssa, a resident of Vanderhoof with multiple diseases and social challenges, had emergency abdominal surgery in nearby Prince George. Two days later, she was assumed to be stable enough to travel back to Vanderhoof and was discharged.

However, she quickly experienced complications and was readmitted to hospital in Vanderhoof for three days. Because of a delay in communication, Dr. Campbell didn’t know about Alyssa’s discharge and readmission.

The second time Alyssa was discharged, though, she was connected with the interprofessional team. The notes from this team in the shared chart now alerted Dr. Campbell that not only was Alyssa no longer in Prince George, but she’d suffered complications after her surgery and needed more support.

When Dr. Campbell discovered Alyssa was home, she also learned that the interprofessional team was already taking care of dressing changes and giving her the supports she needed. Although Dr. Campbell had been left out of the communication loop at first, she could easily see that Alyssa’s current needs were being met, because they’d been captured in the MOIS® EMR.

Heading off complications for an MS patient

Doris has severe multiple sclerosis, resulting in paralysis and many complications. With dedication and support from her husband, plus private home support, she’s able to live at home. However, she’s at a high risk of infection, and if she were admitted to hospital, this risk would significantly increase.

Doris lives in a rural area outside Vanderhoof. Dr. Campbell phones her regularly and makes occasional home visits. Recently, Doris was having some issues and it was important to determine whether she had an infection that needed treatment, or if it was something more complex.

Using the shared EMR in MOIS®, Dr. Campbell was able to connect with the nurse, who then made arrangements to visit Doris the next day. The nurse collected the necessary information and taught Doris’s husband how to provide the new care that his wife needed. This quick response helped to prevent unnecessary antibiotics, more complications, or a possible hospital admission for Doris.

Preparing for a difficult conversation

An oncology patient had an appointment to see a counsellor, but between the referral and the first appointment, her diagnosis sadly changed from hopeful to terminal.

Dr. Campbell was able to attend the daily meeting with the interprofessional team. This meant it was easy for her ask the counsellor to provide an update before the appointment that day. This direct conversation meant the counsellor was fully prepared going into the first support session with the patient.

Supporting a senior’s wish to die at home

Elaine, a 99-year-old Vanderhoof resident, wanted to die at home. She had significant medical problems, but was alert and could direct her own care and express her wishes. Elaine’s situation was complicated by the fact that she lived on a rural property many miles out of town.

Providing end-of-life care at home in a rural area is challenging because there’s limited medical home care available in the evening and on weekends. It’s only possible with a dedicated family and an excellent communication system.

The interprofessional team, including Dr. Campbell, regularly visited Elaine at home to look after her needs and keep her comfortable. All the team members charted their visits in MOIS® so they could stay updated in real time on any changes in Elaine’s needs and condition.

Eventually, Elaine’s life came to a peaceful end at home, according to her wishes.

Summary

To sum up, a shared electronic medical record in MOIS® benefits Northern BC patients in many ways. The fact that all members of the interprofessional care team can access the same information helps ensure coordinated care and leads to better outcomes for Northerners.

“AIHS and MOIS® for us means reliability, efficiency for our practice and organization,” says Dr. Cathy Textor, a family physician in Prince George, and the same is definitely true throughout Northern BC, including Vanderhoof and the Omineca Medical Clinic.

[1] All patient names and identifying details have been changed.

Bailee Denicola

About Bailee Denicola

Bailee is a communications advisor in the Primary Care Department and was born and raised in Prince George. She graduated from UNBC with an anthropology degree and loves exploring cultures and learning about people. When not at work, Bailee can be found hanging out with her dogs, building her house with her husband, or travelling the world.

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Mamma Mia in a small town

Members of Vanderhoof's Mamma Mia the musical performance pose in costume.

Members of Vanderhoof’s Mamma Mia the musical performance pose in costume.

In 2018, I had the unique opportunity to work with a number of my Vanderhoof colleagues in a community musical theater production of the hit movie, Mamma Mia.

Without prior knowledge of my colleagues’ hidden talents, I auditioned, only to find several of them were also involved in the production in various roles: chorus, leads, costume design, band members, backstage crew, and more.

As it turns out, talent in rural medicine is not limited to the hospital or clinic, but extends into the fabric of the community-focused, small-town lifestyle.

Having worked with so many driven, career-focused individuals in medical school and residency, it was easy to forget that there are other things in life beyond medicine.

Who knew that by joining a busy, full-scope rural practice, I would get whisked away with a group of super creative and outrageously musically inclined friends?

It exposed me to another side of rural medicine that I couldn’t have anticipated: “science geeks” can have a wildly artistic and creative side.

Despite our busy lives, we all managed to find time to join other community members to put together what I think is by far the best musical production of Mamma Mia outside the Silver Screen.

Whenever my children sing songs from the play or I talk about the production with friends, I remember how the stress of our day-to-day lives in the ER or clinic melted away when we were on stage.

The shop talk was left at the door as we joined our cast and crew and focused on delivering the best team performance of Lisa Striegler’s inspired interpretation of the musical.

Several months have passed, and it’s still hard to believe that the collective and passionate journey from first auditions to performing in front of a sold-out audience is actually over.

The pressure of gruelling practices, memorizing lines and dance moves, and remembering where to stand all paled in comparison to the uplifting solidarity and camaraderie of the Mamma Mia family.

Although this chapter has come to an end, every time I greet one of my fellow cast members in the community, I have a deeper understanding that we are family and have shared a sacred experience.

Performing in the production of Mamma Mia has enlightened me to the strong and unwavering love within the town of Vanderhoof. It is my pleasure to serve and be a member of such an amazing and welcoming community.

Dr. Aryn Khan

About Dr. Aryn Khan

Dr. Aryn Khan was born in Burns Lake, BC and always dreamed of becoming a rural doctor. She received her medical degree from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and in 2016 she moved to Vanderhoof with her family. Dr. Khan is currently on the Medical Staff Association for St. John Hospital and chair of their Facility Engagement. Her life is busy with three amazing kids, two dogs, three cats, two parrots, and one husband and the best job in the world: rural family medicine in Vanderhoof!

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I came for… I stayed because… with Robyn Turner

Robyn Turner skating on a frozen lake.I’ve recently noticed that many of the conversations I’ve had with multiple Northern Health staff have uncovered a common theme! These staff members were anticipating coming to the North for a short amount of time, but have stayed for a lot longer. I’m capturing some of these stories in a new series! See our first story, on Andrea Starck, here!

Robyn Turner, a Dietitian for Vanderhoof, Fort St James and Fraser Lake, is another person who never intended to stay in the North, but now calls it home! Robyn is from Victoria, BC and started at Northern Health in February 2016.

What brought you to Vanderhoof?

I was a newly graduated dietitian living in Victoria and there weren’t many opportunities for full time jobs. I started looking at available positions in other towns. I wasn’t actively looking for positions in the North, but I noticed the posting for a temporary dietitian for Vanderhoof, Fort St. James, and Fraser Lake. On a whim, I decided to apply for it.

Why have you stayed?

I have really appreciated the small team environment at work; everyone is friendly and welcoming. Team members are on a first name basis which makes working together easier. I also have a lot more opportunities here than I would elsewhere. The team appreciates my work and people are willing to help me when I ask.

Living in Vanderhoof, I have tried a lot of different activities that I never thought I would: I have learned how to snowmobile, attended a quilting retreat, and even walked in a local fashion show. There is a strong sense of community and a commitment to the citizens, which I really appreciate.

My position is now permanent and I don’t have any plans to leave. I enjoy it so much that I have even started trying to recruit my friends to come here as well!

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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Valemount knows granting season

Kids and adults on x-country skis.

X-country skiing gives the winter some much needed outside boost!

As you’re probably aware, it’s the spring IMAGINE granting season, and applications are coming in from all over Northern BC. Through our social media promotions of the program, I was lucky enough to connect with Rita Rewerts of the Canoe Valley Community Association (CVCA) in Valemount BC. During her tenure with the CVCA, Rita has applied and been selected for two IMAGINE Community Grants. What a pro!

We chatted about her background, the mountains in the area, how rad Valemount is… oh and how the grants have affected Valemount’s community. Here’s what she had to say!

How long have you been in Valemount and what’s your involvement in the Canoe Valley Community Association?

I moved to Valemount from Vancouver Island (Nanaimo) 25 years ago! I’m now happily retired from my job as a homecare nurse. Currently, I’m the vice president for the Association, and one of my main roles is to act as a liaison between the board and employees for programming. It’s awesome – how can you not love doing things for the kids!?

Cooking equipment on a table in a kitchen.

IMAGINE the creations this cooking equipment will whip up!

What did the IMAGINE grants help with and how were they successful?

We’ve applied for two grants and started two great programs: x-country skiing and a cooking program. I think both of the programs have been very successful, and our community has benefited too!

For our skiing program, we partnered with Yellowhead Outdoor Recreation Association (YORA) to help instruct participants on how to ski. The IMAGINE grant helped us purchase the skis and gear, but wow, is it ever expensive to buy skis for growing kids! So, we opted to buy a wide range of sizes, from youth to adult. Now as a lasting bonus, we’re able to offer skis and gear to the community during the winter for a small fee. It’s been great, and hugely beneficial for the community. Kids, adults and whole families love to get out and ski. Skiing for everybody!

For the cooking program, the grant helped us go from small to big. The idea was to partner with the high school to teach cooking from scratch, but it became too successful for the space we were using. So we moved to the Lions Club, where the IMAGINE grant helped buy cooking equipment like mixers, pans, and utensils.

It’s been very rewarding to see this idea take flight. The kids love cooking. Right from six years old, they take on Food Safe, learn about canning, baking cakes, cookies, whole meals – you name it. Our next project to enhance the program is to build a permaculture garden to grow our own ingredients!

Is there another IMAGINE grant application in your future?

Yes, there sure is! I’m in the process for writing another grant for this cycle. We really believe that programming should be based on what community interests are, and you have to be in constant contact with the community to find out what they want. So for this cycle, we polled kids for ideas through the school! There seems to be a real hunger to learn how to draw and paint. So we will be looking into artsy things: art classes, easels, paints, broad spectrum things. Should be exciting!

Do you have any advice for someone who’s thinking about applying for a grant?

Don’t be afraid! If you have the passion and a good idea, just go for it. Northern Health has been really helpful through all of the granting process, so you don’t really have much to worry about! What’s the worst that can happen? Your idea might be the next best thing for the whole community, which is so positive. Just do it!

Apply today!

Grant applications are being accepted March 1 through to March 31. Check out the application guide and form and get started! If you’re looking for tips on applying, check out our handy blog, IMAGINE Community Grants: Key factors for success in community!

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In focus: Robyn Turner, Clinical Dietitian, Vanderhoof

Robyn Turner standing on a hill above a valley and river.Robyn Turner never thought she would have the career she’s had working as a clinical dietitian in Vanderhoof. Learn what it’s like to work in a rural Northern BC community and what kind of work she’s most passionate about.

Tell me about your career as a dietitian.

I never really anticipated coming to the North, let alone a rural community. My career turned out different than what I first had in mind. Nonetheless, it’s been very exciting!

By taking the opportunity to come North, I’ve been able to be myself as a dietitian and get my feet wet in a lot of areas – including working with individuals admitted to hospital through one-on-one nutrition counselling, and those living in complex care.

I’ve been able to use creativity and initiative to improve nutrition in my area, and because it’s not as congested here in Vanderhoof, I can do more things than I could in a bigger centre. When I was just starting as a dietitian, I thought I would be working casual for a few years, filling temporary roles, and then naturally work in a specific area. That’s definitely not the case with my work now, which I enjoy. I like being able to do a little bit of everything.

What’s your take on what dietitians do?

A dietitian supports individuals where they’re at in reaching their health goals. Doesn’t matter if they’re told to go see a dietitian or are self-motivated to change something about their health. Wherever they’re at, a dietitian is there to help support them and achieve their goals to improve their overall health.

Could you describe a day in your life as a dietitian?

There is no “regular” day. Generally my day starts with rounds, or I might go to another community. In a day I may see someone for a diabetes consultation, or modify a tube feed or do a swallow assessment. Sometimes I see children who are having challenges with eating or chronic constipation. My day always varies!

I pull a lot of areas of nutrition together when I’m working. I never know if I’m going to be doing acute care, or focusing on quality and enjoyment of life in complex care, or advocating for someone. I have to be ready to use all my nutrition knowledge. Sometimes I’m pulled into community practice meetings, quality improvement initiative meetings with the hospital kitchen staff, or community projects with schools or local First Nations.

For example, I was working on a family food skills project at the Men’s Shed in Vanderhoof. The Shed is a space for men in the community with a kitchen and a place to hang out. I was part of a food skills program there for men who were living alone for the first time or had partners with a change in health. These men were all of a sudden having to cook for themselves for the first time and didn’t know where to start. If people don’t have food skills, it’s something they need to build. Building those food skills is something I’m really passionate about.

Basically in my job you never know what hat you’re going to be wearing – it could be a counselor or advocate hat or a clinical dietitian hat. It’s always different, which keeps it exciting.

What’s one thing someone might not know about your role?

People often don’t realize that advocacy is a big part of my job. I’m not always seeing individuals one-on-one. I spend a lot of time helping people understand nutrition issues. My role involves a lot of nutrition awareness and advocacy. There’s a lot of collaboration and quality improvement involved in the different health improvement projects I’m a part of. If there’s a primary care community project focused on health and I don’t go – that’s a big part of health that’s not present. I represent nutrition and health and can provide education to other people on my health care team.

What part of your role is the most rewarding?

When you have those moments of success – those clients who are dedicated to change, who come to all their appointments with you, and take your recommendations and apply them to their life and see positive results in their health – that’s rewarding. It might take six months or a year for them to see those results. When you have clients who can get off medications or see their numbers come down – that’s when you know the stuff you’re saying and the recommendations you’re giving are working.

It’s nice too, when there are people in the community that show appreciation for my work, especially in a small town. I’ve had people recognize and draw on the importance of my role. There’s also a lot of doctors I work with who are appreciative and will advocate for me. When I came to the North I didn’t expect to have as much interaction with doctors as I do. They’re present and invested and actually want to hear my opinion. Overall, it’s been great being in Vanderhoof. Three years later and I’m excited to see where else I can go in this job!

 

How to see a registered dietitian

Do you think you, your patients, or someone you know could benefit from talking to a dietitian?

  • There are dietitians in various communities across Northern Health – you might need a referral. Talk to your health care provider to learn more.
  • BC residents can also access Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC, by calling 8-1-1 (or 604-215-8110 in some areas) and asking to talk to a dietitian.

 

Nutrition Month Eating Together contest

During Nutrition Month throughout March, we want to see how you eat together! Organize a date to eat together, show us, and be entered to win an Instant Pot! This could mean grabbing a coffee and scone with a colleague, organizing a lunch date with a friend, having a potluck with family – whatever this means to you! Set a date, eat together, and show us to win! See our Eating Together contest page for complete details.

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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It takes a community to raise a garden

Vanderhoof community garden.

The Vanderhoof Community Garden has evolved – and continues to evolve – into an amazing gathering space that celebrates local food, community, and knowledge sharing.

Since moving to Vanderhoof a couple of years ago, one of the neatest things that I’ve seen happen is the emergence of an amazing community garden from the ground up. Having seen community gardens in neighbourhoods in Victoria and Vancouver, I had a certain idea of what a space like this might look like. For me, the Vanderhoof Community Garden blew those expectations out of the water!

The very first line of Growing Together, a knowledge-sharing book created as part of the Vanderhoof Community Garden project, reads:

It takes a community to raise a garden.

For me, these simple words capture the essence of the Vanderhoof Community Garden and the journey that it has taken from a small idea to a space that celebrates local food, community, and learning.

When I spoke with Maya Sullivan, one of the drivers behind the Vanderhoof Community Garden, she shared her thoughts that “this is truly a community project … the fact that a small seed of an idea could become such an amazing space for connection, such a healthy community space, continues to amaze me.”

The story of the Vanderhoof Community Garden is one of dedicated volunteers, extensive partnerships, overcoming challenges, and celebration. The small seed that grew into this beautiful space was planted over 10 years ago when a small group of community members volunteered their time and energy to start a modest community garden near the Vanderhoof Community Museum. That particular location was never ideal – lots of moose, heavy clay soil, no space for tools, and spring runoff that washed away manure that had been tilled into the garden – but a number of passionate volunteers kept that project going for a number of years. After a particularly difficult spring in 2012 when melting snow created a creek through the garden that carried off valuable soil, the group went back to the drawing board.

It is from this drawing board that the current community garden, officially opened with a harvest celebration in September 2014, emerged. A look around at the grand opening event revealed a magnificent garden, a beautiful covered space to gather, two greenhouses, dozens of raised beds, on-site water and a wheelchair-accessible flush toilet, and hundreds of smiling community members. Partners had come together, volunteers devoted thousands of hours to planning and work bees, kids got their hands dirty, seniors shared their knowledge, and the end result was a beautiful space to gather, grow, share, and learn.

Three gardeners in a greenhouse

Knowledge-sharing aplenty happens in the Vanderhoof Community Garden. In the shared greenhouse space, gardeners get tips on how to prune suckers.

The garden is a place to work together

The list of project partners for the beautiful community garden in Vanderhoof is impressive. The Nechako Valley Food Network and their amazing volunteers provided the spark that began this project, the energy to keep pushing it forward, and a hub for interested individuals and groups to connect and collaborate. The Integris Community Foundation provided the first significant grant to breathe life into the idea. The District of Vanderhoof and School District 91 collaborated to find and donate a new site for the garden. The Farm to School program at WL McLeod Elementary School connected with the garden to produce local food for hot lunches. The Seniors Connected program became involved to improve accessibility in the garden, create mentorship opportunities, and share knowledge. Northern Health provided grant funding to support the initiative. Countless local businesses and volunteers donated time, materials, expertise, and labour to the project. The garden would not have happened without this support and, importantly, the garden continues to attract new partners, ideas, and projects.

The garden is a place for everyone

Early on in the project, accessibility was a key consideration. The raised beds – most of which were built by local high school students – were created to be wheelchair accessible and to minimize bending. The garden includes an accessible flush toilet, a covered structure for respite, and shared tools thanks to a recent donation. The raised beds and garden plots themselves are open to everyone who signs up at no charge. The community garden is successful in part because it has eliminated so many potential barriers to entry and welcomes gardeners of any age, skill level, neighbourhood, or income level.

The garden is a place to connect

The garden creates a space where people can connect, meet, and share knowledge. These people may not otherwise have a reason to meet but local food and the community garden provide that reason. The garden site supports this connection. It is central, close to schools and homes, and connects to the Vanderhoof community trail system.

The garden is a place to get away

With a beautiful view of the Nechako River and lots of space to enjoy, the garden is also a place for relaxation and quiet reflection. With nothing but the sound of the river to distract you, the garden provides a peaceful place for community members to spend a warm summer evening reconnecting with themselves and with nature.

Gardener holding a zucchini and watering plants.

There’s no shortage of fresh, delicious produce in the garden!

The garden is a place to grow

When talking to volunteer organizers and garden users, it is surprising how long it takes before the issue of food actually comes up! All of the connections, partnerships, and learning have created a bounty of local food! A walk through the raised beds and greenhouse structures reveals tomatoes, peppers, squash, leafy greens, strawberries, peas, carrots, beets, and more! There are plans for potatoes, fruit trees, and berry bushes this year. Individual gardeners take their bounty home and the students, parents, and teachers from WL McLeod Elementary School harvest their crops and spend a day preserving so that the kitchen staff can use them in hot lunches throughout the year.

Older woman showing a young girl how to sow seeds.

The garden is a place to learn! On any given day, you might see more experienced gardeners sharing their skills with first-time seed sowers!

The garden is a place to learn

On any given day in the Vanderhoof Community Garden, you might see a class of elementary school students with mentors, a group of seniors sharing their vast knowledge, or simply two people – previously strangers – swapping tips. Some of this learning has been formalized as the local Seniors Connected group created a book, Growing Together, that shares their collective 600 years of local gardening knowledge. There are plans to offer gardening workshops in the space this year.

With all of these amazing garden qualities, it’s no wonder that the garden organizers are still in awe of how far they’ve come. Maya sums it up this way:

This has truly evolved beyond my wildest dreams and it keeps evolving based on what different members of the community bring to it.

That evolution will surely be fun to watch, as despite all of the incredible successes of the Vanderhoof Community Garden thus far, there is still half of the garden site left to be cultivated and transformed. The growing, learning, sharing, and connecting have just gotten started!


A version of this story first appeared in the May 2015 issue of A Healthier You magazine.

 

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Picture YOU Healthy week 2 winner

Taking time for physical activity

Amy Stephen is our week 2 winner – she took this photo of seniors taking time for physical activity in Vanderhoof. A great example of both physical activity and building healthy communities!

Building on the fantastic momentum of week 1, week 2 brought us even more amazing photos in the Picture YOU Healthy challenge – both in quality and in thought. We are so pleased at how YOU are interpreting our healthy eating, active living and healthy community messages — and for sharing such great photos of yourselves, your family, friends and community members! Thank you everyone for your submissions!

After careful deliberation, we have chosen our week 2 winner – Amy Stephen, from Vanderhoof, B.C., who submitted this great photo of seniors at the Vanderhoof Seniors Centre taking time for physical activity. Amy describes the photo as “Vanderhoof seniors reaching for the world!”

In speaking to Amy, she told us that she will choose the fitness equipment prize and share it with the Seniors Centre! Amy, you’re definitely an inspiration for building healthy communities!!

We encourage everyone to keep sending in their entries. You have a few more days – deadline to enter to win in the Picture YOU Healthy challenge before March 22. Next week, we’ll showcase this week’s (week 3) winner, and on Monday, we will reveal the top 10 photo submissions and give YOU the chance to vote for the winner on our Facebook page. Stay tuned!

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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