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!

Share

Northern balance

Young woman with two dogs in a forest

For Ashley, having access to nature just a few steps away in Prince George was crucial to finding a balance last year.

Last year was a busy time to say the least. For some reason, I thought that it would be a great idea to take a master’s program full time while working full time. I wouldn’t recommend it! That said, I know for a fact that if I lived anywhere other than northern B.C., this would have been not only difficult but totally impossible. Looking back on last year, because of the region where I lived, I actually led a seriously awesome lifestyle. One of the biggest pluses has been that when my brain was absolutely jam-packed with school lectures and work reports, I could walk to the end of my street and be in the calming stillness of nature surrounded by trees, birds, and a friendly neighbourhood moose or two.

In my six years in Prince George, I have never been as thankful to live here as I have in the past year. Getting this degree while working full time and maintaining a high level of mental wellness would not have been possible anywhere else. Some of the biggest factors that have made this possible for me include affordability, my minimal commute, and instant access to nature.

Two moose in a yard.

Occasionally, the chance to observe a moose or two would provide a well-needed study break for Ashley.

In the Lower Mainland or southern parts of B.C., there would be no way I could afford to pay for school without loans and with my full-time school and work schedule, it would be impossible to get from A to B on time. On top of this, I’d be crammed into a tiny apartment. The most important thing for me, however, has been the ability to get away from it all: to take my dog on daily walks in the bush and to be able to spend almost every weekend at a cabin, on a hiking trail, or on a ski slope or trail because it is all so close.

One thing I have learned in class is that your body takes an average of 14 minutes to adjust its frequency to its surroundings and that nature has a low, calming frequency. When pulling out my hair about research papers, exams, and statistics, the ability to calm my body’s frequency and clear my head with 14 minutes in nature has been a total lifesaver. When my “southern” friends ignorantly scoff at where I live, I simply ask them how renting, long commutes, and being broke while being trapped in the rat race is going for them. Then I tell them that I’m going to have a beer on my back deck, watch the moose in my backyard, and read a book in awesome tranquility.

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.)

Share

October is Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month

2013_CHWM_logo_v2Did you know that there is a Canada-wide initiative that focuses on health in the workplace? In October of each year, Excellence Canada partners with stakeholders to feature the importance of health in the workplace. This year is their 13th annual event and – this year – they have 911 organizations participating and nearly 46,000 participants!

Amongst all this busyness, I was able to connect with Karen Jackson, an advisor for healthy workplace strategies with Excellence Canada, to learn more about the program.

What can you tell me about Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month?

We are celebrating our 13th year as a national program that encourages the promotion of healthy workplaces throughout the year. Our website, Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month® (CHWM), increases awareness of the importance of workplace health and works to ensure both the short-and long-term success of organizations and the well-being of their employees.

October is the annual CHWM campaign, where organizations are encouraged to participate in the weekly activities within their organization to build awareness and encourage workplace fun! This year’s theme is about fostering healthy minds through workplace health, focusing on the ‘mental health connection’ to overall well-being.

What is the primary goal of the campaign?

The goal is to increase the number of healthy workplaces in Canada. Our campaign supports this goal by providing information and tools to help organizations develop and apply a comprehensive approach to workplace health in Canada. This approach involves the three elements of a healthy workplace (health and lifestyle practices; workplace culture and a supportive environment; and physical environment and occupational health and safety).

So, how do people get involved?

It is easy and fun for you and your organization to participate! Our website is a central hub, providing healthy workplace tools, resources and best practice examples. The intent is to help organizations create healthy workplaces with benefits for employees and themselves.

There are a few ways for you to get involved:

  • Register for CHWM and receive tools to help you with your healthy workplace efforts and measure your team’s progress.
  • Showcase your successes by submitting (a one page form) a healthy workplace initiative completed in 2013 and share it with others by being featured on the CHWM website.
  • Challenge yourself and your colleagues with weekly activities that are fun and help to make your organization healthier and happier.
  • Register here to learn about Mental Health at Work® Essentials – a free webinar on October 21 at 2:00 p.m. (EST)/11:00 a.m. (PST)
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.

Share

Getting to know you…on a walking break!

[Editor’s note: Last month, Theresa Healy introduced the idea of walking meetings. Here’s an NH staff member putting the advice into action!]

walking break

Candice (left) and her teammates on a walking break outside their office, downtown Prince George.

As a newcomer to Northern Health’s quality & innovation team, I’m building new relationships and getting to know my team. Inviting my colleagues for a mid-day walking break has given me the chance to get to know them a bit better and share ideas. It’s also a great way to stay fit without cutting into family time at the end of the day!

Getting your team out for walking breaks has all sorts of benefits. Northern Health’s guidelines on “getting moving” (position statement on sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity) suggest any form of physical activity is important and beneficial. Adding more activity into our work day also supports Northern Health’s strategic directions to foster a safe and healthy workplace, which has been shown to both attract and retain staff. BCRPA Walk BC suggests workplace walking has been shown to decrease staff turnover, lower absenteeism, and improve productivity. From a quality improvement perspective, it makes sense to promote walking breaks to see these overall benefits in our staff and our productivity! For me, getting out for a mid-day walk makes me feel a bit more energetic and alert, improving my work efficiency in the afternoon.

Next time you’re ready for a break, take a look around your workspace and ask if any of your colleagues want to head out for a walk. Use that time to get to know your team while improving your health, along with your workplace efficiency!

I also found some great information online about starting a walking program for your community or workplace, on the BCRPA ‘Walking Program Resources’ page.

Have you tried walking breaks or walking meetings yet?

Candice Manahan

About Candice Manahan

Candice is the regional manager, decision support tools for Northern Health’s quality and innovation team. Candice works to build a culture of evidence-informed practice, ensuring our staff have access to meaningful policies, procedures, protocols and guidelines to inform their work. Candice is originally from Prince George and obtained both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Northern BC. With over a decade of experience coordinating and managing projects in health services research in our region, Candice has taken a special interest in improving health care services and accessibility for those living in northern B.C. When she’s not at work, she loves spending time with her family, going for walks and checking out all that Prince George has to offer.

Share

Challenge #2 winner!

public health nurses stretching together

Liz Lodge’s winning entry – Dawson Creek public health nurses stretching together during their morning huddle.

We received a lot of great entries in the Week 2 Challenge – great to see so many people thinking about ways to fit activity into their work days! I’ve shared some of the tips we received below. But first, we selected this week’s contest winner, by random draw, earlier today…

The winner in the second Healthy Living Challenge is Liz Lodge, a public health nurse from Dawson Creek. She sent in a photo of her group of public health nurses stretching together in their morning huddle. Good work ladies! (Hopefully the Fit Kit items will help with your stretching during your next morning huddle!)

Make sure you check out the blog, or visit us on Facebook, tomorrow when we will announce the third Healthy Living Challenge!

We asked how you add activity into your work day. There were a lot of fantastic entries, but here’s a selection of photos and tips that came through:

  • Take the stairs when visiting colleagues on different floors – never take the elevator!
  • Use a pedometer to track your daily steps.
  • Do spine, neck and shoulder stretches in your chair.
  • Stretch during conference calls.
  • Do lunges in your office.
  • Get up and out of your desk every half hour.
  • Use smartphone apps to help you track your fitness goals.
  • Challenge your co-workers to get healthier with you.
  • Bring running/walking shoes with you to work and go for a walk during lunch and breaks.
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)

Share

Seeking a work-life balance

How do you maintain a work-life balance?

How do you maintain a work-life balance?

Have you ever experienced time slowing down when you were on a holiday? During long days at the lake or on that cross-province road trip with your family, you do the math somewhere at the midpoint of your vacation, and are shocked that you have yet another week of unscheduled bliss! People say that when we intentionally step away from our over-scheduled lives, we take a healthy pause that forces a change in our routine and rewards ourselves for hard work.

With two busy kids and a busy husband, a full-time career, a dog, a home, friends, family, neighbours and our community, including all the routines and schedules that come with, it’s a daily juggle for me to fit everything together, ensuring everyone is dropped off, picked up, safe and sound, well fed, well rested, nurtured, loved, clean and clothed, enriched, socialized, progressing, learning, moderately active and very, very happy! While we might enjoy the random and occasional experience of holiday bliss on any given day, striking actual balance takes practice and intention. So how do we re-create holiday bliss, and maintain a balance between our professional and personal lives for greater health and well-being?  How do we achieve that sought after work-life balance?

Work-life balance is a concept, first used in the late 1970s to describe prioritization between career and lifestyle, which includes our ambition, our health and well-being, pleasure, leisure, family and spirituality. In 2010, the University of Toronto published a list of research abstracts, all paying close attention to work-life balance in Canada; the list contains over 80 independent research projects focused on this topic. It’s astonishing that it’s garnered so much attention, but not surprising given the amount of people that struggle with it.

While our lives may remain complex, there are actions we can take now that will create greater balance, perhaps reducing our stress, improving our health and well-being, promoting a healthier lifestyle and potentially re-creating the joy of that last great vacation, on any given night of the week!

Please remember: balance requires practice, so take a gradual approach.

Holiday bliss at home:

  • Set a boundary for yourself and turn off your devices (e.g. your phone and your laptop). Make one night each week a “no device” night.
  • Schedule downtime into your personal life just as you schedule meetings into your professional life. This creates opportunity for spontaneity and “going with the flow.”
  • Schedule a fun activity with your kids, your partner or a friend. Go berry-picking, go to the playground or prepare a meal together.
  • Schedule time for the things you enjoy. Read that book. Call your friend. Go swimming.

Holiday bliss at work:

  • If you regularly work late, plan to leave on time today. Work will be waiting for you tomorrow.
  • Instead of working through your coffee or lunch breaks, find a buddy and go for a quick 10-minute walk around your building, up and down the office stairs, around the block.
  • Schedule personal lunch appointments. Make sure that your partner, parents or kids are as important as your professional lunch appointments.

In the quest for greater work-life balance, try a few of these ideas out. Just imagine how you will feel; imagine how your family will feel as well.

Do you have any tips to add for creating holiday bliss and maintaining a work-life balance?

[Ed. note: Don’t forget to join the September Healthy Living Challenge and enter the Week 2 Challenge for your chance to win a Fit Kit!]

Kelsey Yarmish

About Kelsey Yarmish

Kelsey is the regional manager of Northern Health’s population health team. A nurse by background, with past work in acute psychiatry (at UHNBC) and tertiary mental health and addiction services, Kelsey has become equally passionate about public health prevention initiatives and upstream work. Kelsey grew up in Prince George, and loves being part of the community and the north. She is married, with two little "dancing" girls. Family is her joy and her kids ensure that home-time is always lively and a lot of fun! When she is not at work, she is with her family and friends, and she loves entertaining, her gardens, traveling, boating, crafting, cooking and reading.

Share