Healthy Living in the North

I came for… I stayed because… with Gillian McCutcheon

Gillian and her four-year-old daughter, wearing life jackets, in a boat on the Skeena River. The river, forest, and mountains are behind them.

Gillian’s daughter, Polly (4), giving a thumbs up to her first rafting trip on the Upper Skeena.

Recently, I’ve noticed a common theme in my conversations with Northern Health staff! Many staff members planned to come to the North for a short time, but have stayed for a lot longer. Meet one such person: Gillian McCutcheon, a human resources advisor based in Terrace. Gillian is from Squamish and came to Northern Health in 2015.

I came for…

My husband and I were trying to move to Terrace for about six years. He had been working in the area for a number of years. We knew the area quite well, and liked the closeness to so many activities. It was important for us to be close to water, and not be land locked. We are winter people, and Terrace has all of the winter activities we love to do.

I like the small town feel, and Terrace reminded me of what Squamish felt like 20 years ago. I commuted to Vancouver for work everyday. With our children being so small, it was hard to juggle daycare, the commute, and all of my responsibilities at home. A short commute was very important to me, which made Terrace even more appealing.

Gillian and her eight-year-old daughter wearing their ski gear on a chair lift.

Gillian and her oldest daughter, Maggie (8), skiing at Shames Mountain.

I stayed because…

My work-life balance is great. There are lots of career opportunities at Northern Health to move around and try new things. We’ve always wanted to live on acreage, which we are able to do in Terrace and it’s still only a few minutes from town.

We’ve only been here for four years, which isn’t long, but it feels like home already. Our children really like it here, and there are lots of activities for them to be involved in. Our oldest is really involved in skiing, dance, and Taekwondo. Our youngest has tried dance, t-ball, and yoga already.

We truly feel like part of the community. Unlike Squamish, people live and work here, which is very noticeable. We are active in the ski hill, and enjoy camping, ice skating, and snow shoeing. We recently bought a white water raft and we’re anticipating spending most of the summer on the river. There’s lots to explore, and we feel like we’re only getting started.

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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I came for… I stayed because… with Clare Hart

Clare smiles into the camera. Her brown and white horse is directly behind her. Mountains and forest is further in the background.

Clare with her horse, Graffiti.

If you’ve been following this series, you’ll be familiar with the common theme I’ve uncovered among many Northern Health staff: many of them had planned to come to the North for a short time, but have stayed for a lot longer! Meet one such person, Clare Hart, Director of Specialized Services for the Northwest, based in Terrace. Clare is from England and came to Northern Health in 2009.

I came for…

I was born in a coal mining village in the Northern part of England. It’s an industrial area that is not very clean. Growing up, I always dreamed of living somewhere green, with fresh air and nice woodlands.

I studied to become a registered nurse and had worked in different emergency room positions in England. When we were looking to move, there were a few different countries that needed nurses. English is the only language I speak, so that eliminated quite a few countries. Another big factor was that I wanted the time difference to allow me to talk to my family in England at somewhat normal times.

At that time, I had three children and wanted them to grow up in an area with different opportunities and be close to nature. We chose Terrace because of the job opportunities and natural beauty of the area. We’re surrounded by mountains, rivers, lakes, and an abundance of fresh air.

On top of a mountain, Clare smiles in front of a helicopter. She is surrounded by snowy mountains.

Taking a helicopter ride around Terrace to see all the scenery.

I stayed because…

My children have easily settled into life in Terrace. The schools are smaller and my children felt very welcomed from the moment we arrived. Community members have embraced us, and we have built a network of friends that feel more like family.

I really enjoy the outdoors and in the winter I like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. I love that I can pack a picnic and drive in any direction and have quality time outdoors with my family. We have a dog, horse, and a variety of other animals that are a huge part of my life.

I have been able to advance my career in Terrace. I started out as an emergency room nurse at Mills Memorial Hospital and have transitioned to a psychiatric nurse, team lead, manager of mental health and substance use, and now director of specialized services. I feel extremely appreciated by my team and other colleagues. I really appreciate that they always make me feel welcome, like I was born and raised here.

 

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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“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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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.)

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