Patty Wellborn

Email: patty-wellborn@news.ok.ubc.ca


 

UBCO School of Nursing Professor Dr. Nelly Oelke explains why those in the smaller towns need support more than ever before.

UBCO School of Nursing Professor Dr. Nelly Oelke explains why those in the smaller towns need support more than ever before.

Multiple stressors impact those living in small, rural communities

A team of researchers with British Columbia’s three interior universities are reaching out to residents in small communities to see how they are coping. The project is being conducted with faculty at UBC Okanagan, Thompson Rivers University and the University of Northern British Columbia. UBCO School of Nursing Professor Dr. Nelly Oelke explains why those in the smaller towns need support more than ever before.

Can you explain why researchers are concerned about people’s mental health?

Globally, we are in the midst of three overlapping crises: the COVID-19 pandemic, racism and climate change. The toxic drug crisis in BC has worsened as well. Research has shown that climate change events, such as wildfires and flooding, negatively influence both the physical and mental health of those impacted. And it’s well known that public health measures, such as self-isolation, combined with social and physical distancing, have resulted in social isolation, fear, financial challenges, and public uncertainty. As a result, mental health and substance-use issues — including anxiety, depression, increased substance use and overdose — have surged.

People imagine life in a small, rural BC town as less stressful than city life. But you’re saying the opposite might be true.

Rural communities are unequally affected by both the pandemic and climate change, and when these factors occur together the impact on individual and community mental health and well-being is markedly increased. Given these multiple crises that are affecting rural communities, it is important to enhance individual and community resilience.

You’re looking at three specific communities in your research. Why these three?

Our research focuses on three rural communities: Ashcroft, Burns Lake and Keremeos, although our survey is open to all rural residents in the province. Each of these communities has been impacted significantly over the last three years by one or more climate change events — including wildfires and severe flooding. While dealing with this, they have also had to deal with the challenges caused by the pandemic.

What sort of information are you looking for?

To better understand these impacts on community members, we are conducting a survey for those aged 15 years and over who live, work, or go to school in one of the three communities.

We will also be conducting community consultations and interviews in each community to better understand the residents’ needs and experiences during times like these.

People completing the survey can also share photos, stories, drawings, poems or other forms of expression to elaborate on their experiences with climate change events and COVID-19.

Once all responses have been collected and analyzed, we will conduct discussion sessions in each community to co-create solutions for resiliency in each of the communities.

What’s the next step?

This research will produce important findings about the impacts of the pandemic and climate change events on mental health in rural communities. Further, the solutions we develop with the survey respondents will promote resiliency and assist with the challenges they are facing and will continue to face moving forward. We hope that the information gathered in this study, as well as the benefits it may bring, will reach all rural communities in BC and beyond.

Can residents in other communities participate? How can they get involved?

While we have identified three different communities, our survey is open to all rural residents in BC over the age of 15 years. If people are interested in participating or want to gather more information about the study, they can contact Nelly Oelke at nelly.oelke@ubc.ca, Bonnie Fournier at bofournier@tru.ca, or Davina Banner-Lukaris at Davina.Banner-Lukaris@unbc.ca.

To complete the survey visit: ubc.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_etFlMuUCZXjSklL

To submit photos, stories or other forms of expressions and answer survey questions visit: ubc.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_7O1HwR1vH8so0Id

About UBC’s Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Brothers, Adrian, left, and Quinn Van de Mosselaer took dramatically different paths leading to them joining the School of Nursing as first-year students. The Shuswap Nation brothers, who live together, take a break outside Kelowna General Hospital after a clinical session.

Brothers, Adrian, left, and Quinn Van de Mosselaer took dramatically different paths leading to them joining the School of Nursing as first-year students. The Shuswap Nation brothers, who live together, take a break outside Kelowna General Hospital after a clinical session.

Transition from hockey enforcer to nurse, inspired by Christmas gift

Most gifts from a younger sibling are rarely memorable. But for Christmas 2019, Adrian Van de Mosselaer received a present from his brother that would change his life.

The older Van de Mosselaer was trying to find a path after his professional hockey career wrapped up. While he had toyed with the idea of returning to school for many years, something kept him from taking that important step to actually register for classes. On an annual basis, he checked in with UBC Okanagan’s Aboriginal Programs and Services (APS) staff to discuss the Aboriginal access studies program. But it always ended there.

It was Quinn Van de Mosselaer, eight years Adrian’s junior, who bought his older brother high school textbooks for upgrading that Christmas and created a path for Adrian to enrol in Okanagan College courses. Those books, once cracked open, led to a spot in UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing.

“I would always question myself but I hit a tipping point when my brother bought me the books and said, ‘That’s it, time to go to school,’” says 30-year-old Adrian. “I never thought I’d be relying on him to stand up and do that.”

Adrian embraced learning—partially to show his little brother he could do it — and partially to thank Quinn for believing in him.

“When I got that first good grade back, I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “I earned 100 per cent on a biology test. It was so good to know I could do the work. I was beyond grateful. Pure happiness.”

Through a twist of fate, Quinn, although starting his post-secondary journey earlier, is now in the first-year nursing program with Adrian. Those books, he says, might go down as the best Christmas present he’s ever bought and the Whispering Pines/Clinton Indian Band members are now study buddies.

“I know my brother pretty well. I know he was procrastinating. I knew if I bought him the books, it would push him to do it. And once he puts his mind to something, he can do it,” says Quinn who was initially tracking towards a science degree.

“When we first applied, we didn’t think both of us would get into the nursing program. But it’s been good being in the same program as my brother. We live at home and it helps being so close with someone in the same program.”

For Adrian, taking part in the clinical studies at Kelowna General Hospital is a long way from his first career path as a professional hockey player. He started his junior career with the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Oil Kings before moving on to playing three aggressive years with the East Coast Hockey League’s team Ontario Reign, based in California. His role leaned more towards keeping the opposition honest and sticking up for his teammates.

“I wanted to be that heart-and-soul kind of guy. My teammates knew I would stand up for them in any situation. Except maybe in a shootout,” recalls Adrian with a laugh.

When professional players try to take their game to the next level, this gritty play often generates attrition on both benches. It was when teammates were taken off the ice due to injury that Adrian’s interest in healing initially sparked.

“When guys got hurt, I was curious about what was happening in the training room. I was curious on how they got put back together,” he says. “I ended up suffering a head and neck injury and that made me re-evaluate what I was doing. How much of this could I really sustain?

“Then my cousin sat down and chatted with me about school. It stirred that curiosity within me,” he says. “But my self-doubt was huge.”

Making the transition from pro hockey life to full-time student was paved with second guessing his own abilities. Negative previous experiences in school, and fear of the unknown, held him back.

Now, he wonders what took him so long.

“The best advice I have for people is to be patient with yourself. Don’t hold yourself to any thoughts of not being capable. You have to let go of who you think you are and the limits on what you think you can do,” he adds. “What stuck in my head is that I wanted to help people to heal.”

After getting his nursing prerequisites in order, Adrian applied to UBCO’s nursing program. He was successful and he and credits the APS staff for supporting his journey.

Once accustomed to being cheered from the sidelines for acting as a hockey enforcer, Adrian is now aware he has a new team of supporters fully behind him. And he has no intention of letting them down.

“Being a student is beyond exciting. The patience and understanding I received from APS Student Advisor Kelly Fosbery and the team helped me along to UBCO. I know the team is rooting for me the whole way.”

About UBC’s Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Atrial fibrillation is the most commonly diagnosed arrhythmia in the world. Despite that, many women do not understand the pre-diagnosis symptoms and tend to ignore them.

Atrial fibrillation is the most commonly diagnosed arrhythmia in the world. Despite that, many women do not understand the pre-diagnosis symptoms and tend to ignore them.

Ignoring medical symptoms can lead to stroke, dementia, early death

A UBC Okanagan researcher is urging people to learn and then heed the symptoms of atrial fibrillation (AF). Especially women.

Dr. Ryan Wilson, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Nursing, says AF is the most commonly diagnosed arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) in the world. Despite that, he says many people do not understand the pre-diagnosis symptoms and tend to ignore them.

In fact, 77 per cent of the women in his most recent study had experienced symptoms for more than a year before receiving a diagnosis.

While working in a hospital emergency department (ED), Dr. Wilson noted that many patients came in with AF symptoms that included, but were not limited to, shortness of breath, feeling of butterflies (fluttering) in the chest, dizziness or general fatigue. Many women also experienced gastrointestinal distress or diarrhea. When diagnosed they admitted complete surprise — even though they had been experiencing the symptoms for a considerable time.

One in four strokes are AF related, he says. However, when people with AF suffer a stroke, their outcomes are generally worse than people who have suffered a stroke for other reasons.

“I would see so many patients in the ED who had just suffered a stroke but they had never been diagnosed with AF. I wanted to get a sense of their experience before diagnoses: what did they do before they were diagnosed, how they made their decisions, how they perceived their symptoms and ultimately, how they responded.”

Even though his study group was small, what he learned was distressing.

“Ten women, in comparison to only three men, experienced symptoms greater than one year,” says Dr. Wilson. “What’s really alarming is they also had more significant severity and frequency of their symptoms than men—yet they experience the longest amount of time between onset of symptoms and diagnosis.”

What really troubles Dr. Wilson are the reasons a diagnosis is delayed in women.

Many doubted their symptoms were serious, he says. They discounted them because they were tired, stressed, thought they related to other existing medical conditions, or even something they had eaten. Most women also had caregiving responsibilities that took precedence over their own health, and they chose to self-manage their symptoms by sitting, lying down, or breathing deeply until they stopped.

What’s more alarming, however, is that if women mentioned their symptoms to their family doctor, many said they simply felt dismissed.

“There was a lot more anger among several of the women because they had been told nothing was wrong by their health-care provider,” says Dr. Wilson. “To be repeatedly told there is nothing wrong, and then later find yourself in the emergency room with AF, was incredibly frustrating for these women. More needs to be done to support gender-sensitive ways to promote an early diagnosis regardless of gender.”

Dr. Wilson reports that none of the men in his study were upset about their interactions with their health-care providers, mostly because they were immediately sent for diagnostic tests.

“But a delay in diagnosis is not just in this study,” he cautions. “Women generally wait longer than men for diagnosis with many ailments. Sadly, with AF and other critical illnesses, the longer a person waits, the shorter time there is to receive treatments. Statistically, women end up with a worse quality of life.”

Dr. Wilson, who is currently working on specific strategies to help people manage AF, admits the condition is often hard to diagnose because some of the symptoms are vague. Ideally, he would like people to be as knowledgeable about AF as they are about the symptoms and risks of stroke and heart attacks. As the population is living longer, the number of people with AF continues to increase. In fact, about 15 per cent of people over the age of 80 will be diagnosed with the condition.

“People know what to do for other cardiovascular diseases, it’s not the same with AF,” he adds. “And while the timeline may not be as essential as a stroke for diagnosis and care, there is still a substantial risk of life-limiting effects such as stroke, heart failure and dementia. Reason enough, I hope, for people to seek out that diagnosis.”

Dr. Wilson’s study was recently published in the Western Journal of Nursing Research.

About UBC’s Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Virtual event brings the world of research to everyone’s living room

UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing, in partnership with the University of Alberta and the International Institute for Qualitative Methodology (IIQM) will host the international Thinking Qualitatively Virtual Conference this summer.

The worldwide virtual summit will bring together some of the world’s brightest thinkers and prolific researchers. The conference will be entirely virtual for 2021 and will be organized around seven regions based on time zones, with world leaders in qualitative research leading each regional program. Established 20 years ago by the International Institute of Qualitative Methodology, the annual conference provides opportunities for researchers to present oral papers, share their knowledge and connect with others in similar fields.

But conference chair Karin Olson, who teaches in the UBCO’s Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, says the event is not just for scientists. In fact, she encourages the general public to tune in and be amazed by the wonders of thinking qualitatively.

Can you explain the term “thinking qualitatively?”

Thinking Qualitatively is the name of the summer school run for the past 20 years by IIQM at the University of Alberta. It has historically been a series of workshops intended to build capacity in qualitative research methods. This year, it is combined with the Qualitative Methods conference normally offered annually by IIQM. As a result, both oral presentations and poster presentations are welcome this year.

What is qualitative research?

Qualitative research typically uses data from sources such as interviews, observations, reports, organization charts, minutes of meetings, video, photographs, audio and social media rather than numerical data. It addresses questions about how, why, when and to whom things happen. Often qualitative research is conducted when there is limited information about a phenomenon.

Why would members of the public tune in?

Thinking Qualitatively provides an opportunity for people who have not formally studied qualitative research during their university years to build up the skills needed to do quantitative studies. Much like a TedEX event, it also provides opportunities for registrants to hear directly from world leaders in the field through keynotes and workshops.

How has going virtual benefited this year’s Thinking Qualitatively Conference?

One of the major barriers for many of our interested scholars in the past was travel costs and getting visas. It’s been particularly heartbreaking because people have worked for years to try to come to one of these and not been able to get a visa on time. Now, finally, we can have people participate from around the world in a much more affordable and accessible way.

Organizers have also managed to put an unprecedented slate of software training opportunities together on July 9, with four different qualitative software companies instructing on their platforms.

Is there a particular highlight at this year’s conference?

The international committees did an exceptional job lining up some of the biggest names in qualitative research methods, including:

July 5: David Morgan in the morning, Luca Berardi in the afternoon in North America, Maria Cecília Minayo in Latin America

July 6: Marit Kirkevold in Scandinavia and Cecilia Vindrola-Padros in UK and Ireland

July 7: Hadass Goldblatt in Africa and the Middle East, Giampietro Gobo in Continental Europe

July 8: Victoria Palmer, in the morning and Anna Cohen Miller in Australia, New Zealand and Asia that afternoon.

In addition, workshop instructors include a slate of training opportunities. There are workshops daily during the conference and on July 9 there is a showcase of different qualitative research software training opportunities, including ATLAS.ti, Quirkos, DeDoose and NVivo, with others queuing up to take part.

How do people register? And is there a cost?

In keeping with the aim of making TQ2021 more accessible and affordable, prices are based on the World Bank country classifications by income level: Fees will be based on a participant’s primary passport country. All prices are in Canadian dollars.

For more information, to register and to submit an abstract visit: tq-2021.ok.ubc.ca

About UBC’s Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Naomi Mison, who is hosting an event to discuss virtual solutions to support loved ones during COVIID-19, has a conversation with her mother on Skype.

Naomi Mison, who is hosting an event to discuss virtual solutions to support loved ones during COVIID-19, has a conversation with her mother on Skype.

More than 30 virtual events are lined up, from health tips to art classes

This March will be the eighth annual Embrace Aging month taking place across the Okanagan.

Organized each spring by UBC Okanagan’s Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention (IHLCDP), the goal is to raise awareness and educational opportunities on issues relevant to seniors and their families, explains Nursing Professor Joan Bottorff, director of the IHLCDP.

“After living with COIVD-19 for a year, we have all learned how important all aspects of health are—good physical, mental and social health is vital for us all,” says Bottorff. “This is especially important for our aging population.”

Bottorff says that by 2036 it is projected older adults will account for 25 per cent of Canada’s population. That statistic alone makes programs that support successful and healthy aging vital for everyone.

“Embrace Aging Month brings into focus the importance of supporting older adults in our communities,” she adds. “We have organized a variety of events that will share information aimed at bettering the quality of life among older adults.”

Co-sponsored by Interior Savings Credit Union and Interior Health, March is filled with more than 30 free events, workshops and activities for seniors, their families and caregivers

But, she notes, the workshops go beyond supplying healthy aging tips.

“It’s also about having fun, consciously making a point to enjoy our days, even though some people may feel separated or isolated during the pandemic,” Bottorff says.

This year event organizers have teamed up with Border Free Bees to offer a number of workshops including how to build a home for mason bees and how to become a bee ambassador. Other events include online painting classes, a beading workshop, estate planning, walking tips, scam protection ideas and a Women in Syilx culture presentation by Kelowna Museums.

Participants will also hear from UBC Okanagan students and faculty about the latest research on the importance of gut health, nutrition, stroke care, tips on transitioning into a care home or aging at home, advice on how to get a good night’s sleep and tips to prevent falls.

All events, free and open to the public, will be offered virtually via Zoom. To learn more, visit: okanaganembraceaging.com

About UBC’s Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

The role of the nurse has been front and centre since the pandemic began.

Why 2020 shone the light on our nursing professionals

Even before the term COVID-19 was a household name, the World Health Organization had designated 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. It was to be a year of celebration, milestones and recruitment opportunities to encourage more people to think about nursing as a career.

Marie Tarrant, director of UBC Okanagan’s school of nursing, reflects on 2020 and how the events of the pandemic brought home the significance of nurses in our society today.

2020 shone the light on our nursing professionals. Is this something we should carry forward after the pandemic?

Yes, I think the important role of the nurse has been long overlooked in many ways. Within a hospital setting, the most important intervention in a patient’s progress and recovery is expert nursing care. Surgeries and other medical interventions can only be effective if there are skilled nurses to care for and monitor patients.

In preventive care, the delivery of infant and maternal health programs—primarily by public-health nurses—has also been responsible for substantial decreases in maternal and child mortality over the past century. In addition, nurses are often the most common health-care provider for education and counselling on chronic disease prevention and management such as smoking cessation, diabetes, hypertension and coronary heart disease.

Has the pandemic changed people’s perceptions?

I think so and I hope this continues once we have Covid-19 under control. The pandemic has highlighted how essential and impactful nurses are every day in the lives of their patients. Nurses have been on the front lines of the pandemic and sadly have been the health care professional most likely to be infected and to die from Covid-19. In late October, the International Council of Nurses released data showing that in 44 countries, more than 1,500 nurses have died of Covid-19. The true toll is likely to be higher and the majority of these are in low-income countries where nurses may be the main health-care providers for their population. This will have implications for the health care delivery in these countries for years to come.

Also, because of restrictions in health-care settings, nurses are often the only person with Covid-19 patients as they pass away. This has been the focus of a lot of media attention and has highlighted both the unique role of nurses in the pandemic and also the enormous burden that nurses have endured over the past nine months. This is also an issue that will have ramifications on the profession of nursing for years to come.

What led you into the career?

I was hospitalized several times as a child, and I have two older sisters who are nurses. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t want to be a nurse. It has been a highly rewarding career for me, and has literally taken me around the country and around the world. I have worked in large Canadian cities, in remote northern regions of Manitoba, Ontario, and Nunavut, and in one of the most densely populated cities in Asia.

There are so many different paths a nurse’s career can take. What advice would you give someone considering a career as a nurse?

What I always tell our incoming students and anyone considering a career in nursing, is that it offers such a diverse and rewarding career pathway. Just in our school alone, we have faculty members who have worked in all areas of clinical practice within a hospital setting. Outside of the hospital setting, our faculty have worked in such diverse nursing roles as flight nursing, research, education, school nursing, community and public health, and home care. They have also worked all over the world including in the United States, Europe, Australia, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Within all of these roles and areas of practice, nurses can be working in direct clinical practice, in advanced practice nursing roles, in management and administration. In an academic career, nurses are involved in clinical and classroom teaching, research, community and professional service, educational leadership, and academic administration.

It wasn’t the year you planned, but it sure did put a focus on the profession. What’s next?

Going forward, it is clear that nurses will be heavily involved in the rollout of the Covid-19 mass vaccination campaign. Of course, nurses have always been on one of the main providers of vaccinations, but the context and scale of this vaccination campaign will be like nothing we have ever witnessed before.

While 2020 was earmarked as the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, we need to recognize and celebrate nurses every day. It has been heartening to see all of the public support for nurses and other health care professionals over the past year. Nurses will always be there—at the forefront of health care.

 

Rick Mercer will deliver the 2020 keynote address. Mercer was a 2010 UBC honorary degree recipient.

Rick Mercer will deliver the 2020 keynote address. Mercer was a 2010 UBC honorary degree recipient.

Virtual ceremony takes place Wednesday as more than 1,900 students graduate

UBC Okanagan’s Convocation of 2020 will go down in history as a unique event. Instead of students, parents and faculty joining together on campus, the celebrations will be held virtually.

“The context of 2020 has made necessary a very different approach to our graduation ceremony this year,” says Deborah Buszard, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UBC’s Okanagan campus. “While the ceremony will be virtual, the remarkable achievements of our students are very real and worthy of recognition. I invite everyone to join me in celebrating the Class of 2020.”

This year, 1,925 students have qualified for convocation from UBC Okanagan—that includes 1,600 undergraduates, more than 270 students who have earned a master’s degree and 45 newly-conferred doctorate degrees.

While convocation is a time of celebration, it’s also a time of long-kept traditions. The program will begin with Chancellor Lindsay Gordon presiding over the virtual ceremony. UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa J. Ono and Buszard will both address the Class of 2020 live, dressed in full academic regalia. And graduates will have an opportunity to take a virtual selfie with President Ono.

UBC has arranged for Canadian icon and comedian Rick Mercer to deliver the 2020 keynote address. Mercer was a 2010 UBC honorary degree recipient.

Students have had the opportunity to purchase graduation regalia, special graduation gifts, create a personalized commemorative graduation video clip, download congratulatory signs and sign a guest book with congratulatory messages.

The virtual ceremony will last 45 minutes and it will be livestreamed on June 17, with a pre-show beginning at 2:30 p.m. The ceremony begins at 3 p.m. and a 20-minute virtual alumni reception takes place at 3:55 p.m. The ceremony can also be watched on YouTube, Facebook or Panopto, a platform that is accessible from many countries. To find out more, visit: virtualgraduation.ok.ubc.ca

“These are, indeed, unusual times, and UBC students have shown once again their resilience and ability to cope and thrive in the face of change,” says Buszard. “With everything they have accomplished over these past months and over the course of their studies, I couldn’t be more proud of the extraordinary UBC Okanagan Class of 2020. Congratulations.”

This year’s medal recipients

  • Governor General’s Gold Medal: Mike Tymko
  • Lieutenant Governor’s Medal Program for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation: Dominica Patterson
  • UBC Medal in Fine Arts: Aiden de Vin
  • UBC Medal in Arts: Ellie Jane Fedec
  • UBC Medal in Science: Nicholas Kayban
  • UBC Medal in Education: Alyssa Pembleton
  • UBC Medal in Nursing: Christopher Popel
  • UBC Medal in Management: Amanda Campbell
  • UBC Medal in Human Kinetics: Madison Powls
  • UBC Medal in Engineering: Tyler Ho

About UBC’s Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Katrina Plamondon, assistant professor in UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing.

Katrina Plamondon, assistant professor in UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing.

The COVID-19 outbreak creates a clear image of unbalanced, unfair societies

A UBC researcher says the COVID-19 outbreak provides a distinct example of how different populations are differentially affected by health issues.

Katrina Plamondon, an assistant professor in UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing, studies and looks for ways to support global health equity. Achieving health equity, she says, is about creating a world where regardless of where a person is born or lives, all people can reach their full potential.

“Health equity is something to strive for, it’s an aspiration,” she explains. “In a world of health equity, life trajectories aren’t determined by race, class, education or other unearned social disadvantages.”

Today, as the world struggles through COVID-19, it’s clear that at local, regional, and national levels, the world still has a long way to toward health equity, says Plamondon.

“Health is shaped by all sorts of social determinants, and different populations navigate and are affected by these determinants in different ways,” Plamondon says. “When societies are more inequitable, different populations or communities do not enjoy the same benefits as others.”

For example, Plamondon says the life expectancy of people living “rough” or without housing can be half of those who live in houses, have secure employment and education.

“In Canada, people living rough have a life expectancy of about 40,” she says. “This is a huge difference and it’s not by accident. It’s not because people living rough are biologically dispositioned to a lower life expectancy or aren’t as deserving—there are lots of systemic reasons why someone’s life trajectory lands there.”

And the COVID-19 outbreak offers another window into understanding how different populations are differentially affected by health issues. People working in jobs with poor benefits and protections face significantly different challenges in responding to public health advice—a circumstance that could be mitigated by social policies that protect job security and income if people need to be away from work. While the Canadian government has invested millions to help individuals, landlords and companies during COVID-19, many countries simply cannot afford to do so.

Populations already known to experience the greatest inequities are also experiencing the greatest impacts of the pandemic, she says. Racialized populations in the United States, displaced peoples, including climate refugees, those living in rural or remote communities, or people coping with housing insecurity, among others, were already facing inequities in access to healthcare and, in many cases, to basic human rights.

“At a time when the health of everyone affects everyone else, these inequities in access to care are a powerful demonstration of why equity matters to everyone.”

Plamondon says advancing health equity is complex, difficult and worth doing. While many people are aware of unfair differences in health across societies, Plamondon says the tendency is to pay attention to symptoms of inequities, rather than the causes. Governments, researchers and health professionals can pay a lot of attention to people with poor health, saying it is their individual responsibility to remain healthy.

Plamondon’s research has a focus on advancing health equity and she has written extensively on Canada’s role in global health research. One study, published in the International Journal for Equity in Health, identified a set of tools that can be used to guide actions to achieve health equity. “Our research shines a light on what can we do differently as we make decisions that influence people and their opportunities for health,” she says. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first review to critically examine promising and empirically-derived strategies for advancing productive action on the root causes of health inequities.”

Based on this review, some things that can advance health equity are:

  • Creating systems that acknowledge the importance of health equity in their policies and commit to identifying equity impacts of their decisions and bureaucratic structures
  • Work with others, with particular attention to inclusion
  • Take time to examine relationships between policies, actions, and equity outcomes
  • Actively mitigate power imbalances (e.g., amplifying voices of historically excluded groups)
  • Work with data in ways that show the health outcomes by different—and intersecting—social positions (e.g., consider both Indigeneity and gender in analysis, rather than gender alone)
  • Tell the human story behind data, evoke compassion
  • Offer feasible policy options alongside research results, offering policymakers starting points for making evidence and equity-informed decisions

About UBC’s Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBCO professor says frontline nurses grapple with a good death amidst new end of life options

While Canada may have legalized medical assistance in dying in 2016, the moral challenges continue for primary care workers, including nurse practitioners who can legally assess eligibility for and provide assisted death.

UBC Okanagan Nursing Professor Barb Pesut is also a Canada Research Chair in Health, Ethics and Diversity. Much of her research has focused on improving palliative care for diverse populations and ways to improve the quality of life for seniors living at home with advancing chronic illness. More recently, she delved into the policy, practice and ethical implications of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) for nurses. Today she discusses MAiD’s implications on Canada’s nursing professionals.

Your article in The Conversation states that medically assisted dying consists of many steps, including conversations with family and ‘normalizing’ the process. Can you describe how you can ‘normalize’ assisted death?

To understand how nurses normalize assisted death, it is important to understand how an assisted death is different from a normal death. In a MAiD death, individuals know the day and hour of their death, they go from life to death in a matter of minutes, and the procedure itself is highly medicalized.

For nurses, this stands in stark contrast to the typical death where people fade away over time, the moment of death is unpredictable and treatment is limited to alleviating symptoms. For nurses in our study, this process of normalization was an attempt to ensure that the goals of compassionate, patient-centred care remained the same across this different death.

For example, once the day and hour of a patient’s death was set, nurses worked tirelessly to ensure that patient had choices about what those final moments would look like. Where did they want it to happen, who did they want present, and what did they want to be doing in those final moments? Nurses normalized the rapidity of death by educating family extensively on what to expect and by staying present with them throughout the process. They had learned to de-medicalize the actual moment of death by creating rituals, by de-centring themselves as healthcare providers (what they described as making themselves “small”) and by hiding as much as possible the preparation and delivery of the medications. These strategies enabled nurses to apply some of the ideals of a ‘good death’ to this radical new end-of-life option.

Your recent research, But it’s legal, isn’t it? Law and ethics in nursing practice related to medical assistance in dying highlights the difference between law, ethics and morality. Can you briefly explain why it’s important to have clear lines between these three terms—especially when it comes to MAiD.

The question that haunts me is whether nurses have been sufficiently prepared to make an informed choice about their decision to participate, or not, in MAiD. There is a prevailing tendency to assume that what we make legal is de facto also right.

As professionals with a public trust, nurses certainly need to be cognizant of what is legal. But, they also need to do that hard moral work of determining, beyond the legalities, whether this is something that they can take part in without moral injury. Our data suggests that this is not an easy decision to make.

Historically, nurses have viewed themselves as patient advocates. Their raison d’être is to support patients in their pursuit of a healthy and whole life (and death). This can make it difficult for them to not support something that the patient chooses. Most nurses are employees of healthcare agencies and so their accountabilities also extend to their employers. There are examples in our data where refusing to take part in MAiD may influence their co-workers and their employment options. These two factors can make the choice to participate, or not, in MAiD a particularly difficult one.

Currently, there is a grey area regarding the eligibility criteria for an assisted death. Do patients need to prove they are end-of-life and who needs to see that proof?

This grey area is really the area of clinical judgement. The courts have recognized that many of the decisions related to the assessment of eligibility for MAiD are medical, not legal decisions. This has the potential to lead to quite a bit of variability in determining who is eligible and who is not.

Although many perceive MAiD eligibility to hinge on being at end-of-life, there is actually no criteria in the federal legislation that requires individuals to be at end-of-life. Further, the Superior Court of Quebec recently struck down the “reasonably foreseeable death” criteria, reinforcing the idea that those who are considering patients for eligibility in that province do not need to prove that someone is approaching end-of-life.

This is one of the reasons why nurses in our study found that this was such a different death experience. Some of those who were undergoing MAiD looked relatively well compared to those patients who they normally encountered at end-of-life.

About UBC’s Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Annual event raises funds for healthcare in Ghana and Zambia

What: 11th annual Global Gala
Who: UBCO School of Nursing, in partnership with Okanagan-Zambia Health Initiative
When: Friday, November 15, doors open at 6 p.m., dinner is 7 p.m.
Where: The Laurel Packinghouse, 1304 Ellis St., Kelowna

UBC Okanagan nursing students are organizing a gala evening of food and entertainment as a fundraising initiative for the university’s Global Health Practicum program.

Each year, nursing students in the program have the opportunity to travel internationally and work with diverse populations. For the past decade, the students have offset costs of this program by hosting a Global Gala evening. The Global Health Practicum is part of the students’ final clinical practice experience and provides an opportunity to practice nursing in another setting outside of Canada.

This year’s formal event takes place at the Laurel Packing House on November 15. The evening will feature live entertainment and a Casino Royale twist, providing opportunities to help raise funds towards health initiatives, support outreach clinics and purchase medical equipment in Ghana and Zambia.

The event is in partnership with Okanagan-Zambia Health Initiative. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the three-course plated dinner begins at 7 p.m. More information is available at: globalgala.net

About UBC’s Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca