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Northern Health looks to the future

Consider health care as career option during Q&A with Grade 9 students at Dr. Kearney
Neil Evans, registered nurse and in-patient manager of Fort St. John Hospital, speaks to Grade 9 students at Dr. Kearney about health care careers, Dec. 2, 2022.

Although they may still be more than three years away from graduating high school, Grade 9 students at Dr. Kearney Middle School had the chance Friday to hear about some career options to consider in their future.

Former DKMS graduates Byron Stewart and Neil Evans spoke to some 50 students in a classroom setting about opportunities in the health care field.

Stewart is a recruitment and retention ambassador for Northern Health’s northeast region and went to the school in the mid-1980s.

“I don’t remember presentations like this when I was this age, and I don’t know if these kids will remember this presentation when they’re older, but I believe there are building blocks and conversations to be had,” said Stewart.

“With our health care industry in the state it’s in, so many job opportunities available, so many career paths available, it’s important that our youth, their families, consider it, encourage it.”

While most might think of a doctor or nurse when discussing health care, Stewart said there’s so much more available.

“The health care industry has a wide range of positions. You can be a power engineer. You can be an IT person. There are clerical positions,” he suggested.

Addictions and mental health counselling, physiotherapy, and MRI technologists were also mentioned as potential careers in the field.

Evans, the current in-patient manager for the Fort St. John Hospital, is also a registered nurse.

Just like health care jobs, he said the opportunities in nursing also have a large scope from being an RN or LPN (licensed practical nurse) to nurse practitioner and care aide – and it’s doesn’t have to end there.

“When people think nursing, hospitals are usually the first thing that comes to mind. They watch shows like Grey’s Anatomy, and that’s all they see. There’s a whole different world out there,” explained Evans, who graduated from Dr. Kearney in 1995.

“They’re in every corner of the world, wherever someone is sick or injured, you’re going to find a nurse, be that on a cruise ship, travel resort, or amusement park,” a fact the students likely didn’t expect to hear.

An added message by Evans: keep up your grades!

“I was definitely one of those too-cool-for-school kids, skipped out a lot. Didn’t realize how important school was back then, until my post-graduation,” said Evans, who shared his personal history with the group.

Evans detailed that he needed night school to move on to university, “and it’s not as fun as it sounds,” he told the students.

A fairly new component, or at least broader component to attract future health care workers, is a volunteer program for young people.

Started by the Fort St. John Hospital Auxiliary, it’s hoped the new Northern Health volunteer resources department will garner interest with older teens.

“Kids who are 15 years can sign up to be volunteers,” program coordinator Machiel Mostert outlined.

“Right now, for example, we have opportunities in our long-term care facilities and some select hospital settings, as well.”

Mostert said the biggest need, though, remains in long-term care, with clients isolated for the last two years-plus due to the pandemic.

“Just to the get the volunteer in for an hour or two and sit with the resident. Reminisce…go through photo albums, that kind of thing is really, really valuable.”

“Being stretched as it is, having that extra person in that setting to spend half-an-hour with the resident, frees up some time for the staff member to focus on more of a clinical task-at-hand,” added Mostert.

As of Friday (Dec. 2), there were 304 openings within Northern Health throughout the northeast, 148 of those were in Fort St. John.

While most of the positions are existing roles, some are new ones, needed, but yet to be filled.

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