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Career advice from Heather Budgell, a psychiatric nurse in Terrace


A woman wearing a grey jacket stands along a railing with the ocean in the background. Its grey and overcast outside.
“I've never been happier. Honestly, I've never been happier in where I'm living or in the job I have. The Mills Psych Ward is the most supportive unit I have ever worked on.”

Thinking about making a change? So was Heather Budgell. She spent a year working as a registered psychiatric nurse (RPN) in BC’s lower mainland, then made the switch to Northern Health, where she has just celebrated her one-year “workaversary” at Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace, BC.

Change can be scary, but taking a leap can be one of best decisions a person can make. But hey, don’t take it from me – let Heather make the case.

When did you come to Terrace, and how did you find the moving process with Northern Health?

I was actually a care aide for 16 years, and then I upgraded to become a RPN, all in the lower mainland. I spent one year in nursing down there and then decided to make the move to Terrace with my husband. I was born in Chetwynd, so the North is home for me, but my husband needed salmon-fishing, so Terrace checked the boxes for both of us! My one-year mark working as an RPN at Mills Memorial Hospital was March 1st, 2022.

As for the move, NH Recruitment made it really easy. Two emails, print them, send them back – they made it very clear, which was huge for me, because honestly, I hate change. My anxiety to move was through the roof just filling out the papers! But Recruitment helped make it simple, which helped calm the nerves down a ton. They made it so I couldn't mess up. It was awesome for me!

What excites you/ what do you enjoy about your position?

Working in an acute psychiatry unit, patients often come in experiencing acute mental illness symptoms. I enjoy working with them to meet their needs and watching them grow and overcome the challenges they have experienced. There’s those instances where you see someone thriving in community later on and it provides job satisfaction knowing you’ve made a difference for that individual’s quality of life.

Another big part for me is breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health and substance use. The psychiatry unit at MMH is progressive, trauma-informed, and patient-centered and I’m happy to be involved in that culture. Patients are often surprised when they come in- we have an art room, recreational therapy and occupational therapy. There are activities and groups throughout the day to assist patient’s in gathering tools to support them in their wellness. It’s amazing here, the support for patients is above and beyond.

Do you find that there’s a lot of opportunity to advance your career at NH?

I’m specialized in psychiatric nursing, but there are often times when I can use my mental health and substance use skills to support other departments within the hospital with the care of patients admitted with psychiatric needs. This provides an opportunity to expand on my skills and learn from other departments such as the ER and Med/Surg.

I think about other health authorities, such as when I was working in the Lower Mainland and I was only permitted to work in psychiatric units as an RPN. However, within Northern Health I have opportunities to work on acute care units, support with MHSU care of patients in ER, provide regional support to other hospitals in the context of care of psychiatric patients, and work in community settings.

What do you do for fun in Terrace?

I love hiking, and my husband, of course, loves fishing. I like to have a beach fire behind him and cook the fish when he reels them in! One of my must-haves when we moved here was to have a fire pit in my backyard. You can’t beat the space around here.

What would you say to someone considering coming to Terrace for nursing?

Take that leap and jump on it. Working in care homes for 16 years, the thing I heard most was “I didn't regret the things I did. I regret the things I didn't do.”

When I was working in Chilliwack, I was commuting from Burnaby, which is an hour and a half drive one way. If you got stuck in traffic, it could be up to three or four hours. Now my drive is six minutes with no traffic. We're getting savings, we have debt repayment, and we have extra money to play with because the cost of living up here is so nice for us compared to Vancouver. And I get loan forgiveness.

Moving took me fully out of my comfort zone. But I look back, and all that stress, all that anxiety, was 100% worth it.

A big thanks to Heather for repping Mills Memorial Hospital and her team!