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Health Care Hero and long-time nurse retires: Spotlight on Nancy Viney


Three women standing together outside.
L-R: Kelsey Yarmish, Director of Population and Preventive Public Health; Nancy Viney, Regional Nursing Lead Tobacco Reduction; Sabrina Dosanjh-Gantner, Regional Manager, Healthy Living, Chronic Disease Prevention & Public Health Practice.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a nurse,” says Nancy Viney, who is retiring from Northern Health this year. For the past 40 years, she’s worked as a nurse in a variety of places and roles and in Nancy was recognized as a Health Care Hero for her relentless dedication to improving the lives of Northerners through reducing tobacco use.

After high school, she went straight into nursing school and on June 8, 1979 she graduated from the University of Western Ontario (now Western University). Starting in Toronto, she worked her way west, living and working in Sarnia, ON; Calgary, AB; and finally Prince George; it’s been 22 years since she made the move to Northern BC. In 2008, she took on the role of Regional Nursing Lead for Tobacco Reduction for Northern Health.

In your role, what has a typical day looked like?

There isn’t a set day! You’re looking at ways to engage with internal and external partners to help develop systems to reduce tobacco. You go where you’re invited. It’s really important as a regional lead to keep current with evidence that helps people quit smoking and prevent them from smoking to begin with. In this role, it’s important to connect with people who are interested in tobacco reduction – whether that’s provincially, nationally, or even internationally.

What do you like about your job?

I’ve worked in a variety of settings including acute care, intensive care, labour/delivery, home care case management, public health nursing… I’ve also taught nursing! Being a regional lead in population health, you can help people live healthier lives so they don’t need as much acute care.

How does your role impact patients?

By working with internal partners, we can develop systems to ensure that we talk about tobacco use with every patient. We can try to protect them from second-hand smoke and try and prevent them from using commercial tobacco - especially those who are dependent on commercial tobacco products. It’s everyone’s job to do this, not just the regional tobacco lead. There needs to be simple systems in place so it’s easy for staff to have these conversations, without adding more work. We need to address tobacco with every patient in the same systematic way that we ask about other risk factors such as allergies.

Video: In 2017 Nancy was recognized as the Northern Health Health Care Hero for her relentless dedication to improving the lives of northerners through reducing tobacco use.

This year’s Nurses Week theme is "Health for All" which means not just the availability of health services, but a complete state of physical and mental health that enables a person to lead a socially and economically productive life. What are your thoughts?

I like the approach that we want to help people have healthy lives. In the NH strategic plan, one goal is healthy people in healthy communities. I think the theme is in line with that. If we help people and their families avoid health risk factors, it will positively impact their health. This includes helping them avoid substances like commercial tobacco that are hard on their bodies and their relationships. People don’t love to smoke, they love to relieve their withdrawal. Tobacco robs people of their health and their money – I could go on and on!

Would you recommend the nursing career?

Yes, I’d recommend nursing as a career! Throughout my career, it’s offered me access to secure employment, good wages, and lots of variety if you want to try something different. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a nurse. I was mesmerized by the hospital and the uniforms and Dr. Kildare. This year is the 40th anniversary of my graduating class and a lot of us are retiring. I’ve been to a couple of our grad class reunions – it’s nice to get together with old nursing friends. I’ve got friends all over, including one who lives in San Francisco that I’m planning on visiting this fall. We may have aged a little but nothing’s changed! Looking back, I’m really happy with my career decision.

Editor's note: May 6-12 is Nursing Week! This story is one of several we'll post this week to celebrate and showcase the many different types of nursing roles in Northern Health in honour of Nursing Week!When it comes to choosing a career, some know exactly what they’re meant to do!