Beth Berlin, a Northern Health Nurse Practitioner (NP), has been supporting the COVID-19 vaccine response in Burns Lake and the surrounding communities. Here, she answers some questions about her experience.
How did you use your skills as an NP to help with the planning for COVID-19 vaccination clinics in your area?
Having worked in Burns Lake for the past 17 years, I feel I have good relationships with surrounding communities, including local First Nations. I’ve been involved in the planning work from day one with the COVID-19 vaccine and those relationships have been invaluable.
Being able to provide this life-saving vaccine to patients that I have a long-time relationship with has also been so rewarding. They often have questions about their health issues and how those tie in with vaccine safety, so knowing their medical history is such an advantage, in addition to already having their trust as their primary care provider, or in many cases, someone who has seen them off and on over the years. I think being aware of all of our area’s communities has been very helpful when I am sitting and planning with the community as well.
How did you get involved in this work?
I was initially approached by our nurse practitioner leadership to be on standby in case I was needed. I participated in the education and made myself available for planning sessions. When I saw any gaps in the service delivery plans, I stepped forward.
I was approached by Lake Babine Nation early on to help support the vaccine roll out for their three communities: Woyenne, Tachet, and Fort Babine. After working with the Northern Health Virtual Clinic, and providing care for patients with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, I was thrilled to be providing preventive care to our most vulnerable populations, many of whom have struggled with mental health because of the stress of potentially becoming infected and losing their community due to isolation. After so many months of essentially waiting for patients to test positive and deal with the aftermath, I feel there is nothing better I could be doing with my time than helping to protect them from COVID-19 by delivering the vaccine.
What have been some of the positive outcomes of being involved in this planning and implementation?
One positive outcome has been working with a team. I’ve felt isolated from co-workers and friends over the past year and being a part of the team getting this vaccine out has been very rewarding.
Another positive has been providing preventive health care. As a former community health nurse, I LOVE vaccines and am still passionate about immunizing. Being able to do this work feels like we’re making a real difference. People are dying in our community from COVID-19, and those remaining are grieving those losses. What better hope can we give them than this life-saving vaccine? This will certainly make a positive difference in their mental health as well.
Multiple Elders have told me they’re getting their vaccine so that they can see their grandkids again soon. Others who have been putting off medical travel due to fear of getting the virus are able to prioritize their health care again and finally see an end to the restrictions they’ve been living under.
Did you feel supported in this work?
Yes I do, and especially, from my nurse practitioner team leads. I’m still juggling providing care for my hundreds of patients between four communities as well as my home life, and it has been challenging to maintain good self-care. With vaccine responsibilities and juggling my time, I recognize it can have an impact on my patients.
I am also an opioid agonist therapy (OAT) provider for my community so I’m always concerned about any impact on those vulnerable patients. I’m certainly supported locally to do this work. My co-worker and fellow NP, Shawna Glassel, has supported me by mentoring my NP student when I’m immunizing. We also have other primary care providers in our community who are less booked than I am who can see my patients when they’re not able to see me because of my schedule.
Thanks to Beth, and all the other care providers, who have worked so hard to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine to those in our Northern Health communities!