After his journey from registered nurse to a leadership role at the Stikine Health Centre in Dease Lake, Brady Irving is making yet another massive leap and heading to the Northern Ontario School of Medicine in Thunder Bay to become a doctor. Brady admitted he’s uncertain if or where he would like to specialize, but he did mention that rural family medicine is looking pretty enticing.
I caught up with Brady as he packed his bags for the long flight over yonder, and he was nice enough to answer a few parting questions. Have a read and join me in a thank you and a big wave to wish this guy well in his studies!
Before you decided to stay in Dease Lake, you tried Northern Health’s travel resource program, which encourages nurses to work in different Northern communities. What was that like?
Well, I came out of Fort St. John, where I went as a new grad. I worked with the inpatient unit before doing some critical care training that allowed me to work in the emergency room and the ICU. From there, I saw an opportunity with the travel resource program and thought it sounded kind of neat. I wanted to still be working with the health authority, but also traveling around. The travel resource program was awesome – it gave me my first exposure to more rural sites. I was able to travel and try out Fort Nelson and Prince Rupert and see some smaller sites and how they operate. Doing that inspired me to look at other opportunities in more rural centers.
When I saw the position for the site coordinator, it intrigued me. Initially, I felt like I didn’t really meet the minimum qualifications for the job description, but I was ready for change and a challenge. I approached the NH leadership team about it, and we came up with a plan that I would go there as a travel resource to see if I liked the centre and try shadowing the role of the site manager, as well as providing RN support.
What was it like working at the Stikine Health Centre?
It was great! I won’t deny it was a fairly steep learning curve at the start, but I had a ton of support from the outgoing manager and leadership. Overall, it was a challenge, but a rewarding challenge. The learning came together over the course of weeks and months, and I really started to feel comfortable with the unique work environment. It was very different from where I was working previously in Fort St. John, under a more traditional hospital structure. At remote facilities like Stikine Health Centre, you're thinking on your feet a lot, being resourceful, and collaborating with different agencies like the First Nations Health Authority and Iskut Valley Health Services.
For me, the super rewarding part is that at the end of the day our healthcare delivery is from a small site, dealing with a small population -I could actually see the changes I made making a difference. There's not a lot of degrees of separation between changes or modifications in rural healthcare delivery before it reaches the actual patient, and that’s pretty cool.
There’s a good sense of community that comes with working in such a small place and that's been a great feature of this site, and the work that goes along with it.
How did you find the transition from RN to site leadership?
It was a big change! In a rural environment, you're doing all sorts of things. You have to help out in areas I never thought about. It's not just the care delivery anymore. You really get to see all the gears that turn to make quality healthcare delivery work efficiently. I think about it now and the experience I have nailed down at Stikine Health Centre, professionally and personally, has been incredible!
Do you have any advice for someone in nursing trying to gain leadership skills? Would you recommend trying out a rural facility like Stikine Health Centre?
I would say to nurses, continue to challenge yourself. Nursing is a profession where things are constantly changing. Literature changes, procedure changes. You have to be up-to-date with your knowledge and how you apply that to your practice. Taking on a leadership role is no different!
It was a goal of mine to try out a leadership position at some point in my career. I didn't think it would happen necessarily within two years of starting nursing, but here we are. I would totally recommend a rural site. There are opportunities that you don't even know exist until you step into a rural setting. Rural nursing at small sites pushed me to be multifaceted and pick up a bunch of new skills.
Plus, rural living offers an opportunity for a lifestyle balance that you may not get working elsewhere. My commute to work in Dease Lake is a two-minute walk through the woods on a trail. You can’t find that in a big city!
The sense of community is huge, too. You get to know community members by first name, plus people know you and how you impact the community. If you like the outdoors, if you like spending time in nature, there's infinite possibilities this type of area can offer you. Northern Health rural sites can offer a work-life balance that you're not going to find doing shift work in the city. It’s super pleasant, that's for sure.
Any final thoughts before heading to Ontario?
It’s definitely bittersweet leaving Northern Health – this is where I've spent my whole career to date! I've certainly learned a ton from a lot of great people. Thank you to all the incredible colleagues, nurses, physicians, housekeeping staff, unit clerks, primary care assistants, and all the people I collaborated with along the way! You’ve made my time and learning experience at NH so great and worthwhile.
I had no idea when I linked up with a NH recruiter, while I was still in Ontario finishing my national licensing exam, that I would be where I am now four years later. It's wild to think about! Haha, you really don't know where you’ll go!
Bonus question: Thoughts on coming back? 😊
Northern BC certainly holds a special place in my heart, and I don't think that'll be filled any time soon. Ontario, unfortunately, doesn't have any mountains. I can see myself returning to BC, specifically Northern BC, just because it's such a unique place filled with great people that make it what it is.
Thank you, Brady! All the best to you in your med school journey!
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Brady’s position will be posted as a full-time permanent site coordinator – watch for it on the Northern Health Careers website! We will also be open to interested part-time candidates. In addition, we are fortunate that Dease Lake is included in the Travel Resource Program for nursing coverage, and we’ll be exploring related potential coverage.