Dr. Rebecca Janssen, Chief of Staff at St. John Hospital in Vanderhoof. (Submitted photo

Community Builder: Dr. Rebecca Janssen, Chief of Staff at St. John Hospital

The Omineca Express will be featuring frontline workers every month during the virus pandemic.

This month, for our community builder piece, the Omineca Express reached out to the Chief of Staff at St. John Hospital, Dr. Rebecca Janssen. Janssen has been an effective leader in the community by making sure she puts out up-to-date information in letters every week to help Vanderhoofians cope with COVID-19.

Q: As a frontline worker in Vanderhoof during this pandemic, what does your day look like?

A: I am starting each day with phone meetings from 7:30 am – 8 am. I then head into the office to do mostly telephone visits with patients. I often have other meetings and phone calls mixed in. I am also doing some ER shifts throughout the week.

Q: What kind of reaction have you seen from Vanderhoof residents as a result of the pandemic? Do you find that people are taking the necessary steps?

A: I think that our residents are mostly doing a really great job of taking this situation seriously, and self isolating as advised. I think that it is pretty stressful, lonely and frustrating for people who are cut off from family and friends. I know that it also creates significant financial stressors for many people.

I have also been very impressed with our local community leaders throughout this pandemic. Our Community Working Group has member s from the Municipal Council, First nations, RCMP, Ambulance, Search and Rescue, business community and faith community (amongst others) all working together. The collaboration has been wonderful.

Q: Also, how are you doing through this pandemic? Has it been stressful and what are you doing to cope?

A: I miss my patients. I think this experience has really made me appreciate just how nice it is to sit down and chat with people.

As Chief of Staff, I have a lot of teleconferences to plan our local response and stay up-to-date with what is happening at the Northern Health level. I wouldn’t say that this sort of administrative work is necessarily in my wheelhouse. However, it is important and necessary and I’m happy to do the work for those reasons.

Regarding coping, it has been really nice to spend more time with my family. My husband Mitch and I have three little children: Tommy (6), Alex (4) and Claire (2). We are going for lots of walks and eating lots of home cooked meals together. I am also enjoying filling up our little hobby farm with chickens, ducks, pigs…Mitch thinks maybe I should stop buying animals. But I think babies (human and animal) make my day brighter.

Q: As the Chief of Staff, how do you think hospital staff are doing through this pandemic? How are they coping?

A: Again, I think this situation has pushed a lot of people out of their comfort zone. However, I think that our hospital staff have done an amazing job planning, re-organizing and working together to keep our community safe and well cared for. I’m very proud of our team.

Q: How did it feel to see the support from Vanderhoof when they rallied for frontline workers? Did that help with morale?

A: It was amazing.

Q: Why did you choose to become a doctor?

A: My Dad was a rural GP and my hero. I wanted to be a doctor after I saw him “MedEvac” a patient out of our small town ER by helicopter. I thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. I was 5. After that it evolved into a love of science and an interest in helping people solve problems. I can’t imagine loving a job more than I love rural medicine.

Q: Are you from Vanderhoof? If not, where did you move from and when?

A: I was born in rural North Dakota, but I grew up in Southwestern Ontario. I moved out west to Victoria for my residency training after medical school. I did two months of rural training in Vanderhoof and I just loved it. The docs were so welcoming and I had such a great time. I moved here permanently in March 2012. I met my husband that summer at the Air Show. My husband is a local guy (his grandpa is W.L. McLeod). We plan on staying here to raise our family.

Q: What do you like about our community?

A: Vanderhoof has such an amazing spirit. I love the hard working “can do” attitude and the responsibility people feel for their neighbours and town. I also love the connection that people here have to the outdoors. I would never have guessed 10 years ago how much I would love hunting, fishing and hobby farming.

Q: Something you would like to tell people about COVID-19 and Vanderhoof’s response?

A: I think our team has done a really good job preparing for COVID 19. Now we need to work on getting back to providing care for all of the other health problems that people face. This work has begun, and will continue as we ramp up services for urgent surgeries, lab and X ray services. After that we will work on providing care for more elective/routine appointments, tests and procedures.

Know a frontline worker in Vanderhoof who you would like to see featured in the Omineca Express? Please write to the Editor at aman.parhar@ominecaexpress.com.

Community Builder is a monthly piece in the Vanderhoof Omineca Express, sponsored by Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad. To subscribe to the Vanderhoof Omineca Express, please call 250-567-9258.

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