For the month of June, The Express reached out to Heather Floris, head nurse at St. John Hospital and active volunteer in Vanderhoof.
Floris has been a frontline worker through the virus pandemic and is on the Omineca Safe House Board of Directors. Additionally, she has been one of the organizers for dry grad for six consecutive years now.
In the past, when her kids Hunter, Ethan and Emma were involved in sports, she was figure skating president. Floris was also involved in minor hockey, soccer and the Steve Nash Youth Challenge.
“My mom always used to say, if you aren’t willing to help and jump in, don’t say a word. So I think I took that away and yeah, I always say to my kids, you don’t sit back and you don’t wait. You jump in and help,” Floris said.
For Floris, being a volunteer is an essential part of community living.
“You have to be a doer. You can’t sit back and wait for someone to come along and say — Oh hey, here is your job, or hey, here is your spot — you need to learn that you need to work. And if you work for things, it’s going to happen,” she added.
As a frontline worker, Floris said the pandemic caused a lot of changes for both the hospital staff and community. However, in her view, Vanderhoof and surrounding areas “stepped up a lot” by being patient and considerate about the changes in hospital procedures.
“I think we have done a really good job in this community and the outlying communities about social distancing and staying at home, and being safe and I think the communities deserve a lot of credit for that.”
For hospital staff, when the pandemic became a reality and the province started issuing guidelines, Floris said the work increased a lot. Staff was trying to get protocols in place, along with making sure their communication channels were open.
“It was a lot of work, but the communication between our leadership and the doctors and nurses was very good. So that helped a lot,” Floris said.
To manage stress, the head nurse said staff tries to “joke around”, or when they can, staff goes out for some breaks so they can leave the building for short periods of time.
Now with B.C. in Phase 2 of the pandemic, Floris said hospital staff is less stressed because there are plans in place. “I think when everyone is informed about how the situation is going to be, and how to prepare for the situation, that helps,” she said.
From Nova Scotia originally, Heather (Floris) and her husband Marty moved to Vanderhoof 25 years ago in their search for jobs after finishing university in Vancouver.
“We drove here on Feb 23 on 5 p.m. and came over the forestry hill, and I was like where the hell are we? It’s pitch black and Marty had come up himself to first kinda scope it out, and I am like where are we?! And he said – don’t worry don’t worry, there are jobs here. And I was like ‘Oh My God!’ I will never forget that,” Floris said while laughing and reminiscing their journey.
But that feeling changed, once the couple spent more time in the community. “I think this community is very driven to help people. It’s always, no matter who it is, what’s going on, they are always there to jump in to help the person get over whatever is going on. I think the community spirit here is very strong,” she said.
Lastly, Floris wanted to thank the community for being patient with the changes at the hospital.
“I know it’s been hard, but everyone has been so accommodating and patient, and I would like to thank the community for that.”