Flexibility brings community outreach into bloom on the Sunshine Coast
While the flowers may have taken longer to arrive on the Sunshine Coast this year, there are plenty of other good things blossoming thanks in part to VCH nurse practitioner Annaliese Hasler.
Community collaboration is blooming, highlighted by a recent well-attended workshop on helping transgender youth in the area. The event, described by Annaliese as one of her proudest moments as a health care professional, featured frank, honest discussions between community leaders and representatives of the RCMP, schools and organizations involved in mental health, public health, and other community service groups.
Their goal according to Annaliese was: “Work together to figure out how to make everyone in our community to feel safe,” and resulted in some plans to go forward with several key ideas including changing signage for all-gendered access to community bathrooms; addressing organization documentation and forms; and connecting with local LGBQT2 groups to better inform local social justice initiatives.
While organizing this type of workshop isn’t a typical activity for Annaliese, it’s a key part of what makes her role as a nurse practitioner unique.
“My position allows me to look at barriers to service for different populations in our community and to help remove or reduce these wherever I can,” says Annaliese.
And she knows from experience that doing this kind of integration and planning in conjunction with others in the community can only amplify the effects of the work. “As NPs, we’re at our best when we work closely with others on this type of complex issue.”
Starting with a focus on youth
It’s this focus on removing obstacles and increasing access to health care that drove another of Annaliese’s achievements from the three years she’s been in her role. A 2015 pilot project of a youth health clinic proved its worth to the point where the service was expanded from Gibsons and Pender Harbour to Sechelt.
One of the benefits of the clinics has been increased exposure to, and understanding of, the many health issues that youth in the area face.
“As the clinics have become well known, I’ve been asked to come out to talk to a classroom, of Grade 8s for example, about sexual health issues,” she recounts. “We start off focused on the main issues like consent and safety but, by the end of the discussions, they’ll be asking me questions about everything from mental health and nutrition to the hazards of street drug use.”
Looking for ways to help others
As she’s gained first-hand experience with the issues youth are facing, Annaliese has become aware of the need to help another marginalized Sunshine Coast population: youth from 20 to 25 years old who tend to be underrepresented in traditional primary care settings.
This shift is something that’s occurring in other jurisdictions around BC and is one that she’s hopeful can be started soon on the Sunshine Coast.
A strong advocate for womens’ issues
Womens’ wellness is another of Annaliese’s areas of focus. It’s a field whose definition is growing rapidly, from traditional topics such as breast health and PAP smears to more challenging topics such as menopause, fertility counseling and mental health issues.
Similar to her experience working with youth, Annaliese finds that, once a conversation gets started about a particular woman’s health issue it often leads to questions and concerns about several others as well. And that’s a good thing.