Comox Valley Care-a-Van stalwart named Nurse to Know

The Comox Valley's Helen Boyd was profiled by the Canadian Nurses Association's Canadian Nurse magazine as a Nurse to Know.

THE CARE-A-VAN'S HELEN Boyd is September's Nurse to Know in the Canadian Nurses Association's Canadian Nurse magazine.

The Comox Valley’s Helen Boyd was profiled by the Canadian Nurses Association’s Canadian Nurse magazine as a Nurse to Know.

Though she was chosen as the nurse — out of all the nurses in Canada — for the section in September’s issue, Boyd says all the other health-care professionals who make the Comox Bay Care Society’s Care-A-Van a success deserve honour, too.

“Every nurse on the Care-A-Van is a nurse-to-know,” Boyd says. “Every doctor that volunteers on the Care-A-Van is a doctor-to-know, every pharmacist, every optometrist, every dentist, every driver, are people-to-know.”

Started by Boyd in 2009, the Care-A-Van provides an array of health-care services to the Comox Valley’s homeless and at-risk of homelessness. Since it began, the program has served about 800 people aboard its retrofitted van. The youngest client so far has been three years old, while the oldest has been 86.

Eight volunteer drivers and a staff of 23 volunteer health-care workers — including 14 nurses, four family physicians, two pharmacists, one optometrist, and three dentists — ensure the Care-A-Van provides health-care services three times per week.

The most important part of receiving the national magazine coverage, according to Boyd, is the chance for others to see how successful the program has been.

“It’s an example of best practice for health-care services for homeless individuals, so the Care-A-Van is a prototype that could be duplicated in other communities,” says Boyd, adding the article has generated some interest from other health-care providers in the country.

“I’ve had some calls from Montreal and from Toronto, and today, I spoke to the editor of the magazine and they said they got a lot of feedback.”

She’s also had inquiries about the program from as far away as Bolivia over the years. According to Boyd, the Care-A-Van is the only program of its kind west of Calgary, in that it’s not funded by government. Instead, the $30,000 yearly budget comes from local fundraising.

She adds the Care-A-Van is about removing barriers to accessing health-care services; the program comes to clients and there’s no appointments and no referrals needed.

We “approach them where they’re at in life, and that’s the strength of what the program has been about because we’ve built trusting relationships with them,” she says, noting the most rewarding part of her job is seeing clients’ lives improve.

“One huge success is always when you see somebody who’s lived in absolute homelessness go to being housed and being part of a vibrant community, participating in its life…just having a rich quality of life — and that’s so rewarding.”

Sometimes something as simple as giving someone a pair of glasses can means they get a job and homelessness is prevented, or she notes, sometimes clients come in and the Care-A-Van can get them into a detox centre the very next day.

“I’m very passionate about this work,” says Boyd, adding she’s always thinking of ideas for new programs the Care-A-Van could offer. “I love what I do, and it’s wonderful.”

For more information on the Care-A-Van, visit


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