Comox Valley Nursing Centre staff and volunteers reflected on the past and looked to the future during the centre’s 20th anniversary celebration Wednesday.
“We opened our doors in May, 1994 from the result of a group of six nurses here in the Comox Valley, who had the idea to put together a proposal to create a primary health-care centre that serves the residents here in the Comox Valley,” nursing centre manager Chris Bowlby said in an interview.
Some of those original nurses attended the celebration — which fittingly fell in National Nursing Week (May 12-18) — as well as partner agencies and nursing centre clients.
The nursing centre has grown over the years in terms of physical space, clients, community partnerships and programs.
Island Health director of primary health care and chronic disease management Victoria Power pointed out the nursing centre has been unique ever since it first opened its doors.
“This was focused on a nurse-lead primary health-care model where typically primary health-care models are either physician-lead or team-lead, and that’s what made it quite unique,” she recalled, noting there are still aspects of health care outside the scope of nursing practice, hence the centre’s various partnerships, formed over the years with community pharmacists, physiotherapists and family physicians, for example.
“Even though its beginnings were very much nurse-lead, nurse-oriented, what we’re finding as we’re growing through the 20 years is it’s actually becoming more multi-disciplinary team in nature, which is quite lovely.”
Care is offered in a variety of areas like chronic pain and chronic disease management, eating disorders, men’s health, support groups, workshops, street outreach and health education. According to Bowlby, building relationships with the centre’s clients is a focus for staff.
“It really starts with the client and our nurses and their relationship with the client, and helping to support that client in their primary care journey,” she said, which means really getting to know each client and their specific needs, not only at the nursing centre but elsewhere in the medical system.
“We help those clients navigate services, we help those clients maybe build that relationship with the physician, we help the client to use the language that will enable him or her to get access to those services. If we need to, we’ll go to a physician appointment with the client and help to advocate for that client.
“So it’s helping to wrap services around clients, identifying where they’re at, enabling them to get access to what they need to improve health outcomes.”
According to the centre’s database, more than 60 per cent of clients have chronic pain and more than 60 per cent have mental health issues.
Bowlby noted most of the Comox Valley population will never set foot in the nursing centre because it serves people who are marginalized, for whatever reason, from the medical system.
According to Power, Island Health is attempting to take aspects of ‘relational practice’ (building relationships with clients before prescribing) implemented at the nursing centre and incorporate them into home and community care teams, public health teams and primary health-care teams in other communities.
“And, in this community what we’re trying to do is formalize the roles with family physicians, mental health teams and home/community care teams, so that’s our next step … because we still have areas of the population that might fall into cracks, we might have areas of the population where they’re receiving a duplicate of service,” she said. “So, what we’re trying to do is wrap services around each of those patients.”
Power noted Island Health will meet with community partners in June to start the work of formalizing these roles in the Comox Valley.
The centre is located at 615 10th St. in Courtenay, where it moved in 2008.
For more information, visit http://www.viha.ca/comox_valley_nursing_centre/ or call 250-331-8502.