This summer, Northern Health opened a brand new hospital and residential care facility in Fort St. John, British Columbia.
At 23,000 square metres, the new hospital is double the size of the city’s original hospital, which was built back in the 1960s. It includes an expanded emergency room and ambulatory care department, an intensive care unit, larger operating rooms, an endoscopy suite and a birthing centre, which is the first of its kind in Northern B.C.
Two of the people who make the new hospital feel like more than just a building, however, are Registered Nurses Paul Smith and Mattea Rozema. Both new grads moved to Fort St. John from elsewhere in B.C. after graduating to start their healthcare careers with Northern Health.
These nurses are seriously excited to have the opportunity to start their careers in a brand new hospital. Paul, who works in the intensive care unit (ICU), says all of the equipment in the ICU is state-of-the-art – the best of the best. Mattea works in the birthing centre, where mothers can comfortably labour and deliver, and then spend time with their new babies, all in the same room.
New grad life in Northern B.C.
When she first arrived in Fort St. John from Kelowna, Mattea says she found that the majority of the city’s population is young people in their 20s, like her and Paul, who are really supportive and friendly to newcomers. Many of the city’s residents have also come from other parts of the country, so they’re also looking to meet new people and make friends.
The two nurses have also been able to find a ton of things to do outside of work both in the summer and in the winter. “There’s so much to do in Fort St. John,” says Paul, listing off a number of activities, including hiking, four-wheeling, skating and hockey. “When I first moved here, it didn’t take two days for me to be invited to join four hockey teams.”
Mattea says she enjoys skiing at Powder King Mountain Resort in the winter, and going for runs, hiking and boating on Charlie Lake in the summer. She also visited Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park – the second largest hot spring in Canada, located just south of the Yukon-British Columbia border – this summer.
Becoming an integral part of the Fort St. John community
With a population of fewer than 20,000 residents, healthcare workers in Fort St. John really get to know their patients and often see them in the community outside of work.
Paul says he’s experienced first-hand how much the community values their healthcare professionals. During his first winter in Fort St. John, a former patient tapped him on the shoulder while he was waiting in line at the post office and thanked him for saving her life.
“If you work in a major centre like Vancouver or Kelowna, you’re not going to get that personal care afterwards, where people really appreciate you as a member of the community and you get recognized,” he says.
Unparalleled career opportunities with Northern Health
Working in a smaller community also means young healthcare professionals are able to take on more responsibility and experience faster growth in their careers. “If you go through a major urban centre and you want to get into a critical care area,” says Paul, “it’s going to take you four or five years to get there and to build your practice up to have the type of autonomy that I have with a two-year-old career.”
Mattea loves that she’s getting full-time hours in a specialized area right out of university, and she can also pick up casual hours on med/surg if she wants.
New grads also have the opportunity to move from specialty to specialty – Northern Health is willing to train staff on a number of units, such as maternity, the operating room, emergency or chemotherapy. “Those are opportunities that just don’t come for new grads,” Paul says.
All of these things – and more – add up to an impressive start to the careers of these two new grad nurses. “I’m never leaving Fort St. John.”