A team of specialized nurses was recently hired by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) to bolster staffing levels throughout the Sea to Sky when patients are transported outside of the corridor for care.
Karin Olson, chief operating officer for Coastal Community Care at VCH, explained the impetus for last month's hires at a June open board meeting held in Whistler.
"One of the concerns in the Sea to Sky is when a patient requires (ground) transport to Vancouver for a higher level of care, it reduces the number of nurses, as they typically have to travel with the patient," she said. "So now we have the ability to shift staffing in the Sea to Sky to different sites to help keep that staffing complement up."
There were 646 ground ambulance transfers out of the corridor in 2016, confirmed VCH.
While there are already ERNs working in different capacities in the Lower Mainland, VCH's director of acute services Shannon Chutskoff said the type of training these nurses have undergone to be able to work in the Sea to Sky is unique. On-call between health care centres in Whistler, Pemberton and Squamish, these positions require emergency, obstetric and, preferably, Nurse First Call certification.
"We've refashioned the role and it's a little different, unique and innovative to what it's traditionally been in order to meet the needs of the Sea to Sky corridor," she said.
The full-time positions also made it easier to recruit qualified nurses. The newly hired nurses will also fill in during staffing shortages.
"It's been a challenge to provide a second nurse on-call historically because there needs to be a base to tie the nurse to, a regular job to tie the nurse to. People don't traditionally just sign on to be on-call," Chutskoff said. "So to now have these extra positions that uniquely go between the three sites (in Whistler, Pemberton and Squamish), that's where this is different from what we've historically done.
"It's a new train of thought and it's very exciting, so we're looking forward to it rolling out."
Chutskoff also believes the ERNs, which had to have at least five years of nursing experience to qualify, will bring a fresh perspective to their roles that will benefit the other nurses on staff.
"I think it supports our newer (emergency department) nurses," she said. "Like with any work, having another lens (is useful); so perhaps you have been focused on just working in Whistler, and now you're going to have somebody coming in who's done the job in Pemberton and has another perspective.
"Having the support of a well-trained peer working with you is always a benefit."
The ERNs begin in their new roles on Aug. 11.