Christiane Gray-Schleihauf (left), Tamara Barnett, Karen Lundgren and Anne Drost are all nurses at Cool Aid’s Community Health Centre (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Christiane Gray-Schleihauf (left), Tamara Barnett, Karen Lundgren and Anne Drost are all nurses at Cool Aid’s Community Health Centre (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Downtown Victoria nursing model making a difference

Staff at the Cool Aid Community Health Centre are presenting their work internationally

Nurse Week may be wrapping up, but that doesn’t change anything for seven busy nurses who work in Victoria’s downtown primary care clinic.

Cool Aid’s Community Health Centre at 713 Johnson St. sees 33,000 appointments per year; a third of those appointments are overseen by the clinic’s team of registered nurses with certified practices.

“It’s a very unique role, there aren’t many nurses who work in a primary health role in an interdisciplinary setting” said Anne Drost, the clinical nurse leader. “This allows us to work at a slightly higher scope, and I think the structure and the setting makes it unique, as well as our population.”

ALSO READ: More than 300 vacancies in Vancouver Island nursing

The majority of the downtown clinic’s 4,700 patients are vulnerable populations living in poverty, many living with addictions and mental health needs. That means that a large part of the job is building relationships with clients to gain trust.

“If they want to talk to us about abscesses they have, or that they need a crack pipe, they can tell us that,” Drost said, adding that they work with a harm reduction lens. “It means we have to meet them where they’re at and work from there.”

ALSO READ: B.C. nurses, emergency dispatchers get help for work-related trauma

The setting also allows the nurses to take part in unique projects that are gaining international attention; in September, members of the team presented in Portugal on their Hepatitis C micro-elimination project. This week one of the nurses is in Saskatoon to present a paper written by team members on the nurse-led HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Program, a preventative program focused largely on men who have sex with men.

“We have really interesting nurse-led programs in the community that provide us with a lot of job satisfaction,” said Karen Lundgren. “Our PReP program is the second largest in the province.”

The team also does a lot of outreach with local groups and communities including AIDS Vancouver Island, the Society of Living Intravenous Drug Users (SOLID), Peers, the Anawim House and the Victoria Native Friendship Centre.

ALSO READ: New contract would force B.C. health authorities to hire new nurses or pay millions

On top of that, the nurses run regular diagnostics, change bandages, do pap smears and fill many other roles a doctor would.

“A lot of the stuff we do you don’t need to see a physician for, and I really hope that’s where the nurse’s role in primary health care can go,” Drost said. “It would save the system a lot of money.”

The varied clientele and work always keeps the team on their toes, something that the newest team member, Christiane Gray-Schleihauf finds most rewarding.

“We’re very excited to be here and love the differences that walk through the door, we never know what to expect,” said Gray-Schleihauf. “It really shows what nurses are capable of, and rather than putting a ceiling on it we’re constantly evolving the practice.”

With such a varied, and often turbulent client base, the team also prioritizes sharing tasks and enforcing self care.

“We share heavy clientele interactions with each other, so I think we’re able to let it go when we go home because we’d have talked a lot of it through,” said Tamara Barnett.

The Cool Aid Community Health Clinic is open Monday-Saturday, with varied hours between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.

For more information, you can visit coolaid.org

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

Features

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
West Shore proud owners of B.C.’s first electric school bus

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Architect’s rendering of the 7 Erskine Lane development, showing the view from the east and south. (VDA Architecture Ltd. image)
View Royal green-lights residential development on Erskine Lane

First of two developments near Victoria General Hospital will provide 71 housing units

Habitat Acquisition Trust has received provincial funding to help restore Garry oak ecosystems on southern Vancouver Island. (Photo by Jeremy da Silva)
Central Saanich park among sites for local Garry oak restoration projects

Habitat Acquisition Trust received $140,000 in funding for 12 projects

A family of ducks that lives near Saanich Municipal Hall recently welcomed 11 ducklings and took them for a swim in the koi pond outside the offices. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Pair of ducks make Saanich Municipal Hall a nursery for 11 hatchlings

Family of ducks spent time in koi pond before heading down to Swan Lake

Andrew Swanson was arrested Wednesday after he was wanted for an alleged choking assault and for obstructing police. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police arrest Andrew Swanson on warrants for alleged choking assault, obstruction

A member of the public spotted Swanson and called 911 before police came and made the arrest

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

A worker rides a bike at a B.C. Hydro substation in Vancouver, on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Hydro report raises safety concerns as pandemic prompts jump in yard work

Incidents involving weekend tree trimmers, gardeners and landscapers have risen 30% since the pandemic hit

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Findings indicate a culture of racism, misogyny and bullying has gripped the game with 64 per cent of people involved saying players bully others outside of the rink. (Pixabay)
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

56% of youth hockey players and coaches say disrespect to women is a problem in Canada’s sport

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hospital investigating whether Alberta woman who died after AstraZeneca shot was turned away

Woman was taken off life support 12 days after getting vaccine

Most Read