Several members of the PAN team were welcomed in Prince George for the regional training on June 5-6. A sincere shout out and thank you from the PAN folks that attended (Stacy Leblanc, Janice Duddy, Mona Lee, Jaydee Cossar, Tabitha Steager and myself) to the people from Positive Living North (Prince George and Smithers), Central Interior Native Health, Northern Health, Seasons House, Quesnel Shelter and Support, Prince George New Hope Society, Foundry, Fort St. John Women’s Resource Society, Southside Health and Wellness Centre, the Prince George chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association and the team at the AIDS Prevention Program (i.e. The Needle Exchange and Overdose Prevention Site) and others who made us feel so at home. Hopefully I’m not missing anyone. Thank you to all for your enthusiasm, energy, and commitment to the event!
The goals of regional training events are to support capacity building and strengthen community connections. We recognize that there can be limited opportunities for people providing frontline HIV, HCV and overdose prevention services to get together and talk about their work, so the regional events are about education and networking/mutual support.
The first day featured several sessions as well as mini presentations from groups to showcase what they are doing around the region. On the second day, the all-day focus was on worker wellness. Here’s a brief rundown on the training. For those in other regions, it’s a sample of what you might consider when we consult you on what would best support your work- we’re looking at you next, Fraser region.
On Tuesday morning, Stacy started us off with a quick orientation to PAN’s work and how we support our member organizations: training and leadership options; community-based research and evaluation projects; advocacy and provincial leadership including the Collective Impact Network. Jaydee followed Stacy with a more in-depth introduction to the Positive Leadership Development Institute, which helps people living with HIV realize their leadership potential.
A session from Shane Gillick and Tracey Day presented information on PrEP. Since January 1st, publicly-funded PrEP has been available to those in “high-risk” groups, and Shane and Tracey talked about how this is shaping up in the North. Shane observed that not enough doctors know about PrEP, and that itself is a challenge. Tracey, who along with co-worker Kristine Rowswell provides PrEP to patients at Central Interior Native Health, agreed that there is still work to do on awareness and education. Comments about doctors expressing reluctance to provide PrEP because that area of medicine doesn’t interest them sparked response from several, with nods of agreement. “It is a doctor’s obligation to learn about PrEP as much as it is their responsibility to learn about opioids or other care issues.”
Day 1 continued with a session on Evaluation facilitated by PAN’s Janice and Mona. They talked about the importance of evaluation as a learning tool that can shape the culture of an organization, influence program planning, and of course serve as a reporting mechanism, which is what most of us think when we hear “evaluation”. Other sessions from Day 1 included a discussion on how to engage peers in community work: where are the successes, what is challenging, what are things that organizations might want to consider? This was designed as a starter conversation, and we encourage those who attended to continue this one. Two members of the Provincial Overdose Mobile Response Team also spoke about the work that they do around BC.
Dr. Abu Hamour provided an up to the minute overview of hepatitis C (HCV), from World Health Organization goals for the elimination of HCV by 2030, to epidemiology and treatment information and access. Now that we have treatment that is effective 95% of the time, testing is essential. Recommendations released earlier in the week declared that anyone born between 1945 and 1975 should be screened.
For Day 2, we switched the focus to worker health, with Vikki Reynolds’ full-day session, Resisting Burnout and Responding to the Darkness in Our Work. Vikki covered a number of areas, from an overview analysis that social oppression is a reality of frontline work, so you need a community of support that recognizes that, to being aware of the balance that creates “the Zone of Fabulousness” at your workplace. There was plenty of time for conversation in small groups and the entire group.
Just a few important takeaways:
- Look after yourself so you can arrive at work as low on the stress scale as you can. Clients have high stress; don’t add your own.
- Use collective care in addition to self-care: look after your coworkers. Stay connected when difficult things happen. Create a time with your team to debrief difficult events but don’t ask those involved in them to repeat them over and over, as this can be re-traumatizing. Ask your teammates what they need, and provide it.
- Although this can be heartbreaking work don’t be a heartbreaker by going beyond your organization’s boundaries for someone. Safety for clients is creating predictability and consistency across time. Workers who create special relationships with clients that go beyond the organization’s policies, boundaries or ethics are creating situations that compromise the care/services to clients, because the lack of boundaries with one staff person can be seen by a client as a problem with all other staff members. Then clients “become” problematic in other staff members’ eyes. If you don’t know it, ask about organizational culture, ethics, and boundaries. Talk about them when tough stuff happens. Respect them and each other for the sake of clients.
As the day drew to a close, Vikki directed all to a recent series of videos she’s made in partnership with the Community Action Initiative that go over these ideas and reinforce that wellness is everyone’s responsibility.
It is impossible to capture all of the connections at this training, whether they happened in sessions or over meals, or grabbing coffee, but I could see the benefits in peoples’ faces. I was fortunate to have some meaningful conversations with people, and thank you to those folks! From the whole PAN team, many thanks to all of you who gave your thoughts and hearts to this event.
Questions? Feedback? Get in touch! Janet Madsen, Capacity Building and Knowledge Translation Coordinator, [email protected]
About the Positive Leadership Development Institute.
PrEP Access in the North: If you are looking for PrEP in the North, Central Interior Native Health is providing care. Call 1-888-645-6495 for more information. They can also help with access in other areas in region.
HCV prevention, testing, treatment: Dr Abu Hamour is the regional leader. He is available to consult with clinicians and community agencies. He can be reached at 250-563-8284
HIV & HCV Specialized Support Team HIV101.ca
Reflecting on the history of Peer Engagement Principles
Vikki Reynolds’ site for resources on workplace health and social justice activism
Slides from the Evaluation presentation by Janice Duddy and Mona Lee