My most recent assignment was in a place called Bella Coola. The town of Bella Coola is small, but the Bella Coola valley, which encompasses various other small towns has a population of over 2000 people. This was the least remote of the assignments that I've gone on - there was a grocery store! Yay!
Bella Coola is particularily proud of 'The Hill'. Upon arriving into Bella Coola, many on the bus congratulated me; "You surived The Hill!! Buy a t-shirt!!!!". I found a video of 'The Hill', which doesn't do justice for how the locals drive on this stretch of road. They drive full speed. Buckle up.
Many also told me that most people who visit from the prairies feel claustrophobic due to the mountains looming over them. I never felt this way. The mountains have the opposite effect on me. They're expansive and impressive in ways that make breath easier.
Bella Coola General Hospital
The hospital is a typical 'small town hospital', where the nurses are required to work various types of areas throughout their shift. There are emergency/trauma beds, acute medical beds, a palliative bed and long term care beds. In larger facilities, these beds would be on separate units allowing nurses to become more comfortable with one 'type' of nursing. Fortunately for me, this was a great learning experience as I've only ever worked in emergency. In my ER experience, I've rarely seen the same patient for more than two days in a row (urgent respite being the exception...). It was nice having the opportunity to spend more time with my patients and having the chance to get to know them, although this made their passing more difficult.
I would say the biggest struggle for this hospital is the weather. On quite a few occasions we had patients that required transportat to bigger facilities, but weather would prevent planes from landing for days at a time. BC has implemented some ground transport for critical patients (High Acuity Response Team), but from what I understand Bella Coola is too remote.
As a travel nurse needing to learn how things operate in each facility is the #1 challenge with every assignment. Never mind, that my orientation is only one shift. Nurses normally get weeks of orientation shifts when they're hired to a new job. I spent my first few shifts of this assignment running around and thinking to myself "now where did I see that again?". You may not know this, but nurses hate change. We've got enough on our plates! With each assignment I take on I have to adapt to a lot of change. How to chart. What goes where. Which paper to use. Which protocol to initiate. Who to call. Who not to call. And how to use that damn fax machine.
The Nuxalk people (Nuxalkmc) are the area's First Nations. Q’umk’uts’ is the Nuxalk village that is in the heart of the Bella Coola town. If you want to learn more about the Nuxwalk click here.
The sputc pole
This represents some of Nuxalk history and ancestral teachings. It symbolizes how the Nuxalkmc are meant to co-exist with their food sources. There is a respect for salmon as a food source as well as maintenance and protection of its natural habitat.
This totem pole represents the experience of residential school survivors. The faces etched into the wood have various meanings. I loved these lines: "This pole is not meant to be a constant reminder of what happened. It's a reminder to keep working on ourselves, to keep working on our healing."
This hike didn't quite go as planned, but it was still fun. This trail was mostly a scramble, which sounds like fun on your way up, but the cold/wet butt you'll earn on your way down is not quite as exciting.
Burnt Bridge Trail
This was a fun trail completed with great company. We were a mixed group made up of agency nurses, med/nursing/pharmacy students and two locals (Ruby, you're a local now).
Schoolhouse Mountain Falls
We did this trail on my last day in Bella Coola. Our "guide" was the only local in this group (thanks Nigel!). We were otherwise all agency nurses or nurses there for a short stay. One of our members took the opportunity to hike the trail while fully packed in order to train for an upcoming hike (good luck Natalie on the Appalachian Trail!). We also happened upon a geocache box (why can't I find them when I'm intentionally looking for them?!).
I 100% recommend visiting Bella Coola if you're interested in some remote hiking and skiing. Everyone I met had an appreciation for nature - its beauty and tranquility. The locals are happy to show locums the area and make recommendations for sight-seeing. Those who'd moved to Bella Coola all seemed to have done it by simply choosing it on a map (brave!). Everyone made my stay in Bella Coola memorable. It was fascinating to listen to everyone's stories - where they've been and where they're going.
For those who read my posts due to travel nursing interest, Bella Coola is a great hospital and would be a good introduction into travel nursing. No shift is worked alone and all staff are supportive of newcomers. I would definitely like to go back here.
Thanks for reading!