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Learning on the job at Interior Health

Learning on the job at Interior Health

In our short time with Interior Health, Noah Chalifoux and I (Nina Akhtar) have been granted the unique opportunity to go behind-the-scenes and observe the complex world of health care. We, along with a few other interns, joined Interior Health in May 2021.

We work with the Environmental Sustainability team. I’m currently working on making improvements to staff engagement initiatives, in order to foster a culture of sustainability across Interior Health. Noah’s work involves opportunity analyses, such as improvements to the way we handle our medical waste – so that we lower our greenhouse gas emissions, while also reducing waste disposal costs.

During our internship we’ve had the chance to tour several different locations. Our first tour was lead by Kazi Hoque from Plant Services at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail. During this tour, Noah and I, along with Matthew Dolinar who works with Plant Services evaluating the state of our mechanical equipment, got a feel for daily operations in a hospital. This experience gave us a new perspective on health care. Seeing clinical environments first-hand really makes a difference in appreciating health care. Experiential learning opportunities like this allow us to better understand one another’s work, and it provided an excellent foundation to work alongside experienced staff, particularly on innovative projects.

In July we had another opportunity along with Fleet Services Program Intern, Aaryn Sahlen, to tour Kelowna General Hospital. We saw the heliport, HVAC plants and boiler house, and met people working in departments we wanted to know more about, including:

  • ​Medical Device Re-processing (MDR) department where we met Jorge Angel-Mira (Manager, Clinical Operations) & Louise Bertrand (Coordinator, MDR Operations), and learned about the vast number of medical supplies sterilized and re-used
  • Food Services Operations where Cheryl Cooke (Manager, Food Services) showed us what it takes to feed our patients and possible improvements we can make
  • Waste Services and Housekeeping Operations lead by Jackie Marsh (Manager, Housekeeping Services). We were interested in learning more about waste, particularly biomedical waste, and recycling challenges in health care.

Our most recent tour was of Kootenay Lake Hospital in Nelson. Equipped with the knowledge from having observed MDR facilities, Food Services, Laundry/Linen Services, biomedical waste collection/storage sites, waste management areas, and everything else that keeps a facility running, we were able to get a better understanding of how things might change to benefit the environment. By seeing three different facilities, we were able to get a better understanding of the similarities and the differences between our sites, giving us a deeper perspective on the challenges of delivering high-quality health services across this vast region.

We have been so impressed by the incredible team across our health authority, who deliver high quality care each day and through several health crises.