She’s been called “the face of Northern Health in Fort St. John.” Angela De Smit is a professional known for level-headed leadership, proactive planning and common sense-collaboration that delivers high-quality patient care in rural British Columbia.
Over the past three years, Angela held a key leadership and mentorship role with the Fort St. John Hospital & Health Centre in the development of the FSJ Project, an acute care and residential care facility. “She worked tirelessly ensuring that no detail was unaccounted for,” says Northern Health Chief Operating Officer Betty McCracken Morris. “She is exceptionally well organized and communicated the needs of staff, patients and the community through hundreds of meetings with stakeholders.” As part of this project, Angela advocated for a number of systems to improve patient care and streamline nursing care including systems for medication delivery, purchasing, communication, and critical care.”
Delivery of health care services to rural communities has always been hampered by unique challenges, but Angela has put a lot of effort into building up primary health care in the north. To do this, she has facilitated partnerships between community nurses and services such as the Alzheimer’s Society and the North Peace Seniors Housing. She worked with the B.C. Cancer unit to obtain chemotherapy training for Fort St. John Hospital staff, collaborated with physician groups to promote general practitioners in oncology and reallocated hospital space for chemotherapy delivery. As a result, Fort St. John is now able to deliver quality care that has outpaced expectations.
Angela began her career in nursing in the 1980s, working in a range of nursing positions, providing direct nursing for patients requiring maternal, pediatric, medical, surgical and emergency care. By the 1990s, she had already begun her transition into management and leadership roles. With every move, she improved nursing practice and processes for her department. “Angela had her work cut out for her when she became Director of Nursing, but she worked very hard to build up the nursing department so there was a feeling of loyalty and respect for her and other staff,” says Sharon Bernett, RN. “She is very skilled at finding the right person for the right job, never shirks responsibilities and deals with challenges promptly and efficiently.”
Throughout her career, nurses saw Angela as a role model who led by example. “She did not expect her staff to do anything that she was not prepared to do herself,” Bernett says. “I worked many night shifts as a float nurse and would meet up with Angela on our Medical/Surgical ward, working as a staff nurse, after she had just spent the day performing her administrative duties.”
“Perhaps her greatest strength is the way she makes people feel,” says Joanne Cozac, RN. “After a full day of meetings and challenges, she finds time to send thank you cards, decorate offices for birthdays and purchase treats for people who come through administration.” In return, this respected face of Northern Health is greeted with a warm smile.