Providing emergency health care in a rural setting is always a big challenge. Nurses and other health professionals face daily hurdles in getting the resources they need to properly care for the population; even more stark is the lack of human resources, as small communities increasingly find it hard to keep the nurses that they have. In this context, Northern Health Authority Emergency Department Nurse Manager Barbara Schuerkamp is the very model of integrity, skill and dedication, helping the area of Tumbler Ridge and beyond to cope under extreme pressure.
Other nurses are well aware of Barbara’s level of commitment to her patients and her fellow nurses, even as her humble nature contrasts with her high standard of professional practice. “Without her, our health care services would have literally crumbled,” says Nurse Karyn Morash. “If nursing in a small town falls apart, the physicians don’t want to be there. She is the pin that holds us all together, with a history of service that goes above and beyond; to practice nursing for her patients as she does, there is no doubt that there have been many birthdays, anniversaries and other special events that had to be missed.”
Barbara provides much-needed leadership and mentorship to a region that has known its share of nursing shortages. “Barbara has been a wonderful mentor for me because in a rural setting, you really must be prepared to deal with anything and everything,” says Nurse Natasha Burns. “I was very nervous to begin with because I was trained as an acute care nurse only and had no emergency experience to speak of. She helped me during my initial orientation and her continued support extended into the late hours of the night on her own time, if I needed extra help. Barb would say ‘we don’t eat our young around here’ — and she continued to help me develop critical skills.”
Far from merely keeping heads above water in a precarious situation, Barbara pushes her fellow nurses to be their best with evidence-based care. “She makes sure we’re keeping up to date on our courses and attend seminars for subjects like palliative care or family support for end-of-life care,” Burns says. “She is very focused on applying the most recent knowledge into our practices and will often bring in physicians or pharmacists so we can learn from them.” In addition, Barbara will demo products and equipment to test quality control and applicability in clinical use. She has also gone to considerable lengths to maintain her CPD standards and attends a wide range of professional development courses, from ‘Conflict Resolution to Managers’ to ‘Cardiac Crisis Management’ and ‘Peer Immunization Training’ — which has in turn encouraged others to continue their own education.
Outside of Barbara’s professional nursing work, she is a tireless volunteer at community events with a health focus, such as cross-country running races and the Banff Mountain Film Festival, where she often provides first-aid support. She sings in her community choir, which at times helps her connect to bereaved family members of patients she has supported through their final illness.
Excellence runs in the family — Barbara’s twin sister
Cathy Roberts was honoured with the CRNBC Excellence in Nursing Education award in 2011.
It would be hard to find a nurse more dedicated to the community she serves — and Barbara continues to be an inspiration for those taking up the challenge of nursing in rural BC.