A longtime public health nurse working in northern BC, Linda Keefe literally brings health care services out to the community. She works with those facing poverty, addictions and social stigmas; and goes above and beyond to reach those who at first might refuse the care that is available.
Linda is a Nurse and Program Coordinator with the AIDS Prevention Program and Needle Exchange in Prince George; she also fills a Casual Nurse role at the Prince George Youth Custody Centre. Since the 1980s, she has been both a caregiver and advocate for some of the most disadvantaged clients in outreach nursing, involved with harm reduction, HIV treatment, protection for sexually exploited youth and more. While she is known as a front-line nurse who will provide health care out in the surrounding area, she also benefits the community at a higher level, as when she works with the Blood Borne Pathogens group in ramping up HIV testing throughout the Northern Health region.
HIV, AIDS and other serious communicable diseases are often subject to great stigma and misinformation, which is why Linda’s work is so vital. “Linda does everything in her power to inform clients, educate the community and be sure that issues are never swept under the rug,” says nurse Tara Mackenzie-Clark.
“When Linda started in public health nursing, she was always pulled to work with those considered high risk, impacted by poverty, addictions and other factors,” Mackenzie-Clark adds. “When the opportunity presented itself to start a needle exchange program in our community, she gave up her position and worked tirelessly to implement the program. Linda has never shied away from discussing with politicians, medical professionals or the public the need to get the programs the support it needs.” Working for the Needle Exchange and in the Outreach Van, she brings health care to those who might otherwise have difficulty accessing available treatment.
In her work with marginalized people, Linda is a role model for nursing students and staff, says colleague Joyce Forsythe, who has worked alongside Linda for over 15 years. “She is always accepting of individuals and provides dignity and empowerment to her clients. She spends extra time teaching the importance of harm reduction and how they can reduce risks of blood borne pathogens through safer drug use and sexual practices. That attention is a great part of her success.”
It takes extraordinary communication skills to reach a client base that is sometimes reluctant to trust caregivers — but Linda always knows just what to say. “I recall the first time I went to the detox unit with Linda to learn how she presents material,” says Clinic Outreach Nurse Ravhel Peever. “I was in awe of her ability to engage clients. By the end of the group discussion, clients were commenting on how much insight they had gained into HIV.” Linda carries her education far and wide for nursing colleagues as well; striving to enhance HIV testing throughout northern BC. She travels to small towns and First Nations Communities as an instructor for health professionals to administer high-quality testing.
Linda is a nurse who truly cares about those on the fringes of our society — and every day, she works to give them safer, healthier lives.