A caring personality and out-of-the-box thinking are a big part of the nursing role anywhere, but even more so in the challenging environment of northern British Columbia. Northern Health nurse administrator Valerie Waymark exemplifies the dedication and adaptability that’s needed, providing a welcome role model for health care practitioners in Prince George and beyond.
Valerie is well regarded as a natural leader with great communication skills, able to introduce innovative and interactive techniques to improve nurses’ capabilities throughout the system. Presently responsible for management and operation of Community Care Facility Licensing, her accomplishments have run the full gamut of high-level nursing administration, from managing a 130-bed complex care facility to developing nursing education programs.
“Val has made vast contributions to the standards of health care in northern BC, particularly for seniors’ care, making profound differences in people’s lives,” says retired Executive Director for Seniors Population Health, Tim Rowe. “As part of a management team, she took responsibility for developing and implementing Clinical Practice Guidelines that introduced a consistent approach to care delivery for seniors in residential care — particularly for those with dementia, delirium and depression, across the region.”
Nurses find Valerie’s calm, competent leadership style reassuring in a high-pressure environment. “Val is inspiring and never seems to be overwhelmed,” says Registered Nurse Virginia Schneider. “She’s not just a leader, but also a team player who would never hesitate to cooperate with others to get the job done. The team accomplishes amazing things thanks to her.” Valerie is a devoted advocate for care that puts patients first, using her authority to improve the quality of life of those around her.
She “sees the big picture” and understands the special challenges of long-term and palliative care. “We had a resident who had addictions,” recalls Registered Nurse Pam Bowman. “Physicians generally don’t want to prescribe drugs that could become addictive, even for pain, but this patient was palliative and giving pain medication was absolutely necessary… The ethical answer was to make him as comfortable as possible as he died, not worry about his addiction — and Valerie advocated strongly for this patient.”
Another nursing colleague notes that when she accompanied Valerie to a facility she used to manage, she was “amazed when everyone from frontline workers to housekeepers and residents came to see her and give her a hug” — a genuine demonstration of the admiration Valerie has earned wherever she goes.
As with many top nursing administrators, Valerie’s ability to manage large numbers of staff and big budgets is buttressed by a visible and proactive leadership. “There was quite a bit of animosity when Kimberley’s hospital closed and two sets of staff merged into one, with a real us-versus-them mentality,” Bowman says. “Valerie nipped it in the bud, empowering us to work together and become one united team.”
Valerie’s professional accomplishments are impressive, but she never stops updating her skills, constantly updating her knowledge in areas such as dealing with dementia, wound care, foot care, palliative care and management skills. She uses what she learns proactively, teaching and providing guidance, through workshops, seminars or daily on-demand situations.
Residents in northern BC continue to receive care that is compassionate and capable, thanks to the tireless efforts of Valerie Waymark.