A fun workday by the Bay of Fundy

Horizon staff demonstrate dedication to patient care by making our services accessible to everyone

Horizon’s Kathy Walker and Jennifer Brown recently travelled to meet Grand Manan Island patients midway, aboard the Grand Manan Ferry, to conduct annual pacemaker checks as part of the Pacemaker Outreach program.

Most registered cardiology technologists (RCTs) spend their workdays in hospitals, but thanks to a newly expanded program, Kathy Walker and Jennifer Brown recently got to spend part of their day working on the Grand Manan Ferry.

Kathy Walker, clinical coordinator for the Cardiac Electrodiagnostics unit at Horizon’s Saint John Regional Hospital (SJRH), is one of the RCTs who provides annual pacemaker checks as part of the Pacemaker Outreach program.

The program and its regular visits to nursing home residents to ensure their device is working well, was expanded to Grand Manan Island, one of the most remote areas of Charlotte County.

A trip to the island involves a 60-minute drive from the SJRH to Blacks Harbour, then a 90-minute ferry crossing — a lengthy commute for Kathy and Jennifer.

“Our team handles 20 plus evaluations per day at the SJRH,” said Kathy. “But thanks to the enthusiasm of everyone involved, we were able to come up with a solution that allowed us to meet the patients part way.”

After a few phone calls with the nursing homes on the island, an idea was hatched: perform the device checks on the ferry so Kathy and Jennifer could meet the patients midway, in Blacks Harbour, where the ferry from Grand Manan docks to mainland.

The pair worked with staff from the Grand Manan Nursing Home as well as with ferry staff from Coastal Transport to come up with a plan to ensure checks could be done, despite the short time frame, as the boat is only docked in Blacks Harbour for 30 minutes. It was decided to use the “sick bay” area of the boat to make room for the three patients, two from the nursing home and the other from the New Brunswick Extra-Mural Program, along with their accompanying family members.

As soon as the ferry docked, and cars were making their way off the exit ramp, Kathy and Jennifer raced up two flights of stairs with a good grip on their testing equipment.

“We were under pressure to get these checks done in a timely fashion. If we stayed on the boat too long, we would have been going to Grand Manan,” said Kathy. “All the checks went well. We were off the boat with five minutes to spare, avoiding an unscheduled mini vacation. Although the water was as smooth as glass, a great day for a ferry crossing.”

Patients were glad to see Kathy and Jennifer. The ferry trip added an element of fun to what was a routine annual pacemaker check. There are plans to repeat the experience or eventually offer the checks on the island if needed.

“We conducted three checks in 20 minutes on the ferry,” said Kathy. “Doing the checks on the boat was a brilliant idea! Kudos to everyone involved.”

The Grand Manan Ferry arrived just in time for Horizon’s extraordinary feat: to have two registered cardiology technologists complete three pacemaker checks in 20 minutes before it departed again.

“I honestly wasn’t sure what the outcome of this test-run for these appointments would be. Flawless timing was essential, and thanks to the compassionate staff at Grand Manan Nursing Home, and Coastal Transport – we had that,” said Stephanie Morrell, Director of Nursing at the Grand Manan Nursing Home. “We were thrilled to reduce some of the burden that an 8 to 12-hour day of travel is for our nursing home residents, and their families. I am hopeful that our success from this ‘adventure’, will lead to additional, out-of-the-box opportunities and greater access to healthcare services for rural communities.”

This is one of the many innovative solutions we have recently implemented to increase access to Horizon’s services as well as provide positive patient experiences in our various communities.

Horizon has a plan to improve health care in New Brunswick. Our plan is focused on retention and recruitment efforts and improving the overall patient experience by addressing patient flow and access to services. Further details about Horizon’s four priority areas are available at HorizonNB.ca.