Pat Short is retiring after 37 years in Fort St. James as a public health nurse.

Pat Short is retiring after 37 years in Fort St. James as a public health nurse.

Thirty-seven years later

Pat Short is retiring after 37 years as a public health nurse in Fort St. James.

Pat Short is retiring after 37 years as a public health nurse in Fort St. James.

Short said she has thoroughly enjoyed her work and wishes to thank all those who have allowed her into their lives to share in the growth and development of individuals and the community.

“I think that Fort St James is quite unique in the level of co-operation that all of the service providers have displayed over the years and I want to thank them as well,” said Short. “It has been a great pleasure working with all and I know that the good work that is being done will continue. We are all fortunate to be living here and Fort St. James is known in the area for the way we work together, which branches into all areas.”

She said the non-profits in town offer a lot to make this happen.

In 1976 Short came to Fort, while in her twenties and still single. She came from the Nass  Valley  to work with Health Canada as a Public Health Nurse /Outpost Nurse, a one-nurse position that covered nine reserves and two logging camps from Fraser Lake to Ft. Babine and Takla Landing.

At that time Short chartered a plane (usually Ernie Harrison) to fly into three of them and the logging camps (Lovell Cove & Leo Creek), where she would stay for one to three days to do the work there.

The work there would  include immunization and prenatal care as well as treating or evacuating the sick as a doctor would come only once every three months to the more remote areas.

In 1979 Pat married Phil Short and to be closer to home, came in to the provincial health position in Fort St. James when it came available – a one-nurse position at the time.

This did not include the outpost work of diagnosing and treating, just the public health piece that has evolved and changed significantly over the years.

This is one of the many reasons she liked public health nursing so much as it is always changing to meet the needs of the client – the community.

Public health nursing’s primary programs are in health promotion, community development and disease prevention.

Thirty-three years ago Short also did some home care nursing, community care licensing, frequent screening  and teaching in the schools as well as the regular programs of prenatal classes, parenting  and normal child growth, development and safety.

Today there are separate home care nurses and licensing officers. Public health nurses do less in the schools and there are many other programs addressing parenting, community development, teaching and safety.

There is a prenatal registry program and public health nurses no longer have prenatal classes regularly. They do work in collaboration with many community services, but no longer offer travel health which is now being offered by physicians and pharmacists.

Public health nurses now have several new programs, some of which require special certification or training. Nurses and others such as pharmacists now are required to take an immunization competency program to administer many vaccines. Nurses also carry out some cancer screening such as pap smears and breast exams and offer testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, and can counsel and dispense some methods of birth control. These all require special training and/or certification.

Public Health Nursing is a varied and rewarding branch of a nursing career for anyone who is interested, according to Short. As with all nursing it is a career that involves continuing education.

Short’s last day at work was Friday April 12, due to accumulated holiday time she has and a new nurse will start training in May.

Please be aware that service from the health unit will be somewhat limited until the new nurse is fully functioning.

In the interim the dedicated health unit staff includes a nurse working Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and a clerk who works part time every day.

Short had some parting advice for the incoming nurse who will replace her, saying the nurse should “enjoy the job and realize it takes about three years before you feel like you know what you’re doing,” she said, because of all the different training and aspects to the position.

“It’ll be a big learning curve but it’ll be fun,” said Short.

She will now be tackling the 30 years of projects she has been putting off, visiting grandchildren in Houston and Dawson Creek and taking time to travel and exercise.


Nursing week is May 6-12. Theme:  Nursing, a leading force for change.