It takes time and perspective to see trend lines in an occupation as complex and demanding as health care, so when someone like Heather Dunne – manager of Ladysmith Primary Health Care – retires, you want to ask a few questions and listen to what she has to say, especially when she has just been honoured by her peers as the B.C. Health Care Hero for Island Health.
Dunne was handed her Golden Apple at the BC Health Care Awards June 27 at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver.
“When it comes to advancing the scope and elevating the standards of her profession, Heather Dunne is a pioneer and trailblazer who is fiercely committed to both quality and her community,” says a BC Health Care Awards release.
“Throughout her almost 50 years as a nurse, (she) has pushed the boundaries of nursing, especially with regards to championing the role of the nurse practitioner and working to improve both access and the quality of health care service provided to remote and isolated communities, including First Nations.”
A North Cowichan resident since 1980, Dunne started her nursing career in 1969. A lot has changed during her long career, and Dunne said she hopes to see continuing advances in health care in the coming decades.
The biggest change in health care delivery Dunne points to is increasing specialization “due to the incredible volume of information needed to care for patients.”
More recently she points to the emergence of teams to deal with health care, which has become less of a “hierarchy of health care providers” and involves patients and families “much more” in a focus on outcomes.
Changes in the system have been accompanied by changes in people’s attitudes toward health and health care.
“The majority of people are much more educated about their health and the impact of their lifestyle on their future,” Dunne said.
“Health care providers are seen as those who can assist. Gone is the notion that the providers always know best; people are vocal about their care and their expectations.”
As for the future, which she will be monitoring from the sidelines, Dunne said she hopes the system keeps on track, and also keeps its heart.
“I feel and hope that health care delivery will become more and more integrated, which is the focus of the Island Health Authority and our care delivery teams,” she said.
“The most important part though, as ever, is that health care and health care providers continue to improve quality and processes, and to consider each of their patients as unique in their needs and circumstances, the need to keep the care in health care.”
Traveling, and time with friends and family are among the priorities for Dunne, as she contemplates retirement. But involvement in the community is right up there, too. “I also have ideas about where I would like to volunteer,” she said, adding that the Ladysmith Health Care Auxiliary will be high on her list.