The Interior Node was created in 2019 through a partnership between RCCbc and Interior Health that is additionally supported by UBC Okanagan and the South Okanagan Similkameen research group. Through collaboration with Dr. Dee Taylor, lead of the Interior Health Research Department, this ‘home’ extends RCCbc’s administrative supports into BC’s Interior and bolsters research activity and supports for rural physicians living and practicing in Interior Health. In May 2019, RCCbc and Interior Health jointly hired Jason Curran as the Interior Node’s Regional Practice Lead, Research and Knowledge Translation. Jason quickly began engaging broadly with other organizations to introduce himself and the notion of the Interior Node to local and regional healthcare stakeholders, including the South Okanagan Similkameen Division of Family Practice, the Penticton Medical Staff Association, and UBC Okanagan-based rural medical residents. Within a few short months, RCCbc and Interior Health added two additional members to the Interior Node team: Karen Osiowy as Coordinator, Quality Improvement and Knowledge Translations, and Tracey DeLeeuw as Administrative Assistant, Rural Research.

Left to right: Kim Williams, Jason Curran, Karen Osiowy, Dr. Dee Taylor, and Tracey Deleeuw holding up the new sign for the Interior Node office in Penticton

The work of Interior Node so far focuses on supporting interested physicians in conducting rural research, and on supporting the deployment of province-wide RCCbc initiatives – such as the Rural Site Visits project – within BC’s Interior. Jason’s work has focused on facilitating and supporting more than 10 individual rural physician-led research projects, with topics ranging from analysing interfacility transfers for patients requiring CT scans to wound care practices after family physician led cutaneous surgery. He has also participated in the provincial Rural Site Visits project as a site visitor, engaging front line healthcare stakeholders to learn more about local contexts of healthcare service delivery.

Karen supports the RSON project’s Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) pillar activities. Her key accomplishments in 2019-20 include coordinating and hosting a two-day meeting in Kelowna to connect CQI nurses and Quality Improvement Specialists from Interior Health RSON communities with representatives from Salus Global to learn more about the latter’s MORE-EX quality improvement framework. The meeting focused on the importance of team engagement and local ownership of quality improvement projects and results and discussed application of the MORE-EX framework in potential RSON site projects. Karen also coordinated and managed the development and deployment of a Patient Reported Outcomes and Experience Survey (PROES) that uses patient-centered assessment of health, function, and quality of life as one of several outcome measures to evaluate quality of care.

Tracey DeLeeuw is working with Jason Curran to provide administrative supports and coordination for those Interior Health rural physicians conducting rural research. She is also supporting several provincial RCCbc initiatives, including logistical planning for the now-cancelled 2020 BC Rural Health Conference, and administrative support for both the RCME Community Program and the Quality Team Coaching for Rural BC program. Tracey is working closely with the Rural Site Visits project team to organize, populate, and launch a project web site that will contain a searchable collection of locally developed rural BC healthcare innovations. She also supports Dr. Virginia Robinson in the rapid launch of the IN PoCUS project, which distributes handheld ultrasound probes to rural physicians across the province to facilitate development of a rurally-relevant ultrasound image database. This project was launched months ahead of the scheduled Fall 2020 date to due to reports from Italian healthcare providers that ultrasound imaging can be used to diagnose Covid-19 in areas where nucleic acid testing is not available.

The Interior Node team was engaged in the planning and organization of a regional Interior Health Research conference scheduled for mid-May 2020. There was great interest from rural healthcare teams in attending this regional rural research event; however, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the conference was postponed. The interior Node is also working closely with other BC rural health research organizations such as the Rural Health Services Research Network of BC (RHSRNbc), RCCbc’s Northern Node, and UNBC’s Health Research Institute to align and collaborate outreach efforts to rural physicians interested in research, and to reduce overlap and duplication of services.

RCCbc’s Northern Node – in partnership with Northern Health and UNBC’s Health Research Initiative (HRI), located in Prince George, BC – continues to be a hub around which northern BC rural healthcare teams can gather to share ideas, discuss innovations, and receive supports for research activities and investigations. During 2019-20, RCCbc staff Janna Olynick supported the research projects of several northern BC rural physicians, including Drs. James Card, Dietrich FurstenburgTandi Wilkinson, and Anthon Meyer.  She also supported the Rural Scholars program as well as several RCCbc Rural Physician Research Support Project grant recipients. The Northern Node also received support from Shayna Dolan, HRI Research Associate, conducting a literature review to support the Rural Site Visits project, developing an academic poster for Dr. Onuora Odoh’s rural elementary school oral health initiative, and working with Dr. Shannon Freeman to develop the ethics application for “An Evaluation of the COPD Program in Fort St. James,” a project involving multiple investigators and academic institutions.  

Left to right, Erika Belanger and Heather Gummow represent RCCbc’s Northern Node at many northern BC healthcare and/or research events

Alongside these individual research supports, Janna and colleague Erika Belanger worked with Jason Curran at RCCbc’s newly established Interior Node, as well as Evonne Tran of the Rural Health Services and Research Network of BC (RHSRNbcto align priorities and work and look for common areas of collaboration. The Northern Node and RHSRNbc jointly worked to recruit rural researchers to interview and highlight for the RHSRNbc newsletter and to research webinar/workshop planning. The two organizations also explored opportunities for shared resource development and research mentorship.  

Northern Node staff were also tasked with supporting several different projects: Erika focused on supporting the Rural Site Visits project, eventually becoming a dedicated Data Analyst and Research Coordinator for the initiative. Bree Loeffler continues to administratively coordinate the UBC Dean’s Advisory Council on Rural Health as part of the Rural Doctors’ UBC Chair in Rural Health’s, along with the RCCbc/REAP Evaluation sub-committee.