Celebrating health workers

An annual conference helping and celebrating health care assistants made its way to the Okanagan for the first time Wednesday. 

The Hearts and Hands Conference, organized by WorkSafeBC, is typically held in Victoria, but this year a second date was added at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre to include interior healthcare service workers in the experience. 

"We're very excited to be bringing it into the interior of B.C.," said Denise Subotin, WorkSafeBC manager of industry labour services "We've got over 35,000 healthcare assistants working throughout B.C., so it's a large audience we want to engage with and interact with."

The conference included speakers and workshops aimed at helping healthcare assistants stay safe at work and improve their overall wellbeing, as well as prizes and games to celebrate their contribution to society. 

"The healthcare assistants working in the Penticton area are facing the same struggles as they are in the Lower Mainland and throughout the province," Subotin said. WorkSafeBC received 101 time-loss injury claims from healthcare assistants working in the Okanagan-Similkameen in 2017, 48 per cent of which were musculoskeletal injuries, 13 per cent were from acts of violence and 15 per cent were from slips, trips and falls. 

And it wasn't just physical health that was discussed. Keynote speaker Sara Wegwitz, a registered nurse who specializes in mental fitness and resiliency training.

"I like to say the simplistic way you can think of me is a personal trainer for the mind," she said. 

Her talk focused on teaching healthcare assistants how to stay mentally healthy in the face of what can be an emotionally taxing job. 

"It's giving them tools to build their resiliency and renovate and transform the way they think and their mindset," Wegwitz said. "We know that stress is such a big part of our daily lives, especially healthcare workers on the front lines there's even more stressors involved. Sleep deprivation because of shift work, emotional conversations with clients and families, etc."

Subotin said the turnout, of around 120 healthcare workers, was great to see.

"We're happy to be here and acknowledge what our healthcare workers are doing throughout the system and really celebrate what they're doing for us," Subotin said. 

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