April 13, 2001 Features & Images » Feature Story

A quiet day at the office 

They treat a lot of injuries at the Whistler Health Care Centre, in addition to offering translation services, bartering for payment and saving ski suits

It’s a knee day today. Hard packed runs and slushy lower slopes are keeping the Whistler Health Care Centre’s ice machines running overtime, chilling the aching limbs of the day’s mountain casualties.

Throughout this midweek spring day at the centre, a steady flow of wincing skiers and snowboarders hobble through the door, clutching their swollen knees. Some have made it painfully down the mountain by themselves. Others have been driven here by the mountain’s walking wounded delivery service, Truck 70.

The nurses say they often get days like this – days of shoulders, of wrists, of injured Mexicans, Italians, Brits and Canadians.

In the emergency ward, RN Linda Henderson is the first nurse to arrive. Linda has been caring for Whistler’s sick and injured since 1985, when the health care centre was just a trailer. The current two-storey building, which opened in 1994, has 55 staff and often more than 100 patients a day.

As charge nurse for the day, Linda arrives when the centre opens at 8 a.m. Today she’ll work with the ward clerk to control the patient traffic through the emergency ward and care for the bewildering range of injuries and conditions a day can bring.

Linda says she likes the early shift – the mornings are quiet and since she finishes at 3:45 p.m., she can usually escape before the late afternoon rush.

At 10 a.m. RN Anne Fenwick arrives to start her shift as triage nurse. The triage role is one which the staff and patients are still getting used to. It was only created in December when an emergency reception desk was built as part of the centre’s $680,000 renovations. A further government grant of more than $8,000 also helped to pay for training.

Every patient who walks though the centre’s front doors between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and asks to see a doctor now talks to a triage nurse first. She will take their details and assess how urgently they need treatment, taking into account the condition of people already waiting. It’s also a hands-on role – Anne cleans up wounds, checks pulses and quickly examines some splinted limbs before giving patients a code number indicating the urgency of their case.

It’s hoped that the triage service can be expanded in the near future so that the emergency reception desk is staffed throughout the centre’s 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. opening hours.

Anne believes the role is already proving valuable for both staff and patients.

"The girls on the front desk enjoy the support," she says. "And it’s great for patients to see someone with medical knowledge as soon as they get here."

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