Patient initiates steps to become healthier

Through Edmonton Southside Primary Care Network, Carla Shaner is receiving tools for achieving a healthier life.

In September 2010, Carla says she was feeling helpless about her weight and overall physical and mental health.

She approached Dr. Shelley Smith, her family physician at the Justik Medical Clinic in Old Strathcona, for a solution. Dr. Smith referred her to the Edmonton Southside PCN so she could access a primary care nurse, dietitian and mental health coordinator.

“Being connected to this group of people would give me all the supports on my journey to get to a healthier lifestyle,” says Carla.

She first met with primary care nurse Vicky Beaudry for regular blood pressure checks.

When Carla’s blood pressure medication wasn’t making her feel well, she discussed it with Vicky who relayed this information to Dr. Smith.

“The nurse is like a step into the doctor. I only needed to see the doctor once instead of three times,” she explains.

Carla, 42, is also on a wait list for Alberta Health Services Weight Wise, a program focused on helping people achieve healthy weights for healthy lives. Part of this process is to take Weight Wise educational sessions and maintain a food journal, where Vicky supported Carla to ensure she met these goals.

“She’s kind of my accountability person,” says Carla.

She connected with primary care dietitian Melanie Jaques who reviewed the meals Carla was eating. Now Carla is including protein in her breakfast, eating a mid-morning snack, including more fruits and vegetables and staying away from poor carbohydrate choices.

“She really listens. She helps point out the successes,” says Carla.

Carla had doubts that she needed to meet Sharon Pelletier, a primary care mental health coordinator, because she sees a psychiatrist on a regular basis. She began going to the psychiatrist after suffering from post-partum depression four years ago.

However, Sharon provided the mother of five with a different approach.

“I’m willing to try anything. I’m really trying to change to be healthier. She gives me new ideas and points out more resources,” explains Carla.

She joined Changeways: Strategies for Personal Change, an eight-week workshop that helps individuals with depression or anxiety, and loved it. Carla learned about tools on how to help her with feelings, how to deal with stress, stepping out of her comfort zone and different methods for coping with situations.

“It’s like having another family to support you. It was a really close accountability group. You bring your goals to an accomplishment size and report the goals each week,” says Carla.

Her goal was to keep up with her food journal daily. She’s written 45 entries and plans to continue.

The primary care team encouraged her to participate in a grocery shopping tour that Edmonton Southside PCN offers once a month. Carla walked away armed with more knowledge on how to choose nutritious foods.

Not only is Carla benefitting from the services she’s receiving from her primary care team, but her family is too.

“I feel healthier and happier at home. I’m losing about a pound a week. My family is eating better too. It might be a long road. As long as I have my support team, I have success,” she says.

Carla adds that primary care provides a more rounded health care service.

“It’s really an extension of what the doctor does. Having this extension of the doctor is personalized health care for me. A doctor isn’t able to get all of that but primary health care can,” she says.