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Pieces of a puzzle: PHSA+ Award-winning team is greater than the sum of its parts

We spoke with Dr. Neora Pick, who leads the Oak Tree Clinic at BC Women’s, about winning a PHSA+ Award and how their team works together to care and advocate for some of B.C.’s most vulnerable patients and families.
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​When Dr. Neora Pick heard that the Oak Tree Clinic had won a PHSA+ Award, it warmed her heart.  "I know there are many great teams at PHSA, and many were nominated, and the competition was tough," she says. "It was gratifying to learn that the work done by our interdisciplinary team with passion and dedication for our patients and families for 25 years, was being recognized by PHSA and colleagues from other areas."

Every day is different

The Oak Tree Clinic at BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre provides specialized care for women, children and families living with HIV and is comprised of an interdisciplinary team. "Frequently, the day we plan is very different than the day we end up with," Dr. Pick shares. "Some patients don't show up for their scheduled visit, but then others drop in. There are occasional crises - patients become homeless, or experience domestic violence, or have a mental health or addiction crisis - and that becomes the care priority for that day."


One thing remains constant though: the interdisciplinary team members truly are passionate about working with women, their children and with youth - some of them are people who have the most need. "It feels so meaningful to help them get  their health, their voice and choices back, as well as  provide them with a safe place."

Like pieces of a puzzle

The Oak Tree Clinic staff appreciate being in a clinic where a variety of staff, including social workers, nurses, nurse practitioners, infectious diseases doctors, obstetricians, pediatricians, psychiatrists, a dietitian, pharmacists, counselors, and administrative staff, collaborate in a strongly interdisciplinary way. The outreach team works with the most vulnerable clients, in the community. 

"We all work closely together and each member brings a unique contribution to the patients and the team," says Dr. Pick. "We are all united in our commitment to provide the best comprehensive care and advocating for the most vulnerable families. The Interdisciplinary team is like pieces of a puzzle - each one is critical, and when any one is missing, there is a gap."
The Oak Tree Clinic team is proud of the clinic's holistic approach, which includes addressing the medical needs alongside the social determinants of health, women's health, mental health, and peer support. This unique, women-centered model of care operates under one roof, across women's lifespan, from babies to youth to adulthood, during pregnancy, post-partum, and as women age. It is the envisioned care model for women who live with HIV in Canada, and is crucial to the success of the care of this patient population. Research and education are integral part of Oak Tree, which has had more than 150 trainees just in the last five years. Oak Tree clinicians are leading the development of some of the HIV care provincial and national guidelines related to women's and children/youth's HIV care. 

Reducing stigma

The Oak Tree Clinic team is a leader in women's HIV care and breaking down common misconceptions. "One misconception is that women living with HIV can't have healthy HIV negative babies," Dr. Pick shares. "But our clinic has provided care to over 5,000 women and children, including more than 600 pregnancies where NO child contracted HIV from their mother when those women were engaged in care at Oak Tree and took antiretroviral treatment for at least four weeks." The clinic also treats women as they age with HIV, and have found that if these women take their HIV medications regularly, their life span is similar to people without HIV. The clinic's  oldest patient in the clinic was 81 years old! 

Living PHSA's values

The Oak Tree Clinic is a shining example of PHSA's values at work. "We provide care with a women-centered and trauma-informed lenses, which includes culturally safe care, with respect and choice/voice for patient's compassionate care," says Dr. Pick. The team continues its journey to innovate by trialing new patient engagement strategies like text messaging with patients to improve their engagement with care, to providing PrEP (pre exposure prophylaxis) to the partners of clients who have challenges adhering to their HIV medication, which lowers HIV transmission risk. The clinic builds partnerships by collaborating with other community partners such as Youth Co., community providers and various health authorities, striving for the best continuity of patient care possible.

But perhaps the value that the Oak Tree team is most proud of is serving with purpose:

"As a team we share the goal of improving the health and the lives of our patients through trust and empowerment," Dr Pick says thoughtfully. "We endeavour to make meaningful improvements in the health of our clients so that they can reach their full potential.  And we believe that providing high level HIV/HCV care, and making a profound difference in the lives of others, has been our legacy for the last 25 years of serving this province, and will be for years to come until there is a cure."

The PHSA+ Award program is managed by our Workplace Experience team, part of PHSA Human Resources. Workplace Experience also manages overall employee recognition programming including our Long Service Awards, e-cards, perks and a variety of other recognition efforts. For more information, contact employeerecognition@phsa.ca.

 
 
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