For First Nations trying to access the hospital, Barb Mack is often the first friendly face they see.
Born and raised Tsilhqot’in, Mack is fluent in the traditional language and is the perfect fit working full-time as CMH’s aboriginal patient navigator.
“I’m a little bit of everything — advocate, interpreter and I help clients find services,” Mack says of her unique position.
“Sometimes people just like to talk to someone who knows their language … I love this job, it’s what I trained to do.”
From the time she was a young woman, Mack says her job experience prepared her for role as patient navigator, the first working at the office at the Alexis Creek RCMP detachment years ago.
Mack says the job helped her overcome her natural shyness, and laughs at the memory of it taking her more than a week just to record a phone message for the office when she first started.
“I felt so silly,” she says.
Though it had its lighter moments, the job at the detachment also put Mack on the front lines witnessing difficult circumstances often involving friends and family members.
“It gave me character,” Mack says of working at the detachment. “It gave me strength to deal with the tragedies.”
After leaving that position to advance her education, Mack next found herself in the role of community health liaison with the Tsilhqot’in National Government for more than 10 years.
Mack said she enjoyed her time at the TNG office, and was thankful for the job as it allowed her and her son Trevor to move to town for school and staff were also supportive of her son spending time at the office after school.
Mack is the second person to fill the important role as aboriginal patient navigator at the hospital, a position born out of the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Katie Ross, who died after she was unable to communicate with staff that she had been shot.
The Chilcotin Justice Inquiry that followed the death identified the critical need for Mack’s current position.
Mack says the job involves being a part of patient discharge planning, working to access Williams Lake resources and referrals for patients as well as being on the front lines at the ER when tragedies strike.
But there are also days Mack’s responsibilities are pleasant.
“I love going to the maternity ward and I also like to see the elders, because they always say thank you for coming to see them.”
Between enjoying time with patients and having very supportive upper management, Mack can’t see herself ever choosing to leave the job.
“I’m going to be hobbling around here with my walker … I really love the job.”