Renal Social Worker, Northern Health
Based in Prince George, Tammy Rizmayer works with over 800 patients and families throughout Northern Health who are dealing with kidney disease. The majority of these patients live outside of the Prince George area, and many of them also live on low incomes. Those that require dialysis may have their health outcomes impacted by stress caused by the financial burden associated with paying for travel or accommodation, or time spent not working.
To reduce this burden, Tammy has established connections with accommodation and travel providers to help patients and their families come to Prince George and Vancouver for appointments. Recently she played a critical role in establishing a $25,000 bursary fund that helps patients overcome travel cost barriers.
Tammy’s team members have noticed a big difference in the quality of learning that patients and families are able to embrace when they have less finance-related stress. Bursary assistance has led to increased patient satisfaction, empowerment of patients to deal with their chronic disease, and improved quality of life.
And her financial assistance extends to helping renal patients and their families prepare their taxes and claim expenses from their many appointments and travel requirements. She started a food bank initiative that collects donations for patients who are in need and, when needed, she seeks donations of clothing and equipment.
Tammy has also led the roll out of an Advanced Care Planning initiative for renal patients across Northern Health. Prior to her first steps, there were no formal discussions with patients and their families about personal wishes regarding future treatment when health is in rapid decline – except when absolutely needed and a patient was already in crisis.
Patients having difficulty navigating the medical and government systems can rely on Tammy for extra support, like when she attends appointments with them or advocates for needed resources. A good example is when one patient was in a very confused state of mind and unable to visit a doctor by herself; Tammy hired a taxi and went with her to the clinic.
As Dr. Anurag Singh, the Northern Kidney Care Program’s nephrologist and medical lead, said: “Tammy has been a role model and an inspiration to me and other members of the renal team. She leads by example and always goes an ‘extra mile’ when it comes to her patients. Although she is not in a formal leadership position, quality of care is her passion.”