Paula Ganser

Paula Ganser

Houston’s first ever nurse practitioner

Paula Gansner is a British Columbian through and through.

Paula Gansner is a British Columbian through and through.

She is also the first ever nurse practitioner working in the Houston Health Centre, moving here from Port Hardy last month.

“I’m actually from Campbell River,” said Gansner. “I love B.C. and I want to stay here, and Houston is gorgeous and the lifestyle here is amazing.”

Gansner exudes an unbridled interest for the outdoors and took the chance to enjoy what the valley had to offer as soon as she arrived in Houston.

“I think I was snowshoeing on my second day after arriving in Houston,” she said. “Before the moving truck even arrived, I was out in Smithers snowshoeing.”

She has also prepared for the summer by bringing her hybrid bicycle to town.

But what Gansner can offer to the community really centres around her credentials.

A holder of a master’s and bachelor’s degree in nursing, and another bachelor’s in music, she can read musical notation as she can write sick notes for her patients.

The former pianist studied at the New England Conservatory in Boston, Mass., graduating in 2005.

She decided that she preferred a career that involved more human interaction, rather than practising music for six hours per day.

“Music was an amazing adventure, but it’s a bit isolating,” she said.

Gansner then applied to the University of British Columbia’s undergraduate nursing program.

“My mom said, ‘Well, there’s this new role called the nurse practitioner in British Columbia, what do you think of that?’ ” she said. “I said, ‘You know what, it sounds interesting.’ So looked into it a bit more and thought, yeah, that would be a great role.”

She worked as a registered nurse at the UBC’s hospital in internal medicine and transitional care, then did part-time studies to gain her master’s.

“It worked out really well,” she said.

Gansner’s move to Houston represents a step in her evolution in nursing. In Port Hardy, she worked in substance abuse and mental health, whereas in Houston, she encounters a wide variety of cases.

“The role gives me an opportunity to explore urgent care as well as primary care, so that’s not my background,” she said. “I thought I am going to learn a lot, and there’s a huge need here.

“Here, you get everything from suturing lacerations, biopsies on a daily basis to the complex chronic disease management, geriatrics, children — a little bit over everything that keeps me on my toes.”

As a relatively new role in British Columbia formally regulated only in 2005, Gansner hopes that people understands the role of a nurse practitioner.

Doctors and nurse practitioners have areas of overlap — they diagnose and prescribe medicine — but nurse practitioners have limits to prescribing opioids and benzodiazepine.