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Policy & Advocacy: National Immunization Awareness Week

Meet a Public Health Nurse

Mavis Sebastian, B.S.N.

First nations name is Sim Gil Dip Nek (which means lady hummingbird)

Mavis Sebastian, BSN works in the communities of Gitwangak and Gitanyow in Northern BC.

Prior to moving into the community focused role, Mavis was a nurse for 10 years at Wrinch Memorial hospital. She has since dedicated the last 20 years to improving the public health of her community. Mavis is enjoys working in Gitxsan communities, as this is where she was born, she works well with the community members, is well known to everybody.


This week NNPBC proudly celebrates all of our nurses across the province that are at the forefront of Immunization and public health.

With their expert relational and communication skills and specialized body of knowledge regarding immunization, Public Health Nurses today are key in Immunization program effectiveness and addressing vaccine hesitancy. Vaccine hesitancy, which is the “reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite availability of vaccines, threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases” (WHO, 2019). Immunization is one of the most cost-effective ways to avoid disease and PHNs are powerful and effective advocates for immunization and when at the forefront of these programs, rates have consistently been higher, which ultimately impacts the health of all British Columbians.

As a profession, public health nursing (PHN) has built upon the basic foundations of registered nursing (RN) practice through advance certifications and has evolved over the decades to become recognized as a specialized field of nursing and an important growing body in public health care. Historically PHNs have required a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The UBC School of Nursing was established in 1919 in response to a growing need for nurses to establish themselves as highly skilled and trained in order to serve the public, including in the area of public health. In B.C. public health nursing has always been intricately linked to major public policy developments and governance changes throughout history, with immunization being a cornerstone of those developments. Public health is a scientific discipline that is defined as “the organized efforts of society to keep people healthy and prevent injury, illness and premature death. It consists of a combination of program, services, and policies that protects and promotes the health of Canadians (Canadian Public Health Association [CPHA], 2010, p. 7). PHN roles have consistently shaped and shifted in an ongoing effort to control disease and manage health for the citizens of the province.

PHNs have always had the critical skills required to provide immunization services, which includes: planning and promoting accessible clinics; addressing hesitancy in a relational approach that respects and acknowledges concerns; skills to communicate best evidence on vaccine efficacy to public; providing comfort for children and family receiving multiple injections; advocating for best practices in cold chains and consent processes. PHNs have provided this service for a century, however “the presence of the PHN has diminished in recent years and not surprisingly vaccine rates have also declined in BC” (Susan Duncan, Director of University of Victoria School of Nursing).

Today British Columbians have come to expect and know public health nurses as the hub of family and social health, in all regions of BC; preventing what could be disastrous health path. They visualize our individual health as the cornerstone to public health, leverage their evidence-based knowledge, and work tirelessly with planning, scheduling and implementation to equalize health resources where we live. Our public health nurses bring us the ability to live our best lives with clean water, vaccines, perinatal care, and medication to manage illnesses, safe work and play practices, amongst countless other resources. The efforts of public health nurses create a synergistic effect to our communities as a whole, where good health is present so we can live longer fuller lives.