Heart of Our City: Cay Hülsen is integrating health care into the community

Heart of Our City: Cay Hülsen is integrating health care into the community

Hülsen is leading the way in paramedicine for Prince Rupert

Cay Hülsen stoically sits at the round table in the multi-generational housing units on Park Avenue as he actively listens to ideas from seniors in the community, nodding at each idea one by one and offering his input only when absolutely necessary.

The group is planning a community barbecue. For Hülsen, who is a paramedic, this is well within his job description and part of his community outreach. To him, these are the moments that are most integral to his job – to build relationships in Prince Rupert.

“The idea this year was to create a hub as a group so we can be stronger and grow. Our purpose is to serve the community better.” Hülsen said.

Hülsen is the city’s first community paramedic. Community paramedicine is an initiative which is still in its infant stages for the North Coast. Hülsen differs from 911 paramedics in that he only sometimes responds to emergencies if he needs to. His mandate is to “increase access to basic health care services in non-urgent settings, in patients’ homes, or in the community.”

“I did it because I believe in community. I was always involved in communities, it comes naturally to me,” he said.

Hülsen, 60, began his position in May 2018. Over the past year he has been implementing the program for Prince Rupert. His first mission: to focus on the seniors.

At events like the barbecue, Hülsen will take the time to talk to each resident to get to know their individual needs, be they social or medical, in order to promote better health.

For some residents, Hülsen identifies potential problems and makes sure he is connecting patients with doctors so nobody falls through the cracks. For others, he is trying to get them out of the doctors office by giving them blood sugar testing right in their own settings or showing them simpler techniques for using their equipment, such as inhalers.

“That is rewarding. I want to empower people and that’s what I like about this group, we are making the seniors population a little bit stronger and having choices other than going to the emergency room. They get better care at home and in a familiar group setting,” Hülsen said.

Some of the projects Hülsen hopes to tackle in Prince Rupert are to implement a respiratory program and support Northern Health’s initiative to respond to chronic diseases closer to home, such as cardiac and stroke care, cancer care, kidney care and HIV & Hepatitis C care.

Hülsen hopes to see Prince Rupert become a dementia-friendly community as the population ages by taking a page out of the book of other communities in England and Australia who provide free online courses that deal with dementia education and care training.

Hülsen is also looking out for the physical safety of residents. He hopes to make the streets safer for seniors and wants to advocate for more lights in the downtown area, a concern that has been brought to his attention by residents struggling to safely cross the street.

Hülsen’s journey to paramedicine began more than 25 years ago on Hornby Island as a first responder with their fire department where he worked together with the BC ambulance service, drawing him to a new career path.

From Hornby he commuted to Vancouver everyday working in the downtown community and the Eastside as a full time paramedic. He wanted to work in the community where he lived.

From there he came to Prince Rupert where he continued his work for 11 years before thinking about retirement.

“It’s hard work being a paramedic working from night shifts then days shifts year after year. It leaves a toll,” Hülsen said.

But right before he left the paramedic life behind, the community paramedicine initiative was launched in the North Coast in April 2016 and Hülsen took the new position.

“Now with this position, it opens up for a new scene where we get more involved in the community, and in a big way, in a meaningful way,” he said.

READ MORE: Is there hope beyond Hope for rural ambulatory care?

Hülsen said what makes the program strong is that all the community paramedics in the North Coast meet in person once or twice a year and maintain communication year round to share issues and ideas to improve senior health in their towns.

“We are helping each other out and are resources for each other. That makes the program very strong.” he said.

Hülsen lives on Dodge Cove and said the community there and commuting by boat everyday gave him a strong sense of community and what their needs are.

“If someone needs some help you go right over to their home to make sure they are okay. In bigger places these kinds of responses are lost,” he said.

For the future, Hülsen said they are planning to hire for a second position. He hopes that his counterpart can expand to focus on the needs of the homeless and the youth.

Hülsen believes community paramedicine is an efficient way of dealing with health issues, and hopes that more training for community paramedics means transporting less residents to the hospital.

Northern B.C. faces a shortage of paramedics Hülsen said, and believes that community paramedics are key to maintaining stability for a small town.

“I’m only a very small person, but if I join like-minded people, then hopefully you achieve something.”

READ MORE: Heart of Our City – One good deed

Know someone who you feel deserves to be featured in our Heart of Our City series?

Email their name and some background information to nominate them!

Heart of our City

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Face masks are required to be worn in all SD 52 common areas such as hallways. School District 52 announced on Jan. 15 three different schools in Prince Rupert all had a member of the school community test positive for COVID-19. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
3 Prince Rupert schools have positive COVID-19 case(s)

Letters sent home to families in three Prince Rupert schools announcing COVID-19

Power outages affected thousands of BC Hydro customers in the north on Jan. 14 (File photo) (File photo)
Power outages affect thousands of BC Hydro customers in northern B.C.

Transmission failure led to outages in Prince Rupert and Port Edward

A Prince Rupert port expansion project received a $25 million investment from the provincial government, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced on Jan. 14. Seen here is Ridley Terminals Inc., a coal export terminal in Prince Rupert (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)
$25 million government investment in Prince Rupert port expansion project

Prince Rupert port expansion project expected to create more than 2,200 jobs

For the second time in less than a year, Air Canada announced on Jan. 13 it has suspended flights on the Prince Rupert-Vancouver route as of Jan 17. (Photo by: Jerold Leblanc)
Cessation of flights to YPR will affect the municipal economy and global trade, P.R. Mayor said

Chamber of Commerce said it will aggressively pursue the resumption of flights to Prince Rupert

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Most Read