Donna Pratico-Lehto, RN, BScN
Public Health Nurse, VCH Early Years Program
We asked Donna a few questions, email us yours!
NSK: What is your background and how did you get into Early Years public health?
Donna: I am a Public Health nurse and have been working in public health for the past 15 years. I graduated from the Foothills School of Nursing [in Calgary] 25 years ago and soon thereafter moved to Utah with my husband. It was there that I had my first taste of working in Public Health in the area of early intervention.
Early Intervention programs in the U.S. are publicly funded programs that are offered to families that have a child at risk for a developmental delay or with a diagnosed delay. This was a great experience for me as it gave me the opportunity to work closely with a team of physical therapists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, and special educators, all while empowering families to learn the skills needed to best support their child in the home environment.
While in Utah, I also worked in the NICU and postpartum units at one of the hospitals in Salt Lake City. I have been at my current job with Vancouver Coastal Health for the past 15 years.
NSK: What is the difference between a Community Health nurse and a Public Health nurse?
Donna: In Canada, the two terms are interchangeable, but for those looking for an actual definition:
A public health/community health nurse has a baccalaureate degree in nursing and is a member in good standing of a professional regulatory body for registered nurses. The public health/community health nurse:
Combines knowledge from public health science, primary health care (including the determinants of health), nursing science, and the social sciences
Focuses on promoting, protecting, and preserving the health of populations
Links the health and illness experiences of individuals, families, and communities to the practice of population health promotion
Recognizes that a community’s health is closely linked to the health of its members and is often reflected first in individual and family health experiences
Recognizes that healthy communities and systems that support health contribute to the health of individuals, families, groups, and populations
Practices in increasingly diverse settings, such as community health centres, schools, street clinics, youth centres, and nursing outposts, and with diverse partners, to meet the health needs of specific populations
My favourite parts of public health nursing are having the privilege to work with families as they begin their journey through parenthood and the relationships formed along the way.
NSK: When the four of us (Annie, Nicole, Maris, and Kathy) had our babies, the weekly parent-infant group at Parkgate Community Centre was vital to our sanity. It’s where we met, where our babies socialized, and where public health nurses could spot potential developmental problems early and give advice or referrals. Since the pandemic, new parents are left without this critical resource. What are some resources parents can use to get child development information and advice, and/or to connect with other new parents, until the weekly in-person groups can return?
Donna: Obviously, the pandemic has changed how we offer some services at this time. We no longer offer the Parent-Infant Drop-In groups or Postpartum Support group but most everything else has stayed the same. We are still open to do our immunization clinics (CLICK HERE), lactation consulting (in person), on-call services, and home visits for new families. We can also meet up to weigh or measure babies when requested or if families have concerns with their infant or toddler we are here to support them in any way we can, whether that be by providing resources or referrals if necessary. The Early Years team of nurses is here to offer support to families with children ranging from 0 – 5 yrs of age.
If you have concerns about the health or development of your early years child, or to book an appointment with a lactation consultant, there is an on-call public health nurse available to speak with you at 604-983-6754.