When Dr. Bruce Nicolson came to 100 Mile House as a locum in 1978, it was only supposed to be for a six-month term.
Forty-one years later, Nicolson is being recognized with a BC Rural Health Awards Lifetime Achievement for the work he has done in the community. During the past four decades, he has travelled regularly to White Feather Clinic at the Canim Lake reserve to provide closer-to-home care and has served multiple terms as the Chief of Staff of the 100 Mile District General Hospital.
He was also one of the first physicians to add a nurse practitioner to the Exeter Clinic, a founding member of the Central Interior Rural Division of Family Practice and helped lead the local deployment of ‘A GP for Me’ an initiative to attach patients to a local primary care provider.
“It’s a great feeling to know you are respected by the community and your colleagues,” Nicolson said. “I wish in some ways the award could have included some of the others I’ve worked with over the years because many of them are equally deserving.”
Born and raised in Port Coquitlam, Nicolson had been practicing surgery and anesthesia in New Zealand and Australia in preparation for rural practise when he accepted the locum position in 100 Mile House. He was no stranger to the Cariboo having camped and fished here with his family.
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Six months of rural medicine later, he decided to stay after taking a keen interest in improving outcomes for his patients. When asked what he likes most about the community, he sums it up to those he has met working in the healthcare system.
“If you’d asked me this question 10 or 15 years ago I probably would have said it was the support one gets from the community as a physician working in the community and the scope of practice,” Nicolson said. “But I think, reflecting back on it now, one of the things that I really have appreciated and kept me here is the great sense of (camaraderie) with the doctors that I work with but, beyond that, the entire team that works in the hospital. They have an exceptional team.”
From doctors and nurses to care aides, staff, janitors and cooks, he said everyone at the 100 Mile District General Hospital pulls together to provide the healthcare for the community. That sense of unity can get you through bumpy times, Nicolson said, while community and support have defined to him what it means to be a rural practitioner.
When he’s not at work, the father-of-five plays saxophone with the 100 Mile House Community Band, which he said has been a lot of fun over the years, and is also an avid cross- country skier and cyclist. He was also a past-president of the 108 Mile Lions Club for many years and a director at the 100 Mile House Food Bank.
He has not officially received the award yet because of COVID-19 cancellations, but Nicolson anticipates he will get it next spring. He said he was both surprised when he found out as his colleagues had nominated him and delighted by the gesture. Award nominees are evaluated by a board to determine eligibility before a recipient is chosen.
Nicolson sees the award as a nice pat on the back and said while he’s not as young as he used to be, he still loves what he does and sees no reason to stop anytime soon.
When asked what he’d like people to know about him, his answer is quick and humble. “Only how much I appreciate the support I’ve had from this community,” he said. “That’s the sort of thing that keeps a physician in a community – when they know that the community has their back.”