After more than 30 years on the job, first as a paramedic, then ambulance manager, and most recently the patient safety and risk management co-ordinator for Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc., Grace Silander retired last week.
But while she will have more free time on her hands, including spending some of that with her husband, Barry, Silander plans to keep up her longstanding commitment to the Rainy River Valley Safety Coalition.
“I am excited about retiring, but also a little apprehensive,” she admitted in an interview last week.
“It’s been well over 30 years since I last didn’t have to make sure I was ready to be on the job.
“It’s quite a change. I am not sure if Barry and I are going to get along so well,” she chuckled.
“I am retiring, however I am not retiring from the safety coalition,” stressed Silander, who is the administrative co-ordinator for the RRVSC.
“Those that are hoping they are going to get rid of me, I am not leaving—I am still going to be a thorn in their side,” she laughed.
“I am hoping to put more energy into the safety coalition, and do a fair bit more volunteering with them,” she added. “It’s been my energizer and my heart since 1992, and you know, I still have to take care of my baby.
“We do good things, and where we have come from 1992 to today, you just have to take a look at it.,” she remarked. “I just started doing our annual report, and it inspires you so much when you see what you have accomplished during the year.”
Silander said her career made her realize the importance of having an organization like to the RRVSC to help make the district a safer place to live.
“I think working on ambulance, and seeing the devastation and the impact it had on families, I think that’s what got me going in safety,” she explained. “I thought, ‘Something has to be done to turn this stuff around.’
“And then coming over to Riverside to build the patient safety culture has been wonderful.
“We did well in our accreditation, so I think I am going out on a positive note,” she enthused. “What a way to go.”
Now in her first week as a retiree, Silander has headed off to Williamsport, Penn., a community of 33,000 just outside Pittsburgh—perhaps best known as home of the Little League World Series but which also is seeking status as a World Health Organization-certified “Safe Community.”
As a WHO peer reviewer, Silander will be working with National Safety Council rep Tess Beacham to review Williamsport’s criteria.
“They’ve already made their application,” she noted. “We’ve reviewed their application, and it’s a great application.
“We’re very, very proud of them.
“And their partnership table is amazing,” she added. “Our little group would just drool to have this, not that we don’t do well.”
Silander performed a similar role earlier this year when she went to Burns, Wyoming.
“Really what you do is go to be sure that it’s as real on the ground as it appears on paper, I guess is the best way to say it,” she remarked.
“You meet a good cross-section of the community members involved in the programming. You discuss present and future wants, wishes, and things like that.
“And, of course, they have a chance to showcase what they have done to the peer reviewers as well as to their communities, so the communities are well aware that this [‘Safe Community’ designation] is coming,” she continued.
“That gives you a really good table to pull in volunteers to put on a big celebration like we had in 2002.”
Silander said when another community officially is designated as a “Safe Community,” it feels like another member has joined the family.
“You mentor. There’s always e-mails coming down, asking, ‘Does anybody have a program they work on with this?’
“That is part of the Safe Communities network—sharing and mentoring other communities along the way,” she explained.
While Canadian communities have to be designated as “Safe Communities” by Safe Communities Canada, and then seek designation under the WHO, in the States, communities can seek the latter right off.
But Silander said the National Safety Council is “very much involved” in the process.
“They’re a bang-up group. They’re really good,” she lauded. “I have found programs from them we have tried to put into place here.
“Some have worked very well, some didn’t really fit—there’s changes between Canadian and American programs, as well,” she noted.
“They do very good work.”
The RRVSC, which covers 10 municipalities and nine First Nations, is a network of partners which collectively focuses on making Rainy River district a safer place to live, work, and play.
Numerous programs, ranging from bike helmet and car seat safety and Hallowe’en “glow sticks” to seniors’ safety and drug abuse prevention, are carried out by well over 20 partners, such as the OPP, fire department, Family and Children’s Services, Rainy River District Substance Abuse Prevention Team, Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc., and the local school boards.
The RRVSC was designated as a “Safe Community” by Safe Communities Canada in 1999. At that time, there only were two other safe communities in Canada (Calgary and Brockville).
It then was designated by the World Health Organization in 2002, and re-designated in May, 2008.
The local safety coalition also won the Safe Communities Canada Award of Excellence in both 2007 and 2008.