Heidi Northcott is no stranger to remaining calm in the storm.
On the baseball field, she held the fate of her team with every pitch she threw. She has had to use that mindset during the COVID-19 pandemic as a Registered Respiratory Therapist in Edmonton.
“We’re the ones getting called into the room when things are going wrong, generally,” Northcott told Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast. “We have to step up and really work well under pressure.”
For Northcott and her fellow health care professionals, many parallels could be drawn to coming out of the bullpen with the team in a jam, although she says the stakes are obviously much higher.
Facing daily uncertainties and threats of new variants and waves, they have soldiered on through unimaginable situations and stresses.
PREPARATION AND TEAMWORK
Pandemic planning is something that has always been covered in medical school, but it wasn’t something Northcott was expecting so early in her career.
After graduating from the Respiratory Therapy Program at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in April 2019, she began her new healthcare journey.
“All of my training and education at SAIT really helped me become prepared because I was dealing with this pandemic less than a year into actually working as a registered respiratory therapist,” the Rocky Mountain House product said. “We had to do a 1,500-hour practicum to get licensed, so that really helped because you’re actually working in the hospitals already as a student.”
Northcott quickly learned she would be leaning heavily on the team around her.
“I would say the biggest player is teamwork,” she said. “Having a good team, especially in the ICU when we have this many sick patients, you have to rely on your other respiratory therapists.”
And just like on the diamond, it wasn’t just pitchers she had to rely on – it was the whole team.
“Having those teammates to rely on and then obviously everyone else working in the ICU like the registered nurses, physiotherapists, nutrition, the intensivists and residents,” Northcott added. “Everyone really relies heavily on the team and the team has to work together to save these patients.”
When she’s not saving lives, Northcott is doing what she can to give back to the baseball community.
She was born into the sport, with her parents Harold and Barb being heavily involved in the game and both of her brothers playing it – so it only feels natural to be at the diamond.
“It was kind of like having a silver baseball spoon growing up,” the 29-year-old laughed. “Honestly, it seems like all we talked about most of the time was baseball.”
Forging her own legacy on the diamond, Northcott represented Baseball Alberta on a number of occasions. She also played with Baseball Canada at three Women’s Baseball World Cup events and the 2015 Pan Am Games.
“I owe a lot of my success in my career to my athletic background and having the opportunity to play baseball at such a high level,” she said in a May 2020 interview with Baseball Canada’s Adam Morrisette.
The highlight of her career was pitching at the World Cup at RE/MAX Field in Edmonton in 2012.
“Getting to step onto the mound there in front of a massive crowd, that was really special,” she remembered. “On top of that, knowing that they were all cheering for Canada as well.”
She also points to playing baseball in Australia for a year as one of the many opportunities that she might not normally have received.
“It’s pretty incredible really, when talking to friends and stuff, I realize how many places I’ve gone,” Northcott reminisced. “They have all been because of baseball, so that’s a really special experience.”
It’s those kinds of experiences that give Northcott the insight she needs to send messages to young girls hoping to follow in her footsteps.
“Don’t let fear get in the way of trying,” she said. “It’s something that might make you feel uncomfortable, but it might just be the best thing you’ve tried and you might like it.”
It’s with that mindset that Northcott also understands how the game has already impacted her.
“Baseball shaped me into who I am today,” she concluded. “It taught me how to overcome adversity, work within a team, how to be an effective leader, and most importantly, it taught me humility and confidence.”
They are all valuable attributes of one of the many people we are all grateful for as we have dealt with this global pandemic.