What are your main responsibilities or activities in your current position?
I work both publicly and privately as a physiotherapist in Vancouver, BC. In the public sector, I work for Providence Health Care in long-term special care and in mental health, meeting the needs of adults with complex neurological disorders, brain injuries and psychiatric illness, which currently prevent them from living successfully in community settings. In the private sector I am a clinician at Neuro-Ability Rehabilitation Services, providing neurological rehabilitation for those with neurological conditions such as spinal cord injury, stroke and muscular sclerosis, with a special interest in pelvic floor health.
How does your current work relate to your graduate degree?
I graduated from the UBC Master of Physical Therapy program with an entry-level knowledge of the physiotherapy profession, and was introduced to neurological practice during one of my later practicums. It was through my exposure in the public sector that I gained further experience in neurological rehabilitation, and exposure to mental health in the acute, tertiary and long-term settings.
What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?
I really enjoy treating my clients as “whole people” and in both of my work environments I have ample time to develop relationships with them so I can meet them where they are at. I really enjoy the continual mentorship opportunities in both of my jobs - either giving or receiving - I work with amazing teams of people! The biggest challenge in health care is the chronic understaffing, which was exacerbated by the pandemic.
Is your current career path as you originally intended?
I traveled a rather unique path to physiotherapy. I earned my undergraduate degree in computer engineering in 1999 and worked as an engineer in Vancouver’s high-tech sector, while moonlighting as a BCRPA-certified fitness professional for over a decade. I realized how much I enjoyed empowering and educating my clients to adopt a healthy lifestyle. I left engineering and grew a pre & postnatal fitness business while I started my family. Once my two children were school-age, I decided that physiotherapy was the perfect partnership of human movement and the scientific process, and returned to school as a mature student.
What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?
I needed a program that would allow me to stay in Vancouver with my partner and children, not to mention close to the extended family support I knew we would need for me to be successful in the rigorous program. Furthermore, it was possible to fulfill the six required 6-week practicum placements while living at home, even if it meant I had a longer commute to get to those that took place outside of Vancouver (i.e. Maple Ridge).
What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?
I really enjoyed the teaching quality of the clinical staff, the breadth of the program areas, and the variety of the practicum placements I was offered. My practicums resulted in having multiple job opportunities at the end of the program. For my particular circumstances, I really appreciated the support and flexibility from the administrative staff.
How did the graduate degree at UBC help you achieve your career and/or personal development goals?
The practical training I received at UBC was taught by clinicians that are actively treating clients in both private and public sectors. Aside from achieving an up-to-date skillset, I was able to speak directly with professionals in the industry who may be able to mentor me in more niche practice areas like neurological rehabilitation and pelvic health. They were able to give an inside scoop on the actual work environments in which I was interested, and I continue to foster those relationships to inform my ongoing career development. Post-graduation, I have continued to work with the UBC MPT program by becoming a clinical supervisor for students undergoing practicum placements in both of my job settings. This experience has been immensely gratifying!
What key things did you do, or what attitudes or approaches did you have, that contributed to your success?
Having a growth mindset and being open to new experiences has definitely worked in my favour. When I started my MPT, I thought that I would specialize in a private pelvic health practice, based on my fitness experience working with the perinatal population. However, I allowed myself to fall in love with neurological rehabilitation during my schooling, and through exposure in the public sector, have found that I’m actually really good at working in mental health! Never in a million years did I see myself in long-term care, especially during a pandemic where all of a sudden we became a highlighted area of practice. I find it fulfilling to advocate for those that aren’t always able to themselves when it comes to independence, mobility, and quality of life.
What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?
Have an open mind and immerse yourself in the experiences you are presented with! If you are returning to school after a long break or are leaving one career path for another, don’t worry that the experience you gained in your “past life” won’t be relevant. I’m continually surprised by the way my engineer-brain gets activated in my current profession, and how having more extensive life experience can be especially useful working in health care.