Jaqueline Brower

Fraser Health
Occupational therapist
Calgary, Canada
New Westminster, Canada

What are your main responsibilities or activities in your current position?

In my cuurrent position, I assess and rehab occupational activities for people post neuro impairment (usually stroke or spinal cord injury). Support safe and satisfying transitions from hospital to home or higher levels of care.

How does your current work relate to your graduate degree?

My degree gave me the tools to think like an occupational therapist. When a person comes to rehab, I am considering multiple aspects, such as their home environment, support networks, finances, physical/emotional/cognitive function and what brings meaning to their life. All of these aspects help me bring a holistic approach to their rehabilitation journey.

What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?

Like: Meeting amazing humans who are perseverant. Working closely with other health care providers (e.g. physios, Speech language pathologists, social workers, nurses and physiatrists). Opportunities for creative problem solving, such as adapting wheelchairs so someone with a spinal cord injury can manually propel.

Challenging: Seeing neoliberal systemic gaps (e.g. pressure on families to provide care, even if they do not have the resources; lack of community programming in languages other than English). Being short staffed and unable to provide services at the level I would hope.

Learned: I am running a marathon, not a race. I cannot change all systemic issues, or get anxious about them all, or I will be overwhelmed. I try to make one small change each time I see a systemic issue (e.g. laminate the interpretation centre number onto the back of the unit phone to decrease a barrier of using interpreters; call around and get equipment quotes along with info about medical vendors that have staff that speak a patient's language).

Is your current career path as you originally intended?

Yes. I am amazed that I was working in neurorehab only a few months after graduation. It is my dream job.

What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?

UBC has a reputable OT program, and I wanted to build connections for future career opportunities within BC.

What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?

I loved being a part of a learning community. The OT program had multiple case based and hands on learning activities, that really suited my learning style. I was a mature student and felt so privileged to have the opportunity to switch careers.

How did the graduate degree at UBC help you achieve your career and/or personal development goals?

I was able to TA for neuroanatomy, which expanded my knowledge for the field I wanted to specialize in. I had multiple practicums, which gave me a broad understanding of OT positions, and helped me decide on my area of specialization. I got to research migrant experiences for my capstone project, which has given me a better understanding of systemic challenges encountered by those trying to access public services. This research shapes my small moments of advocacy, and keeps me hoping for ongoing systemic change.

What key things did you do, or what attitudes or approaches did you have, that contributed to your success?

A few of my key philosophies - one of the greatest gifts I have is the people around me. They have skills, knowledge and perspectives that I don't. I am never too proud to ask for collaboration. I will make mistakes. I do some self care, offer myself some compassion, and then reflect on how I could do better next time. I am not responsible for all systemic issues, but I do have capacity to advocate. Small changes are the only way that big changes come - meditate, ask for assistance to get clear on non negotiables and dreams for my life, and then take small steps towards them. I knew I wanted to work in neuro, needed a team, needed autonomy and creative license, and needed some accommodations for some health challenges. I then pursued jobs that fit, and have found my dream job

What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?

Get clear on your dreams, gifts and needs for support. Surround yourself with people who can support you. Practice self compassion, recognize your limitations and know that everyone in every job is human. You will be new and have a giant learning curve, and that is part of the process. And practice gratitude along the way. What a gift that we get education and opportunities. With this privilege comes a responsibility to advocate for those who do not get access to the same opportunities.


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