Alumna Story — Joanne Brown
It was while working in acute care at Abbotsford Regional Hospital that Joanne Brown found her calling. Noticing how much she truly enjoyed working with her senior patients, she decided to make seniors care her full-time focus and took a position as a care coordinator at Hallmark, an assisted living community in Abbotsford.
Then, while teaching nursing students as a sessional instructor at the University of the Fraser Valley, she learned about the Master of Health Leadership and Policy (MHLP) in Seniors Care from a colleague. “I realized it was the perfect program for me, as it would give me the knowledge and skills to make the kind of impact I want to see in seniors care,” she says.
Seeing new possibilities of care
Through courses on philosophies of care, epidemiology, evidence-based practice and health policy, the MHLP expanded Joanne’s understanding of what is possible in seniors care. Throughout the one-year program, Joanne says she and her classmates were prompted to look beyond the status quo and seek creative solutions.
“We were encouraged to think outside the box and introduced to different methods and ideas than what we might have been taught in nursing school or have seen in practice. It was also inspiring to hear the perspectives and learn from the experiences of fellow students who are also passionate about working with seniors.”
Joanne says that one source of inspiration was learning about models of care that integrate seniors into the community at large. This can include intergenerational housing, for example, where university students live rent-free alongside seniors and in exchange, volunteer their time and skills within the seniors’ community. It’s an economical approach that fosters the social interaction needed for healthy individuals and communities.
There were frequent guest speakers — including leaders in seniors care, nurse specialists and policy experts — and MHLP students visited a variety of seniors’ facilities to see different operational models in practice. “I often learned as much from speaking with seniors and hearing their perspective on what truly mattered to them,” she says. “A common theme was a desire for more amenities and greater access to the surrounding community.”
Learning valuable business and leadership skills
Joanne also says the program’s business and leadership classes were a strong complement to those in Seniors Care.
“It’s important to be able to present the business case for a new idea or initiative, and to know how to engage stakeholders,” she says, adding that the leadership classes increased her confidence and skills when leading teams.
She will return to Hallmark full time in January where she will apply what she’s learned in the MHLP to the Wellness team and the residents she cares for. In the near term, she plans to reach out to local trades and agriculture students to create a co-op gardening program that would allow seniors to grow their own plants and vegetables.
Launching an innovative business venture
Joanne and a colleague from Hallmark — who is taking the MHLP in Seniors Care in 2018 — are also working on an idea for a seniors-focused business venture. The two are hoping to participate in the Lean LaunchPad Accelerator Program at the UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School in May, to advance their business case for an adult day program in their community.
“With health authorities moving away from residential care models and encouraging seniors to stay in their homes as long as possible, we see a need for a welcoming place that offers both health and social support for frail seniors and a day of respite for their informal caregivers. We want to create it as a holistic model that provides meaningful social activities, emotional and spiritual support, nursing care and physiotherapy.”
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