UBC MEL MHLP Professional Leadership Master Degrees

Seniors Care — Margaret Lin

Alumna Story — Margaret Lin

Seniors Care — Margaret Lin

After completing her nursing degree at McGill University in 2017, Margaret Lin worked at Vancouver General Hospital as a registered nurse in the Hospitalist Medicine Unit, a unit that cares for a diverse population of older adults. She also worked as a telehealth nurse and as a research assistant at IDEA Lab, a group led by Dr. Lillian Hung (an instructor in the Master of Health Leadership & Policy (MHLP) program) that implements innovative approaches to improve dementia care.

“I’ve always been interested in geriatric health,” says Margaret. “I enjoyed working with patients and colleagues as a bedside nurse, but I often wished there was more I could do to have a bigger impact. As a frontline worker I realized there were problems I couldn’t address because they are systemic or required innovative approaches beyond my knowledge.”

Margaret knew about the MHLP in Seniors Care through her part-time work with IDEA Lab and was attracted to the curriculum’s combination of health care and management coursework. “I wanted something practical – knowledge and skills that I can apply right away.” (She recently published an article based on research she did through the IDEA Lab: Involvement of frontline clinicians in a healthcare technology development: Lessons learned from a ventilator project.)

A broad understanding of geriatric health

Students in the Seniors Care program take a wide range of classes covering all aspects of care. Margaret says the health-care courses in the first semester provided a strong foundation for helping her understand the wide scope of geriatric health. Subsequent classes built on this knowledge by exploring topics in philosophies of care, quality improvement and environmental factors.

“I gained new appreciation for how hard it can be to change practice on the front line and how complicated the health-care system is,” says Margaret. “But this was actually a source of optimism as it drives me to learn more, and to think innovatively for improvement.”

Seniors Care students take five classes in business and leadership. Margaret says she valued both the more theoretical classes – ones that focused on effective leadership, for example – as well as those that gave her practical tools, such as a class on project management and the four-week business bootcamp that covered topics in accounting, marketing, operations and business case development.

Margaret also took full advantage of professional development opportunities by attending workshops and guest speaker presentations that introduced her to new ideas and expanded her professional network.

Hired before graduation

For a final assignment in one of her first semester courses, Margaret investigated how the role of health resource navigator could help older adults and their families access resources in the often confusing and fragmented health-care system. Around the same time, she attended a conference where she followed up with the coordinator to ask about current and local work being done in this field. The coordinator connected her to Dr. Grace Park, the leader of Fraser Health’s Community Action and Resources Empowering Seniors (CARES) project. Margaret took the initiative to reach out and was offered a volunteer position with CARES over the summer.

“From May to September I learned with the team and helped co-develop an assessment tool that assesses frailty in older adults. Then, in September, when the current project leader was leaving I was asked if I would be interested in joining the team and taking on this role.”

Margaret leapt at the opportunity – although she admits that it did make for a busy few months to be starting a new job while continuing research and going to school full time.

As the Project Leader for CARES, Margaret works with stakeholders in the Fraser Health Authority to implement practices to prevent frailty and support healthy aging for older adults. This includes educating, integrating and promoting electronic comprehensive geriatric assessment (eCGA) and social prescribing in the health-care system. The eCGA generates a frailty index score and provide a holistic view of the older adults’ health, which is helpful for care planning. Social Prescribing is a United Way-funded program available in most cities in BC, that connects older adults to Seniors’ Community Connectors, who can develop tailored goals with older adults and connect them with wellness-supporting programs like social and physical activities, nutrition programs and caregiver support.

Margaret’s multifaceted role sees her engaging with multidisciplinary stakeholders, developing engagement strategies, creating educational and promotional materials and liaising with stakeholders by collaborating with primary care practitioners, Divisions of Family Practice, assisted living teams, acute care teams, community health providers, and community organizations.

The foundation for leadership positions in healthcare

“The MHLP definitely helped me gain the knowledge and skills to do this job, giving me a solid foundation for the learning I am doing every day,” she says.

“Working while going to school was challenging, but I benefited by being able to take what I was learning in class, apply it to my job and reflect on both of them together. Learning alongside and from other passionate students with different specialties and experience made the journey especially enjoyable and inspiring.”

Margaret encourages people who might not see themselves as leaders to challenge their assumptions and consider the MHLP. “Everyone in this program is so diverse and at different stages of their careers and lives. Many people who came to the program from frontline or bedside roles wondered if they were suitable for leadership positions, but the program gives you opportunities to build your confidence. Understand that it’s not a matter of how many years you’ve worked or where you have worked but the passion you bring to your role and your willingness to learn from others.”

She also has advice for prospective students who are wondering about their career prospects after graduating: “The MHLP is a good time to explore different areas of your specialty. Don’t rush it: take your time to explore. If something interests you in an article or class discussion, take the initiative yourself to pursue it and connect with people working in the field. Your curiosity will take you a long way!”