Student Experience – Sarah Cobb
Ask Sarah Cobb about her one-year Master of Health Leadership and Policy in Seniors Care program and she’ll tell you it’s been transformational, enabling her to think in new ways about the interconnections of leadership, sustainability and health care. We spoke with Sarah in late October 2019 about her experience.
Why did you choose the MHLP in Seniors Care?
I’ve been a nurse for 17 years and worked at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver for 12 years in palliative care. Over the past few years I felt that there was more to accomplish in my career, and that I could achieve this by pursuing the next level of education. At the same time, I kept hearing about the MHLP in Seniors Care from different people, and as I learned more about it, the program just felt like the right choice. The joining together of leadership and business courses with classes in my specialization, all in one year, was ideal.
Tell us about your experience so far.
The program teaches you to be a leader – learning how to make decisions, plan projects and define and develop your leadership style. Many classes are taught through a sustainability lens, which is particularly relevant for health care when you think of the demographic shifts that are happening and how many more people will be requiring health-care services in the years ahead.
When I applied to the MHLP, I didn’t fully realize that students in the health-care stream would be taking the business classes alongside students in the Master of Engineering Leadership stream. But it makes sense: all of these programs are focused on sustainability and the understanding that changes are needed in these sectors.
The summer boot camp was a great challenge that pushed me out of my comfort zone. This is a three-and-a-half-week class in August that takes place five days a week. You start with finance and accounting and then cover topics like strategy, entrepreneurship and marketing. The guest speakers brought eye-opening perspectives, and whether they were from the Ministry of Health or entrepreneurs who had launched businesses, the concepts they discussed were applicable to a range of leadership issues in many different sectors.
Do any of the technical classes stand out for you?
I particularly enjoyed Jennifer Baumbusch’s course on Special Domains of Nursing Practice. It was very rooted in practical leadership and nicely brought together theory and practice. It’s been a real privilege this year to have the time to explore various theoretical concepts and think deeply about issues, and Jennifer’s class, which aligned the practical and theoretical, was one of my favourites.
What’s your life like outside of school?
I’ve continued to work part time while completing the MHLP. Fortunately, for much of the year, I only needed to be on campus two days a week and I had the flexibility with a new position at St. Paul’s to work part time three days a week.
I also have a five-year-old daughter who was in daycare for the first eight months of the program and just started kindergarten this fall. There are certainly sacrifices involved as school and work are a significant time commitment. However, I’m lucky to have lots of support from my husband and family and friends that has made it all work out. I hope that my decision to return to school reinforces her understanding of the importance of ongoing education, learning and growth. Having a child and working part time do present their own unique challenges, but it also helps you keep things in perspective.
Were you involved in any activities outside of class?
With working part time, going to school and my family commitments, I didn’t have a lot of extra time! However, the program does offer occasional evening sessions with speakers that cover a range of topics – from networking to presentation skills. When I could, I would attend these sessions.
Any advice for others thinking of pursuing an MHLP?
Just do it! It’s one year and it’s over in the blink of an eye. One of the program’s taglines is that a year can change everything, and that’s actually true. This program transforms your mindset. It’s amazing to see how much we’ve all changed from that first leadership class in January when everyone was so nervous, to now, when we’re all applying the knowledge we’ve gained in our classes to our work. I’ve also enjoyed getting to make new friends through the program, which has made this experience that much richer.
I’m in the process of thinking about next steps and applying for management jobs. My perspective has definitely broadened and I’m excited to take on a leadership role – the MHLP in Seniors Care has prepared me for opportunities I can’t even imagine right now.