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Meet Denise - dedicated educator and award nominated VCH occupational therapist


VCH occupational therapist Denise (picture right) workign with a patient.

Denise, Occupational Therapist (OT) at Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), was nominated for the prestigious Chris Courtney award. The Chris Courtney award, originating with the British Columbia Society of Occupational Therapists and maintained by UBC, recognizes the commitment of fieldwork educators across British Columbia.   

Congratulations to Denise for her nomination and for providing mentorship to OT students. We asked her a few questions about her health care journey, as well as her recent award nomination. 

Where do you work and how long have you been practicing?

I work in the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic at the UBC Centre for Brain Health and I have been practicing as an OT for just over 10 years. I started working in acute care at VGH, where I worked with a variety of populations in a challenging setting. From there I took a temporary role providing support and education to OTs across the region, which sparked my interest as an educator. The stars sort of aligned for me to come to the MS Clinic as my other position was ending. I was really interested in continuing in an educator capacity, as well as taking on the additional challenge of developing a program and carving out a role for OT, which was something I hadn't done before. 

How did you get started with taking students?

The initiative for the student involvement really came from Dr. Susan Forwell, Department Head at the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at UBC. She does a lot of research in MS rehab noticed a gap in OT service in the MS Clinic, which led to her obtaining a Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund to allow for an expansion of the OT role in the clinic. When I saw the opportunity I knew it would really be an interesting role, combining clinical work, education and research.

Have you seen a positive impact on your practice since teaching and mentoring students?

Most definitely! The students are a great reminder of why I got into this profession. Their enthusiasm, curiosity and dedication to the core values of OT are refreshing in this sometimes jaded clinical world. They each bring an individual perspective and experience from their respective fieldwork placements, which can often be incorporated into my practice. Also, I am the only OT working not only in this clinic but also in the whole Centre for Brain Health so it's really nice when students come and we can speak the same language. 

During your experience teaching, tell us about a memorable experience.

It's so hard to choose just one! After having 30+ students there are many memorable experiences. I would say one that is more recent was a challenging situation. One of my students was working with a young patient with significant fatigue. During one of her sessions, the client disclosed thoughts of suicide. Although this is a fairly heavy topic to address as a student, we discussed this in depth, sought support from the clinical resource therapist and decided that it would be a good experience for the student to follow through with. I sat in on the session to provide support and it went well. After, we debriefed together and talked about the importance of seeking support in your practice. Although it was a challenging learning opportunity, the student took away from this an increased confidence in her ability to meet these and other challenges that are inevitable in future practice. Anytime I can see an increase in a student's confidence in their practice, particularly in their clinical reasoning, I feel as though I am doing what I am meant to do.

About the Chris Courtney Award

Chris Courtney was an Occupational Therapist who was passionate about continuing education and giving back to the profession. She was a champion of student education and was described by Occupational Therapy students as an excellent fieldwork educator. The Chris Courtney Award for Excellence in Fieldwork Supervision recognizes at least one Occupational Therapist per year who demonstrates excellence in, and commitment to, the clinical education of Occupational Therapy students. 

SOURCE: Meet Denise - dedicated educator and award nominated VCH occupational therapist ( )
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