Embrace the Unexpected: My Co-op with Fraser Health Authority

Embrace the Unexpected: My Co-op with Fraser Health Authority

By: Sophia Gaba | Health Sciences Co-op Student
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My co-op position as Quality and Patient Safety Implementation Assistant with Fraser Health Authority turned out to be nothing like what I imagined. During my work term, I experienced and saw things I would never have expected and learned some very valuable lessons. To get the most out of any co-op position, it is important to go with the flow as this opens up more possibilities for unique experiences. This was certainly the case for me in my co-op as I was tasked with a project that would probably make most people cringe.

I am currently pursuing my degree in Health Sciences at SFU, and this co-op placement was intended to serve as a period of exploration for my interest in the healthcare industry. Prior to accepting this position, I knew very little about Fraser Health Authority or healthcare in general. For those of you that do not already know, Fraser Health Authority is one of the six publicly funded health care regions into which the province of British Columbia is divided. Services provided by Fraser Health include primary health care, community home care, mental health and addictions, acute medical, and surgical services.

My position was broadly defined, so I was not quite clear on what it entailed. I did know, however, that I would be working under the supervision of the Director of the hospital. I was told that I would be doing a variety of independent and team projects and tasks related to improving the overall quality of patient care at Langley Memorial Hospital. This excited me because I enjoy being exposed to new environments and working on a diverse range of things. I feel that doing so enhances my creativity.

Throughout my co-op work term, I was exposed to several different tasks and projects, both small and large scale. The project that was the most memorable and enjoyable involved both myself and the other SFU Co-op student; we were enlisted to assist a manager with increasing the capacity of the morgue at the hospital. The word ‘morgue’ does not typically spark positive reactions, yet my first thought was: “How lucky am I?” Let’s face it, not everyone comes across such unique opportunities and I would have been a fool to let this one slip by! Keeping that in mind, I willingly agreed to participate actively in all aspects of the project.

Before going into the morgue at Langley Memorial Hospital, I was a little anxious about what to expect. All my previous knowledge about morgues came from horror movies, and I was aware that my perception of what’s inside may be slightly distorted. Despite this realization, I was still a little uneasy, probably because I had never even been to a funeral, let alone a morgue. After I stepped inside, I took a while to examine the room. The morgue surely did house a distinctive scent and unfamiliar equipment, but nothing came across as a surprise to me. We took note of all the necessary details and exited. A few days later, we made another entry into the morgue, this time I witnessed something a bit more unusual. A funeral director had come in to the morgue to collect a body. We stood a while longer, and I was able to observe the entire process. While the first visit to the morgue was an uneventful one, this time was different. I could feel the goose bumps all over my body! One part of me was in shock, while the other was intrigued. After this second visit, the manager decided that we had all the information we needed to proceed with the project. However, since the objective of this project was to increase the capacity of the morgue at Langley Hospital, we decided it would a good idea to visit the morgues at other Fraser Health hospitals. Essentially, we would be touring several different morgues to generate ideas for how we could expand ours.

Over the course of a couple weeks, I was able to visit a few more hospital morgues. With each visit, I learned something new as well as encountered many interesting people, each with something different to bring to the table. There is no consistent system of management for hospital morgues in Fraser Health, so it was fascinating to see who had taken responsibility at each site. After viewing different morgues and consulting those responsible for them, we were presented with several options for expansion. As a team, we arranged our findings and recommendations into a formal report and presented it to the Director, who was quite impressed! It felt really great knowing that all our hard work had been acknowledged. What really gave me the most satisfaction was the feeling that I had made a positive contribution through my work.

All in all, my co-op work term was a great learning experience. I really got an insider’s view of healthcare, one that would not have been possible without this opportunity. This work term also taught me a little bit more about myself. I found out what sorts of things I enjoy and what things I dislike. I met plenty of great people, and made some good friends. In such a short period of time, I feel that I have grown as a person. I realized that although we all have expectations from a job, sometimes the best thing one can do at a new job is to try new things and have fun with them. It’s okay to have expectations, but don’t be afraid to embrace the unexpected!  


Beyond the Article:

  • For Ornela, co-op completely changed her persepctive about what it means to work in the field of healthcare. Read her story.  
  • Ever thought of traveling for co-op? Check out the Health Sciences Co-op Blog for stories from students who did International Co-op placements in places like India and Peru
Posted on October 03, 2016