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SFU Co-op Student

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Erica Standing in front of greenery, smiling
I had it in my head that you had to work for a tech, publishing, or marketing company —whatever job rom-com protagonists have—to make the most of your comms training.

If you’ve ever watched House Hunters, I’m sure you’re painfully familiar with the stubborn, constricted mindset of first-time buyers. They think they know everything about real estate, that the “must-have” list is non-negotiable, and that the perfect property will simply materialize in front of them. 

That was me not too long ago. Except rather than searching for a home, I was looking for a co-op placement.

I had it in my head that you had to work for a tech, publishing, or marketing company —whatever job rom-com protagonists have—to make the most of your comms training. So, you can imagine the shock (and stress sweat) that came upon me when I was offered a placement at Vancouver Coastal Health. After all, what was a communications student supposed to do at a hospital? My go-to primetime medical dramas seemed to skip over that plotline.

On The Job

During my time as a Communications Coordinator at VCH, I supported Medical Staff Engagement and COVID Communications. I worked alongside my supervisor to create bidirectional communication channels between staff and leadership while also providing space to ensure that the community stay safe and informed amidst the pandemic.

My main project was to organize the COVID-19 Virtual Medical Staff Forums. In a nutshell, since the beginning of the pandemic, one of our medical leaders has been hosting monthly, one-hour Zoom Webinars to spotlight a specific COVID-related hot topic. A panel of guests are also invited to address special themes and contribute to a live Q&A.

I was there every step of the way. From brainstorming topics to advertising, booking speakers to drafting presentations, collecting med staff questions to facilitating the webinar, following up on unanswered Q&A items to tracking engagement statistics. While it initially seemed like a daunting task, I came to love it. I was able to strengthen my administrative and event-planning skills while creating meaningful connections with my colleagues and audience. The latter inspired me to think big and rejig our med staff engagement strategy—a task that seemed far beyond me. In a strange turn of events, my supervisor and I were later invited to present this strategy at BCPSQC’s Quality Forum 2021. Funny how things work out, huh?

This is Your Sign to Try Something New

As it turns out, the healthcare sector needs people like us. Communications students like us, now more than ever. (Looking at you, COVID-19.) We are being called upon to diagnose employee disengagement, treat information overload, and prescribe remedies for prior top-down exchanges. Had I not tried something new and been more open-minded about where communications backgrounds can get you, I would have missed out on a life-changing opportunity. All of this meaningful, exciting work
would’ve just been slept on. And what a shame that would be.

Coming into another seeking term, I am embracing the wildcards. I’ve accepted that everyone needs communications, so why not continue tapping into alternative, unexpected industries?

Please, take it from me: you don’t need to be a doctor to make it in healthcare. And you definitely don’t need to restrict yourself to specific fields to grow as a communicator, either.

So don’t be afraid to try something out-of-the-box for your next placement! You never know what you’ll find.

SFU Co-op Student

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