After spending my first and last co-op work term with BC Cancer, I can certainly say I have learned a lot in healthcare and working with vulnerable populations. I came to this co-op opportunity with a passion for working on health promotion projects and gaining experience working in healthcare. Working with BC Cancer throughout the past year, I have been able to collaborate with prevention and promotion specialists on ongoing projects in our communities, as well as bridge many new connections with local organizations. I have spent most of my time working closely on BC Cancer's Smoking Cessation program but have branched out to health marketing, and health promotion towards the end of my experience. Working closely with cancer prevention specialists and participating in ongoing projects have strengthened my passion for working in public health. I have learned a lot of new skills as a result of my experience with the team. Most importantly, I have gained much knowledge on disease prevention after speaking with people with cancer, as well as learned a lot from their experiences.
Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience
The most valuable takeaways from my Co-op with BC Cancer would be learning directly from the experiences of cancer patients. Speaking directly with people with cancer, I have gained first-hand knowledge of the difficulties they experience. This aspect of my experience has given me the ability to better assist the BC Cancer prevention and promotion programs, as well as allow me to sympathize with them.
Working with the BC Cancer Prevention and Promotion team has been a valuable experience insofar as experiencing what it's like working in health care on a day-to-day basis. I have collaborated with the team in creating toolkits, community databases, and data collection, and have expanded my technical skills as a result. I also loved being a part of the weekly and monthly team meetings where we share with each other the progress and results of the projects we have been working on. There's nothing more special than working with a group of health-directed like-minded individuals.
Advice for Future Students
As a result of my experience with BC Cancer, I have a few tips I would like to share with future health sciences students on what it's like working in a healthcare environment.
1. Soft skills are important
As health sciences students, we learn a lot about health theories and frameworks, but we don't learn enough about working directly with the populations we address. Having sympathy and being kind is effortless when we have the passion to help and listen to others. Soft skills also improve communication between ourselves and our colleagues. They go a long way when working in public health and engagement.
2. Be curious and creative!
Being curious about the ongoing projects with different health specialists, had me being a part of their project a result of reaching out. There are so many projects going on in health authorities and being a part of different health promotion projects kept me intrigued about what we can do to address different target populations. Apart from being a helping hand, I was also able to input some of my suggestions and ideas for certain projects. It can be intimidating working with specialists at first, but don't be shy in pitching your ideas!
3. Keep in touch
Working with different health promotion specialists and their projects kept me constantly inspired by the difference it will make in people's lives. Cancer is a disease that touches many peoples' lives, and it can be hard to maintain positivity at times. But I found it best to maintain positivity by working closely with my colleagues and keeping in touch with one another. My motivation to keep at it was to imagine how our projects will prevent disease for many people. This, and an amazing health-focused team that inspires one another to be our best.