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Q and A with an Education Champion: Emily Stairs

February 29, 2016

Emily Stairs has been an occupational therapist on C4, General Internal Medicine for five years. She previously spent four years working at Sunnybrook’s Veteran’s Centre.

Emily recently received two Community Partners’ Awards from the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at University of Toronto:

  • Fieldwork Supervisor Recognition Award
  • Exceptional Fieldwork Teaching Award

She was also nominated for the Sustained Outstanding Teaching Contribution Award.

Emily takes many students at all training levels and adapts her teaching to provide an excellent learning experience for every learner

We caught up with Emily to see what she likes most about being an educator:

1. What do you like the most about your job?

I really enjoy working collaboratively within our interprofessional team. I am always learning with and from my team members as we work creatively to provide care to our increasingly complex and frail elderly patients. It's very rewarding to provide care to our general internal medicine patients and to assist in their transitions onto the next phases of their recovery.

Caring for the elderly is truly a privilege, as the contributions of these seniors have allowed myself and all other Canadians to have the freedoms and quality of life we experience in our country today.

I have an excellent Patient Care Manager and Professional Practice Leader who both foster and support my professional development and research interests. This support highly contributes to my sense of value and workplace satisfaction.

2. Why do you take students?

I take students for many reasons, however the overarching reason is because I feel a strong sense of responsibility to provide these educational opportunities. I am the first person / generation in my family to be able to attend university and to complete a Masters-level professional program. This was not an opportunity that my grandparents (coal miners and farmers) could have even dreamed possible for me. I have had many excellent formal and informal educators and mentors; their teaching, mentorship and support has been invaluable and without these individuals, I would not be where I am today.

Students are also wonderful resources and help to keep seasoned clinicians updated on emerging best practices and research. They challenge you to reflect on you own practice and encourage professional growth.

3. What do you like about teaching?

It is the best feeling is when you see your students begin to integrate new learning through clinical reasoning and direct contributions to patient care. The consolidation of newly acquired skills and increased confidence is wonderful to foster and observe over time. My goal is to have each of my students develop skills and confidence during their placements, and I think sometimes I am as excited as they are to see their growth. Three of my former students have obtained positions at Sunnybrook, and I am so happy to have been a part of they journey to becoming staff here.

It’s wonderful for the patients as well as they are able to have increased access to Occupational Therapy resources. I often receive excellent feedback from patients and their families regarding how happy they are to receive enhanced occupational therapy assessment and treatment.

4. What advice do you have for other educators at Sunnybrook and beyond?

Don't be afraid to take a student! The experience as a preceptor will enhance your own practice in so many positive ways.

5. What's one thing you have learned through your role as an educator?

You don't have to have all the answers - encouraging self-directed learning is a good thing.

Emily Stairs