“Care coordination provides a very rewarding experience, as it allows one to make a really significant and positive impact on client quality of life,” says Tanya Poon.
While it wasn’t a path Tanya originally planned on exploring as a career, the University of Toronto graduate loves her position as a Care Coordinator with the Community Care Access Centre (CCAC).
When Tanya finished her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy in 2009, she thought she had a career path all worked out.
“Like a lot of other students, when I first started Occupational Therapy (OT) school, I expected or hoped for an OT position in a hospital,” she says.
A community start
After graduating, Tanya settled into a role as a community occupational therapist. “I tried it out, on what I thought would be a temporary basis,” she says.
Community work helped Tanya recognize that her background and particular interests made her an excellent fit for a Care Coordinator role with CCAC.
“I didn’t picture myself as a Case Manager or Care Coordinator while studying occupational therapy, but I am definitely happy about the unexpected turn in my career path!”
– Tanya Poon
Care Coordinator, CCAC
“It was the client relationships and interaction that I most enjoyed, as well as the ability to work with a multidisciplinary team,” she says. “I felt that care coordination offered a great opportunity for both.”
She was right. After completing an online application, Tanya completed a set of interviews and assessments specifically designed to prepare her for work as a Care Coordinator. Her past work experience proved invaluable here.
“A lot of the core skills required in care coordination were also practiced in the role of community OT,” she says.
She started her new job in August of 2012.
Coordinating one day at a time
As a Care Coordinator, Tanya frequently conducts in-house visits with clients to assess any concerns about their ongoing care.
“I try to complete joint home visits,” says Tanya, “as it’s important to have multiple perspectives, as well as to demonstrate to clients that a multidisciplinary team is working collaboratively with them to ensure they receive the best care possible.”
Working as a member of this team could involve joint meetings with family physicians, nurses, therapists or representatives of personal support worker agencies, as well as liaising between these parties, she explains.
“Often I communicate between health care providers and clients or family, such as by relaying a nurse’s report to the GP, or by discussing adult day program coordinator’s concerns with a client’s family,” Tanya says. “I also ensure service providers have provided up-to-date reports and are communicating on an ongoing basis.”
These challenges and the work itself require a constant willingness to learn, adapt and problem solve, a challenge Tanya particularly enjoys.
“The exciting part about my job is that there are few limitations to the range of services I provide, as my role is greatly dictated by the client’s or the family’s needs.”
Working as a team
Just as Tanya’s daily responsibilities involve a great deal of liaison work, her own role is that of an active and engaged team member, as Care Coordinators come from diverse backgrounds and have different insights to offer.
“I am part of a team of CCAC Care Coordinators of different disciplinary backgrounds,” says Tanya. “We freely communicate amongst ourselves when someone has a question, and team members answer as they are able.”
It’s a collaborative dynamic that Tanya enjoys a great deal.
“I have never worked with such a supportive and understanding team as my CCAC Care Coordination team,” she says.
“We are all aware that with our job, learning never stops.”
This teamwork not only creates a stimulating work environment, but is also a cornerstone of providing effective resources to clients.
“Each care coordinator comes with a different lens, a different area of expertise and thus a unique perspective,” says Tanya. “Together as a team, we are able to explore more options and come up with a richer treatment plan than if we were to work in isolation.”
From OT to Care Coordinator
Tanya is thrilled that her hunch about care coordination paid off. “Over time, I realized how well-fitted and well-trained OTs are for case management,” she says. “It is such a rewarding challenge to be involved in every aspect of a client’s care!”
She says hands-on experience taught her which role was right for her. “I didn’t picture myself as a case manager or care coordinator,” she says, “but I am definitely happy about the unexpected turn in my career path!”
The experience has led her to appreciate the value of trying new roles, something she strongly encourages other healthcare practitioners to consider. “Take the opportunity to try different roles,” she says. “It’s all part of the learning experience – learning more about client care, about the health care system through which our clients must navigate and learning about ourselves.”