An Unconventional Classroom: Lessons from a Hospital Co-op Student
Article by Maryam Sheikh
One of my close friends, Sakina, recently completed a semester of Grade 11- working at a hospital. An Oakville student interested in pursuing medicine, she is part of her school’s Health and Wellness SHSM Program and was one of the few students to do a placement at St. Michael’s Hospital’s Breast Centre. I was able to ask her a few questions and really value her insight!
What did your position entail?
I was extremely lucky with my placement because my unit dealt with many aspects of the hospital environment; we did patient consults, labs and surgeries. I also dealt a lot with patient appointments, which means that I took care of everything from creating and processing the appointment in the hospital’s digital system, informing the patient, giving them instructions and confirming the dates with them.
However, I was lucky in the fact that I had an amazing supervisor; she let me do many unconventional tasks including running hospital events and picking up specimens from pathology and sending them to various labs around the world.
Of course, the hospital’s program also offered us the chance to go on tours of various different parts of the hospital. Aside from this, I participated in job shadowing and interviewing various employees as well.
Did your placement help you decide what you want to pursue after high school?
Definitely! I’ve always known that I wanted to pursue a career in the medical field and was keen on becoming an emergency physician and trauma surgeon, but I was unsure if I would be suited to the job. My placement allowed me to experience the implications of working in the hospital environment and helped me identify what type of worker I am.
What were the pros/cons of working at a hospital?
One thing I absolutely loved about working at a hospital was the close-knit environment between all the staff. They’re constantly performing critical tasks, and I have found that they have high levels of respect and cooperation for each other.
Another thing I loved about the hospital was the general unpredictability surrounding it. Every day, there were new patients and new situations, so I never got bored. Personally, I thrive in fast-paced environments, so working at the hospital was one of the best experiences of my life.
On the flip side, however, there is no denying that working anywhere in a hospital can take an emotional toll on you. It was hard to connect with patients, only to learn that they were experiencing some kind of hardship. It’s definitely critical to maintain an optimistic mindset in this environment-even just thinking of the hospital as a place of healing rather than a place of sickness makes all the difference!
What is the most important thing you learned during your semester at the hospital?
I learned many things during my time at St. Mikes, but one thing that really stood out to me was the weight of passion, work ethic, and the love for learning in achieving success. Working in a hospital is difficult; becoming a doctor is difficult. If you want to succeed in this environment, you need to love and breathe what you do, but you also need to work hard.
How did you manage your time between co-op, school courses, and extra curriculars?
A lot of people discount co-op as a course because it’s essentially just working for half the day. However, there are assignments you need to deal with for co-op as well, and the job is physically and mentally exhausting. Time management is key! You need to be able to work smart and stick to your schedule. Be productive and remember to take breaks. Burn-out is real, so organize your tasks and time wisely.
What advice/tips would you give to students considering a co-op placement?
- Don’t hesitate to apply! Co-op is a valuable experience.
- Work hard on your application, but remember that as a student, employers don’t have unrealistic expectations of you. Be confident in your abilities and present yourself well.
- If you do get the position, congratulations! Use this amazing opportunity and show initiative, express your interests and ask questions. Putting in extra effort will make your time really worth it!