I was born and grew up in England. After graduating as an occupational therapist, I married and had two sons. A downturn in the economy in England in the late 70s, and a job offer for my husband, brought our family to Canada. We have embraced life here and have flourished. I always found that occupational therapy and family life blended well, with a balance of part time and full time work enabling me to be a proper mother and to have a successful career. I now have a delightful grandson.
I’m not sure quite where the idea of being an occupational therapist came from, but as the daughter of a General Practitioner, I was encouraged to pursue something in the medical field. I trained at St. Loyes School of Occupational Therapy in Exeter, graduating with a diploma in 1971. I have never regretted my career choice!
Career path as an occupational therapist
My first job, lasting just a year, was at the University Hospital of Wales in Physical Medicine. We then moved to Hampshire where I worked for five years in a 2000 bedded psychiatric hospital, a real old style institution, which is now closed. I was part of the focus to de-institutionalize long stay patients and help them with the skills necessary to function in the world outside.
After moving to Canada I volunteered at the local ‘YMCA’ in Georgetown and made connections which led me to become a Community OT, which was the path I was to continue for the rest of my career. I started as the only Community Occupational Therapist for South Halton Region, covering the whole of Oakville and Burlington; Jack of all trades, but a great way to gain experience.
When we moved to Scarborough I joined Community Occupational Therapy Associates (COTA) which was a community organization providing OT services, through Home Care, across the city of Toronto. I never looked back. Initially we were all generalists but as time went on we specialized in specific clinical areas and mine was geriatrics. Within COTA I worked as a clinician, a practice leader; I supervised students and was involved in education and research. I had a particular interest in home safety and falls prevention and am the primary author of the SAFER Tool and the SAFER HOME which are standardized home safety assessment tools. My work increasingly led me into the area of psychogeriatrics and dementia, and I was a co-author of the Burden Scale for Family Caregivers (BSFC) and wrote the content for the COTA Caregiver website.
Along the way, I also consulted to a number of Long Term Care facilities, assessing new residents and assisting with program planning. My final role was with Veteran’s Affairs Canada (VAC) where I was one of the first occupational therapists to work under the VAC new mental health mandate, helping to develop occupational therapy services in the community for veterans of all ages with mental health issues.
I have had the chance to be on many committees in the workplace and in the community, have chaired accreditation teams, have given presentations on a range of subjects to professionals and community groups, have had a number of articles published in various professional journals, and have attended and presented at CAOT Conferences. The time comes to make the decision to retire. Not easy when one loves the work one does, but there is always a new door waiting to be opened and that is how I see retirement.
As I move on to the next stage of my life, I take with me all that I have learned. Even though I am no longer working as an OT, that part of me will always be there. I am currently volunteering at WindReach Farm, which is a fully accessible 105 acre farm, north of Whitby, Ontario, which welcomes people with challenges of all kinds, to enjoy and be involved in the farm and with nature. What a natural progression for me to use my occupational therapy skills and my love of nature to help others to appreciate it too – and without the paperwork! I also volunteer at the Pickering Museum Village which is a living museum, where visitors and school groups experience the life of the early settlers, with guides in period costume demonstrating the activities of their daily lives. In summer, at the museum, I help to maintain the gardens and in winter I assist in making and repairing the costumes.
CompuCARE Innovation Award – for developing an innovative program for long term care residents
20 Year Service Award from COTA
I am a member of a book group, a quilting guild, a naturalist group and a yacht club and my interests include; gardening, quilting, fibre art, sailing, kayaking, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, dog sledding, hiking, biking, nature and environmental issues.
I feel that my occupational therapy training prepared me not only for the work I was to do, but also for life in general. We occupational therapists look at things in a very practical way and analyze and assess the world around us to make best use of every facet. I have met and worked with so many wonderful colleagues along the way and value and appreciate all that I have learned from them. I feel strongly that occupational therapists need to have a balance of academic ability, a practical, problem-solving approach to life and excellent communication skills. I think that we need to be careful not to focus so strongly on the academic side that we miss out on individuals who have the other critically important skills that are necessary for a well rounded occupational therapist. I leave the profession with a feeling of pride and with the hope that continued promotion of the profession will increase awareness of the value and wide ranging benefits that occupational therapy can offer.
I reside in Edmonton, Alberta with my husband. I have five adult children and 12 grand children.
I obtained my Diploma in occupational therapy from the University of Manitoba and went on to successfully complete my Bachelor of Science in occupational therapy from the University of Alberta. Most recently I have completed a Management Certificate from the University of Alberta, Faculty of Extension.
•Clinician in gerontology, mental health and hemodialysis/kidney transplant program and transplant program(pilot project)
• Sole charge therapist in gerontology, oncology (established OT service in an oncology hospital) and palliative care(established OT service)
• OT Leadership; OT Supervisor and Rehabilitation Medicine Department Head
• Government of Alberta, Ministry of Health; Director of the Alberta Aids to Daily Living Program, Director of Area Services for Central Alberta (establishing and supporting the new health authorities at the time of regionalisation), Director of Support Services, Assistant Deputy Minister Population Health and then seconded for 2 years as the CEO for the provincial mental health system.
• Government of Alberta, Ministry of Children’s Services; Assistant Deputy Minister Partnership and Innovation.
• Alberta Centre for Child, Family and Community Research, President and CEO
• For many years was a sessional lecturer for the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine U of A: OT Administration and Gerontology primarily
In 2003, I was appointed as the inaugural CEO for the Alberta Centre for Child, Family and Community Research and continue in that role today. The concept for The Centre was developed within Nancy’s portfolio with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. The Centre was incorporated in March of 2003 and is a unique organization; it’s been described as a public sector innovation. It was established to develop (fund), gather and mobilize evidence to inform policy focused on improving child well being. The Centre also manages the Child and Youth Data Lab (CYDL). The CYDL is funded through contributions from eight provincial ministries to analyze linked administrative data from across government to understand policy impacts, outcomes and gaps related to child well being. The CYDL has created the ability to do retrospective longitudinal data analysis with data from all of the Government of Alberta ministries who have a potential impact on the outcomes for children.
Through the mid 70’s to 80’s I engaged in professional volunteerism; government relations for the provincial association focused on the development and approval of provincial legislation for OT. Subsequently, I was Chair of the Professional Examination Board for Occupational Therapy in Alberta from the time legislation was put in place until a few years ago when the legislation underwent a significant change.
I have served as a board member on several community boards over the years and currently am a member of the Board of Directors of the Capital Region United Way, and a member of the Child and Youth Advisory Committee to the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Hobbies and Interests:
My grandchildren’s activities consume much of my free time. I also enjoy the arts; art, theatre and music. I have been a symphony subscriber for many years and was on the board of an organization that trains opera students for several years (Opera NUOVA). I also hope to pick up a paint brush again some time soon.
Interior Design was my second career choice when I finished high school and it has always remained an area of interest for me. I have completed most of the coursework for a Certificate in Residential Interiors from the University of Alberta.
When I reflect on my career, I have never once regretted my decision to take occupational therapy. I was very young, finishing high school at 16, so I remain astounded that I managed to make such a good choice and one that has suited me so well. It has always felt right, providing the right blend of all my interests. My education has been the foundation for a career that has far exceeded the aspirations of my youth; great continuous learning, wonderful opportunities and challenges and many inspiring people along the way!
My overarching life goal actually has been to be a matriarch...a goal my friends and family tell me I achieved some time ago! My career has been the “icing on the cake”.
I attended Memorial University in Newfoundland (NL) for two years, completing volunteer work teaching Sunday school and working with a disabled child in a home rehabilitation program. I then completed a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy in 1989 at Dalhousie University. Although I originally wanted to travel upon graduation, I returned home to live and work in my home province of NL and have been there ever since!
Career path as an occupational therapist:
I first became interested in occupational therapy when I learned of the profession while working as a playground counsellor with an integrated playground program. Seeing individuals with special needs and wanting to help them improve their quality of life was of great interest to me. Although I initially thought I wanted to be a physiotherapist, like my older sister Kathy, I liked the diversity of occupational therapy and the holistic nature of what we did. I really liked the idea of helping people do things that were important to them.
Upon graduation, I worked as an occupational therapist in outpatients, medicine and surgery. As soon as the opportunity to move into a program manager position in vocational rehabilitation became available after only 15 months of working, I jumped at the chance. For four years I worked in hospital based assessment and treatment services, working with many other health professionals in team and single discipline programs. The area of practice for occupational therapists grew so rapidly, I was continuously training new therapists to fill positions that became available. I really enjoyed the challenges this work brought and saw an opportunity for me to pursue another interest of mine, running a business. With a two month waiting lists for most hospital based services, I felt confident to hang my shingle and open Integrated Occupational Health Services (IOHS).
I am still working hard at IOHS and employ three full time staff including myself, a kinesiologist and one fantastic office manager. I also have 13 occupational therapy consultants, seven in St. John’s and surrounding areas and six across the province.
IOHS specializes in work assessment/rehabilitation, pre-employment testing, ergonomics, home demands analysis/universal design consulting and medical-legal consultation. The clinic provides services to industry, insurance companies and the legal community. Major clients include municipalities, health care boards, power companies, telephone/cable/internet providers, oil companies and federal government sources to name a few. Our referral base is growing, as is the number of consultants on staff.
My work has enabled me to observe and analyze search and rescue demands, oil drilling and processing, manufacturing/printing, large scale construction, line crews, air ambulance and paramedic services, just to name a few. I have helped university researchers in understanding the impact of repetitive strain injuries in fish processing industries as a community collaborator. Through student placements and their various projects, I have helped monitor outcome and improve service delivery within our organization.
I was president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Occupational Therapists (NLAOT) in 1996 and was active on committees in public relations and continuing education with this provincial organization. I co-chaired CAOT conference 2007 in St. John’s and chaired the OT Atlantic conference 1996. I have been on the executive of a provincial union representing health professionals and have also served on a board of directors representing employers’ issues in the province. I am currently the Board Director representing NL Occupational Therapists on the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT). As board member, I am also on the provincial executive of NLAOT. I am active with the provincial occupational rehabilitation providers group, Occupational Therapy Practices Committee of CAOT and CAOT risk management committee.
I have been an active Rotarian since 1998 and represent the profession of occupational therapy in my club. I am chairperson of my club’s international youth exchange program. I have recently been honoured with a Paul Harris Fellow, True Rotarian Award and District Governor’s citation from Rotary for the work that I have done in the area of youth exchange over the last eight years. Through my involvement with this club, I have increased my knowledge of other professions and have helped others understand what we as occupational therapists have to offer.
In my spare time (if I really have any) I enjoy being a soccer coach/mom, hockey mom and fan of my children’s other recreational activities. I teach Sunday school and otherwise try to say no to other volunteer needs that present themselves. I enjoy group aerobics classes, camping with my family and socializing with friends.
I would like to see the day when people are more knowledgeable about our profession and what we have to offer. I would like to see all medium and large employers identifying the need for an occupational therapist on staff or at least on a consultant basis. I would like occupational therapy to be included as a health professional covered under all benefit plans. I would like to see all services that we can provide to be privatized and available to those who need it. I strive for each of these goals in my committee involvement and growing business. If we provide good services that are considered valuable, then occupational therapists will continue to be in great demand and growing as a profession!
Second in a family of six, I grew up in rural Ontario. Family and friends have always been a priority for me and much of my life outside of work involved activities with my children, family and friends. Celebrations are important, and every event - graduations, births, birthdays, national holidays - are always a cause for a gathering of family and friends. The recent arrival of a beautiful granddaughter has added new excitement and interest to my life.
Education is a funny thing. I was initially academically trained at the Peterborough Teacher’s College as an elementary school teacher (at that time a one year program that “prepared” you to teach any grade – or all of the grades together in a one room school – from grade one to eight) and taught for a year. Then, unhappy with the rigidity imposed on teachers by the education system of the time, I searched for a new career. By chance, an ad was shown to me about a special course put on by CAOT to train individuals as occupational therapists with post secondary training and work experiences.
Life was never the same again. A wonderful lifelong, creative, flexible career as an occupational therapist began – and of course having rejected being a “teacher” - I spent most of my time teaching and interacting with clients- both adults and children, and colleagues. They, in fact, were the people who gave me the most relevant education although I proceeded on to get a BSR (OT) and Masters of Arts (Special Education) at the University of British Columbia. Ever the lifelong learner, I continued throughout my working career to attend courses and workshops resulting in (among other credentials) special training in working with children who experienced sexual abuse, children with autism, a certificate in marriage and family therapy, training as a tutor of children with dyslexia and training in working with children and families in Infant Psychiatry.
Career path as an occupational therapist
Perhaps it was that one year of teaching that set my career path. I have always loved children and working in the area of Child and Family Psychiatry (initially in Kingston, Ontario) was where I began my work and spent most of my working life. It offered endless variety – from the formal assessments and participating in a multi-disciplinary team to doing individual play therapy, initiating new programs such as therapeutic storytelling on an inpatient ward and developing new approaches to parent groups for disenfranchised parents of children in a Day Treatment Program. Bored? Never!! Every skill I had and developed could be incorporated into programs or when working with colleagues and clients. Although I spent five years working in Adult Psychiatry when I first moved to Vancouver, even there I was drawn to working with families and helped develop an occupational therapy program for the Child and Family Clinic at that Centre. Similarly when working for several years at a Child and Adolescent Rehabilitation Centre, I included programs that addressed mental health issues as well as the physical aspects of therapy. The puzzles that human behavior create continually fascinated me. During the last six years of my working career, I began work in private practice – an independent way to slowly ease into retirement. My work in developing social skills groups for children with autism was so interesting that I wished I were twenty years younger – I could see a PhD emerging from my interests. However, the competence of the new graduating therapists reassured me that occupational therapy was in good hands and so in the summer of 2009 – after over 40 years of work – I retired. But not really.
Retirement seems a foreign concept to me. Possibly I am just “retread” rather than “retired.” During the time I was working part-time in private practice, my love of writing emerged full force. I had always written when young, and professionally had written manuals and given workshops and lectures. As a parent I had written poetry for my children and generally loved language. But writing books just seemed to happen. At this point I have co-authored three books and written one children’s book. With lots more ideas, this fifth career (after teacher, OT, parent, tutor) has provided meaning and purpose for me as I look forward to new adventures during senior years.
I have felt extremely lucky for all the love of my family and benefits that I derived from a dynamic career, enthusiastic colleagues and friends and living in a peaceful country. Both as a parent and occupational therapist I believed that it was important to give back to my profession and community. Consequently I have always participated in some way in volunteer work – whether organizing an Environmental Day for my children’s school, chairing the BC branch of the International Dyslexia Association or helping cut up vegetables for a meal for the homeless. One of the most challenging, but enjoyable volunteer jobs I held was as a committee member and then chair of the CAOT examination committee. It was a lot of work but a chance to meet wonderful therapists from all across Canada equally dedicated to occupational therapy as a career. Now in the next phase of my working retirement, I am planning to volunteer with a local organization working with women and their children who have experienced violence.
This volunteer work will once again prove something I have observed. Each occupation that we do in our lives interweaves, loops around and becomes part of what we will need and use within the next opportunity in which we engage.
The two most wonderful awards I have ever had were my two sons Andrew and Patrick who continue to be a joy in my life. I was also given a CAOT award related to my work on the Certification exam committee.
Hiking, bicycling, kayaking, snow-shoeing, downhill and cross-country skiing, swimming
Reading, sewing, woodworking, entertaining, theatre, concerts
Painting – watercolours, oils, print-making, icons
Travelling – anywhere, anytime
Writing – more books coming up (publishers willing)
My new granddaughter Danika Grace – who will be encouraged to consider occupational therapy as a career (her mother trained as an OT too but now has a private business using writing skills.)
CommentsOne of my proudest moments recently was when the daughter of one of my very best friends graduated as an occupational therapist from the University of British Columbia (UBC). She is my “adopted daughter” and I had watched her progress through the course with interest. As enthusiastic as I was at her age, she is a wonderful example of where the profession is going – creative, energetic, articulate and competent.
I will miss being an active occupational therapist but will continue to be active – my occupation has just changed, not disappeared!