“The Talk”

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I just had “The Talk” with my kids.

It started like this:

“Boys, when I need to hire someone do you know what one of the first things is I do?”

Nope, they had no idea.

“I google them,” I said. “I see what they post on Facebook, Twitter, blogs. If they have posted anything that is calling someone else down, is sexually inappropriate, or if they’ve made blatantly disrespectful comments on other people’s postings, I would tend not to hire that person.”

Social media is a relatively new invention. Young kids now are posting things on the internet that will follow them into their adult life —>for the first time in history, creating a permanent personal digital identity. This is the first generation creating that type of history, and without being aware, kids can be damaging their future unintentionally.

So far, my boys only foray onto social media is Instagram. It is a starting point, and I am allowing them to learn as they go. So tonight, I asked my son to come sit with me and show me what he has posted so far (yes, I look at it regularly, but I wanted to encourage discussion.)

Among the mostly silly pictures, there were a few I would consider inappropriate (mostly for language). I asked him about them and he said, “Mom, I like to post things that make people laugh.”

Yup, that’s good, I said. So I asked him what kind of job he wanted to do when he grew up, and he said a musician. So, I told him to picture the future scenario of a man who had to choose between him and another musician to come entertain his guests. If the man googled Noah Oleksyn, what would he see? It would be terrible to not get that job, or the next one because of some dumb stuff you posted when you were a kid right? I repeated a similar conversation with my other son, substituting “Fifa Soccer player” for musician. What I heard from both of them is that they hadn’t thought of that at all.

I think as parents we need to do three things for our kids:

  • Be aware of what our children are doing on the internet
  • Be on sites with them and teach as they go.
  • Be examples with our own digital identity.

I love this post shared by Royan Lee. Great questions for all of us to keep in mind.

Kids using social media and posting content on the internet without any sort of direction is like dropping them off at a grocery store and saying, “Choose some food.”

Without some education on healthy eating and good choices, mine would definitely come out with a bag of chips and a case of pop.

We teach our children how to talk in a respectful manner, how to keep healthy, be kind, have manners and a myriad of other things throughout the time they are entrusted to our care. Today, becoming literate digitally is just as important as learning to read and write. We need to be alongside our children in this new area that encompasses so many aspects of their life. Social media and interaction on the internet is not going anywhere, and as with talking about sex or drugs, our conversations need to be continuous as they grow up in the digital world.

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Love Matters

ccFlicker shared by deeplifequotes

I had an interesting conversation today with a teacher as I was giving her a flu shot.  When I asked her what grade she taught, she said she taught grade two and went on to tell me that she felt lucky everyday to come to work.

How often do you hear that?

She told me that she really loves her students, but went on to say that maybe she cares too much, becomes too attached to her students and maybe that wasn’t such a good thing.

I told her I actually thought the opposite was true.

The more you care about those you serve, the more you know them, the better you are able to teach them.  When a child feels that you actually care about them, can depend on a connection, they are more apt to listen, be more open to taking risks in their learning and stretch to meet expectations.

Love matters.

For me, it’s the patients for whom I’ve stayed up late at night researching drug therapies for, those I’ve called to see how their chemo is going, how their son’s depression is, and those that I’ve checked on by email when I am away; the connections I have with those patients make me a better practitioner.  They remind me that the better I get to know a patient, the more I know about their family, what matters to them, how they feel about their health and other matters in their life, the better able I am to advise them, help them make decisions regarding their therapy and teach them how to manage their illnesses and disease.

Love matters.

If you love what you are doing, ultimately you are happier.  If you are happy in your life’s work, whether it’s education, health care or other pursuits, you will do a better job.

As that teacher walked back to her classroom I thought, “That’s the kind of teacher I wish I would’ve had as a child.”

Balancing the Scales…or Not

A friend of mine sent me pictures today, taken at my 40th birthday party.  Yup, I turned 40.  And while that could be a post unto itself (many who know me are no doubt nodding their heads, remembering all the complaining leading up to that number!) what I really thought about when I saw the pictures was the relationships with the people who came out on a very stormy night to help me celebrate.

A very eclectic group shared the transition with me.  My spouse who pulled off the grand affair without me knowing, friends who’ve known me for years, people I’ve only known a short while, family, hockey parents with whom I’ve sat many hours in cold arenas with, staff who’ve run the gauntlet with me, and teachers who’ve taught my children and become great friends.

It’s to the last that I thought about today.  These educators who I’ve worked alongside with, who I’ve learned so much from, yet who have treated me as a peer.  We’ve had a unique relationship being co-educators of my children.  It has been unbelievably valuable not just for my boys, but for me, to be involved in this type of educational structure.

That night they had a presentation for me which included putting on the screen a quote from a blog post I wrote for the school division.  (I hadn’t posted it on my personal blog until today.)  And they asked me to read it aloud to everyone there:

I take my personal learning quite seriously: connecting to other educators on twitter, reading widely and often debating both Education philosophy and practice. But if I am honest, I have learned the most about education from my sons, and have incorporated those lessons into my own learning. Following my own passion in both Education and Health Care has made me a better practitioner in both areas.  Thank you boys.

Reading the words I had written only a few months ago, out loud to a room full of people I care about,  was surprisingly emotional for me.

Seeing the pictures today reminded me of why I keep walking the tricky balance between two disciplines I love (Education and Health Care).  I say tricky because it is sometimes impossible to find a balance;  the scale tips one way or the other.

As I’ve branched out and become more engaged in my professional life I know it has put strain on lesson planning time, time with my kids and my personal life.  And vice versa, when things get busy with teaching my boys and we’re digging into some great learning, my professional time slides and I can’t devote as much to patient care.

There are some days I think it would be easier to reduce the focus and drop one.  And I know this is an ancient struggle, especially for working parents, but today I was reminded why I do it…. and that it is worth it.

E=

cc licensed flickr photo shared by chrisinplymouth

E = EXACT

Health Care is not an exact science.  That’s right.  We want it to be…and I see much frustration, disappointment and even desperation because of this fact, but it’s the truth.  Despite all the medical advances and advertising of drugs that seem to point to the opposite, there really isn’t a “pill” for every illness or a test to diagnose every medical condition.  Sometimes there is no clear cut answer to a health problem, nor a solution.

Medicine and Pharmacy are applied science which means we take science and apply it to people.  We take everything we know about anatomy, microbiology, pharmacology, biochemistry, therapeutics, etc., and apply it to individuals who have their own unique physical, biological and genetic differences (not to mention the social, cultural, and psychological aspects).  From this application of knowledge to each individual situation, diagnosis is made and treatments are decided upon.

cc Flickr shared by chrisinplymouth

E = ERRORS

This applying of science also means that medical care is not perfect.  Combine that with the speed at which this knowledge needs to be applied to patients and situations, errors are inevitable.  Here’s a quote from Dr. Brian Goldman that had me thinking this week.

What I’ve learned is that errors are absolutely ubiquitous. We work in a system where errors happen every day.  Where 1 in 10 medications are either the wrong medication given in hospital or the wrong dosage…  In this country as many as 24,000 Canadians die  [every year] from preventable medical errors. [which is a gross underestimate]

We all know someone who has had sub-optimal medical care or errors made in their care.  Often there is anger towards the professionals that made the mistake.  I’ve been on both ends of that situation.

There is an expectation of perfection in health care.  As patients we expect our health professionals to be competent, and so we should.  But as a health professional I know we are all human and lack perfection.  We all fall short and can make mistakes.

I’ve made mistakes in my career and will most likely make a few more before I am done.  Fortunately I have never made a mistake that has seriously harmed someone or caused a death.  But I know each time I put my lab coat on it is a real possibility.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by chrisinplymouth

E= e-PATIENT

The possibility for error is why I continually encourage people to be engaged in their health care.   Not because you shouldn’t trust your health providers.  Quite the opposite.  You need to be an active partner so a trust relationship is essential. Working as a team is the best way to ensure optimum health care.  How can you do this?  Get to know your own body, your medical conditions, your medications.  Ask questions. We need you to be as educated as possible.

More and more patients are getting health information over the internet.  (Interestingly, Health Professionals are often divided over this.  Some thinking this is great and others not so much).  I think the more knowledge you acquire about your own health the better.  And this is where the trust relationship comes into play.  Yes, there can be some bad information out there.  So you check it out with your doctor or pharmacist.

Last week I had a patient in tears because she had read on the internet that her diabetes medication could give her seizures and she didn’t know what to do.  Was that good information?  No.  It wasn’t true.  But I didn’t advise her to stay away from internet health information.  I provided her with some reputable sites and encouraged her to learn more about her disease and contact me in a week to go over what she had learned.   As one e-patient says in this video, “When push comes to shove you check with your [health professional]. They’re there for a reason”

Here’s an example of the growing movement of “e-patients.”  As you’ll see, the “e” stands for many great attributes that can lead to a safer, more participatory, less paternalistic model of health care.

All I Want for Christmas…

Gratitude.  It was top of my list for Christmas this year.  To feel more grateful for the life I have, to not need more, to feel settled and ultimately at peace.  So while I sit in my quiet house, the chaos of the day having quieted down, the gifts I have asked for have arrived.

Flickr shared by Wolfsavard

The past two months I have had several close friends suffer serious health problems.  All of them went from lives busy with work, kids activities, holiday plans….  then everything in their lives suddenly came to a grinding halt.  When your health fails, that’s all that’s on the plate.  So, I am grateful for my health;  so far my life continues as is, and I wish to not take that for granted.

Working in the inner city once more this week reminded me of how grateful I am for my parents.  I am fortunate that they had no drug or alcohol addiction, no mental health issues or extreme  poverty.  They managed to make things work and keep our family functional and enriched.  It allowed me to develop and grow and have a “normal” childhood, unlike so many in our city.

I am grateful for my education.  My parents somehow instilled in us the importance of furthering our education.  It was not an option for us to learn, our only choice was what to learn about.  It continues to lead me in my career and to passing on that value to my own children.

Lastly, my gratitude falls to those who are closest to me.  There are people in my life who know the good in me and also the not so good in me….yet still choose to love me.  They are the ones who make life beautiful.  You know who you are.

Merry Christmas

Jumping In

So…I decided to do something that scares me. It is out of my comfort zone, I haven’t done it for many years, and I’m not sure if I can reach my goal….

I’m going to write an exam. It doesn’t sound like much when I type it out, but I haven’t written an exam involving therapeutics and patient management since my University days. It will require many hours of research and studying…time that I don’t really have actually. Between my sometimes more than full time work hours, home schooling and the boys hockey schedule, I’m not sure where I will carve out the study time. It seems crazy to add something so time consuming to my life.

The exam is to help me reach a goal I’ve been thinking about. Over the past year I’ve been contemplating what type of specialty I might pursue within Pharmacy practice. Not that I need one.  I can continue to practice Pharmacy as I am now, but to specialize will allow me to work more one on one with patients, as well as apply for further prescribing rights. So I decided to write the Certified Diabetes Educator exam. In essence this means working one on one with patients that have diabetes, but it also encompasses what I am passionate about:  being engaged with people, empowering patients with knowledge, and optimizing drug therapy.

As I’ve started to gather the material to study, I’ve felt myself many times wanting to just back out. What would be the big deal? I can go on as I am, I have a good career.  I don’t need a few extra letters behind my name and all this extra work.  Who needs career goals anyway?

And if I don’t tell anybody I’m working on this….well…if it becomes too onerous I can just not do it.  (I’m not even sure I’m going to hit the “publish” button on this post!)

So this week I’ve really thought about what it is I am truly afraid of.

Hard work? …..not really.

What I am afraid of is failure. What will it say about me if I fail?

During this week, within my circle of friends and colleagues there have been a few that have inspired me to just jump in and do it.  Their inspiration was unintentional and comes by way of them sharing parts of their lives with others; so I thought I’d share these inspirational people with you.

This week I took time to check out a web-site created by a couple colleagues of mine.  Hugo Leung and Kit Poon developed Pharmbase,  a site for Alberta Pharmacists to connect to each other outside of differences in practice.  It took a dream, an enormous amount of time and I’m sure significant financial resources to develop the site, and in my opinion, courage and fortitude to put it out there for their colleagues.  That is inspiring.

Over the past few months a friend of mine had to come to terms with the delayed growth and development of her youngest daughter.  Stephanie, a photographer and home school mom, stepped outside her comfort zone to allow her daughter to be poked and prodded by specialists,  and watch her baby go through numerous assessments and medical tests.  Reading her story continues to inspire me.

Licensed by flickr Shared by thriol

Another source of inspiration for me this week is a friend who was striving to reach a professional goal.  George, an educator and speaker who works for Parkland School Division, set out to produce a Keynote video.  Having never produced such a video, it was a task that took an enormous amount of time and energy, caused some frustration and had him working within uncertainty.  He persisted with the project and in the end completed his goal.  I’m sure there were times it was tempting to walk away from it, so I found this to be inspiring in my own decision to move forward and jump into a new challenge.

In deciding to do something I was afraid of, I also had to consider what I was teaching my boys.  I don’t want them to be afraid of trying something for fear of failure, therefore I need to model that.

 So, I have decided to just jump in.  To fearlessly move forward.  If I don’t do it, then the choice is to remain stagnant, and that is just not me.  I refuse to be defined by success or failure.

And perhaps I will have to re-read this post a few times along the way.

Combination Education

This past week I was chatting with an educator in Australia about many things, including the unique school program I’ve been a part of for several years.  When she asked me if I blog about it (as she was interested in learning more about the program) I had to say no.

It got me thinking that maybe it was about time I at least wrote a post.  I’ve had many people ask me about the logistics of our school program and how it looks for the kids, parents and teachers.   So it’s about time I put pen to paper…or rather fingers to the keyboard, about this fantastic school program.

In the Classroom with the Grade Two's

Stony Creek is a Program of choice within the Parkland School Division.  The structure of the program involves 2 days of classroom instruction where students are in the classroom learning Social Studies, Science, Art and Gym.  The other three days a week students learn at home, in essence home school, in the subjects of Math, Language Arts and Health.

But this doesn’t explain what the program really is.  Part of the beauty of the program structure is that once a month every parent involved in the program is in the classroom with the kids for the day (about 40 families presently).  And on the other end, also once a month, the teacher comes to each student’s home so the student can share his home school work with the teacher.  In practice, this lends itself to the formation of a community where I, as a parent, know each of the kids in the classroom quite well.  I also know the teachers on a level that normally I wouldn’t by having them in my home every month.

Typically the same two teachers are teaching the kids from grades 1 to 6 so they get to know each child’s learning style, strengths and areas for growth quite well over the years, as well as getting a picture of their family life.  And it’s even better for the kids who are beyond excited every month to show their teacher not only their school work, but their pets, their hobbies and anything else they can drag out.  My kids always make tea for their teacher and love sharing a cup while they show off their projects.  And they equally love the days I am in the classroom with them.

Home School day for Ben

One of the best features of the program, for me, is the extra time it gives me with my kids.  Not to say that homeschooling is not a pile of work……it is.  The prep alone is time consuming, but the rewards make it so worth it.  My oldest son Ben just entered “regular” school for the first time this year and is now realizing how lucky he was to have 6 years at home and in the Stony Creek Program.

The youngest always learns with his brothers

My son Noah, in Grade Three, continues to enjoy the program.  He can explore topics he enjoys like History and Mythology, while covering core learning objectives.  I can tailor Math to his learning style and work one on one with him until he really understands concepts.  I have a choice as to what type of resources best fit my child for these subjects as long as Alberta Learning Objectives are met.  It really is personalized, child centered learning, at it’s best.  And the mix of one on one learning at home and group learning at school is phenomenal.

In the years I have been involved in Stony Creek I have come to have a deep appreciation for the teaching profession.  Many of my friends and family are teachers and many teachers I have worked with have become friends. I have spent amazing days in the classroom with kids I have come to love over the years, and have equally amazing days at home seeing my kids delve into areas of interest that we would not have had time to explore if they were in a classroom full time.