Lessons Learned

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Spring break with my boys. Lake Louise, Alberta

 

I’ve never been a dare devil.  My entire life I’ve played it cautious.  How in the world did I create these three fearless characters??

A ski holiday was not my idea.  A warm beach after a long cold winter is more my style!  But being a supportive parent, I acquiesced to the pleas of, “Can’t we go skiing this winter?”  It turned out I learned a valuable life lesson along the way.

My first day skiing I was rather like Bambi.  Sam, my seven year old stuck by my side for only about the first hour….then it was too slow and boring for him!  He really wanted to leave the “bunny” hill and brave the mountain, so up we went.  I know some people really relish the feeling of freedom on skis, love the movement and flying snow….I just wanted to make it down the mountain alive .

I managed three runs down the mountain, each time I  couldn’t wait to get to the bottom.  Ben, my thirteen year old decided he would stick by my side on the last run.  On shaky legs, about half way down the hill, I fell.  Not enough to hurt myself, just my pride, but it took me at least ten minutes to work my way upright. (No, I never thought to take off my skis…)  At that point I will admit I was near tears at the thought of having to make my way down the rest of the mountain.  As I painstakingly worked my way down, I swore I was absolutely not going back up again.  Skiing would have to be a Dad and boys activity.  I was fine with that.  I could sit in the chalet with my lap top and get some work done or read a book!

Finally at the bottom of the mountain, I saw my boys waiting for me.  I looked at them and realized it would be a huge mistake to just quit.  As much of a struggle as it was and as much as I just plain didn’t like it, quitting was not the example I wanted to set for them.

Instead, I shared with them my struggle. The fact that skiing did not come easy for me, nor was I enjoying it.  It was rather terrifying actually.  However, I understood that it was something they really loved.  They wanted it to be a family activity, something we could do together without work or chores interfering with our time together.  And sometimes one member of the family has to make sacrifices for the good of the others, and for the good of the family.

So I did go back up that mountain the next day.  I gained some skill and finished the day without mortal injury.  I still don’t love it and would prefer many other activities over flying down a mountain with sticks strapped to my feet.  But the lesson learned was valuable, and one I hope my children will emulate.

“What have I done?”

A few weeks ago a colleague warned me that in the first year of owning and running a new pharmacy I would conclude that I had made a huge mistake.

Yup….that happened well before turning the sign to “open”!

The two weeks leading up to my opening day were chaos.  I’ve never slept so minimally, had my “to do”list grow so fast, nor seen my children so little.  As I heard repeatedly, “Mom, are you coming home late again today?” I figured I had made a mistake.  I am a clinician; I love the “care” part of health care, and here I was, steeped in putting a business together. Spending hours on end away from my family, and even when with them my mind was racing with all the things I needed to handle.

So when I walked into my brand new pharmacy on day one and flipped the sign to open, I wondered whether I had jumped into something I would resent, or at the very least not enjoy.

Then came patients through my door.  Just a few at first, and a few more each day, and I found myself in a place of privilege.  As I provided health care, I heard their stories.  Stories about caring for terminally ill spouses, stories of how difficult it is to live with chronic pain, journeys through chemo and disappointment with the system.  Even stories of past jobs and places they had visited in their life time.  As I immunized many against the flu I also shared a lot of my own story.  How I came to be in this new pharmacy, growing up in Saskatchewan, how I had started a pharmacy in Chemainus when I was very young.

It struck me once again that the connection made and the care given are what brings me joy.  Having my own pharmacy means I can structure and set up to practice the way I want.  I have control over how I care for the people who walk through my door.  There is no one to tell me I must meet a certain quota or promote sketchy treatments or unproven products.  In the end, it is worth all the headaches that I am sure will come.  So it is to the people who came through my door this week that I am grateful to, for reminding me what it’s all about.

Digital Literacy and our Kids

cc Copyright Flickr shared by kyteacher

A few weeks ago, as I was checking out some articles on Twitter, I stumbled upon a post that had the same title as one of mine.  Awesome, I thought.  Not a lot of writing out there in the pharmacy field so I checked it out right away.

I was surprised to come across my own article being used to narrate a video for Palm Springs Home Care.  It was unnerving hearing my own words and thoughts being spoken by some guy I had never heard of.

This had me thinking about digital literacy and our kids.  Kids are posting on social media, they are reading and writing blogs, using google personally and for research…basically creating and using Internet content.

The use of the Internet as a source of information has become ubiquitous both at home and as part of school learning.  While there are some administrators and teachers addressing the issue of digital literacy in our schools, in most cases, the mentoring of our kids in this area is lacking as kids are often far ahead of the adults in their lives in their use of and creation of content on the Internet.  When our kids are entering a status on Facebook or writing a paragraph on scorpions, it is imperative that we teach them the proper use of content: how to read and evaluate information online as well as safety, privacy and ethics when posting.

We wouldn’t leave our kids alone in a grocery store and say “Figure out heathy eating” why would we do that with Internet use?

We cannot leave it up to our teachers to teach our kids digital literacy.   (Keep in mind that it is not even happening in many schools).  We need to be involved in our kids Internet use, model for them how to use and create content and be partners in this essential area of their education.  Using tools such as Creative Commons, showing kids how to cite Internet resources, how to determine what is “good” information verses not so good information, criteria to consider before you post/publish; these are just a few components of digital literacy.

As adults we must be cognizant of our own digital content as well.  When we post or use content we must be positive models for our kids, allowing them to step into our own digital footprint as a path to follow.

Worth the Read *May 2012

During a typical week I read so many great articles, posts and studies.  Usually I tweet them out for others to read, occasionally post them to Facebook, and always put them into my Diigo file.

A few days ago I was reading the blog of a friend of mine who also reads widely in his field.  He regularly writes a post called “You Should Read” with some of the best stuff he’s read that week, typically in the field of Education.  It struck me that this was a great way to share some of the best “stuff” a person comes across.

I am often asked to comment on, or blog about, health topics, and of course, those who read my stuff know that my love of education leads to many cross roads and intersections in the two fields.  So, I decided to post a regular “Worth the Read” to share some of the great things I come across on a weekly basis.  I am regularly inspired and challenged by posts, videos, conversations and articles that I discover or are shared with me though colleagues and friends.  I hope you are too.

My first “Worth the Read” is perhaps a mix of hope and despair.

Cancer

I’m not sure how many times in the last six months I have shed tears over this disease.  While I am lucky to not have struggled with it in my own body, cancer has struck patients that I have grown close to, friends in my community and a family member I love.

My thoughts and emotions have vacillated, ranging from the adolescent “F*** I hate this disease”, to scouring research, to listening to grieving hearts, to admiring the bravery of those who fight the disease on a daily basis…

Here are my three “Worth the Reads”

“The Thing that Brings you back is Love.”

This is by far my favorite quote this year.  I come back to it again and again. It comes from a woman writing about the beginning of her journey with breast cancer.  The post is called “The Diagnosis” by Xeni Jardin.

On the medical end, this post from The Doctor’s Channel is fascinating for those interested in new research in the field of cancer.  Being a self professed science geek and health care professional, it is right up my alley. “Training Immune System to Fight Cancer comes of Age.”

Lastly, a video tweeted out by a colleague yesterday that was put together by Seattle Children’s Hospital.  No commentary…..just a few tears.

Enjoy your week!

Letting Go = Learning

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by aronski

“The Roman Colosseum! That’s what I want to learn about next Mom!”  The night before the first day back to school…. I had no plans ready for this request.  Actually, my mind was filled with work and I wasn’t feeling particularly creative.  This wasn’t sounding good.

My son Noah, in Grade three with the Stony Creek Program, loves ancient history and mythology. His Language Arts projects are infused with his passion and he is fortunate to be in a school program that allows for such individualized learning.

While I have always tried to follow my boys’ interests in the home schooling portion of their program, I will admit that I can be all about just “getting it done.”  With limited time to accomplish school work in a day I sometimes lack patience with the “space” needed for creativity.

This year, however, Noah has taught me something valuable: learning happens much more readily and becomes integrated, retained and built upon when we incorporate his interests.  For me that requires a certain letting go.  Letting go of my ideas, expectations and time lines for learning.

For instance, when I suggested Noah blog about his learning of ancient nomads he decided instead to draw then build a model of an irrigation system ancient people could have used. (And yes, later blogged about it). Not what I had in mind (and took WAY longer than I had planned for! ) but what great learning. 

When we worked on story writing, I had planned activities appropriate for Grade 3. He had his own ideas which resulted in his writing a”chapter book”  (incorporating Greek mythology of course!) He learned way more about writing, editing and word processing doing it his way than he would have with my plans.

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.

*This post was originally published at 184 Days of Learning

Evolution of Learning

The box on the computer screen is staring back at me. The title is “Qualifications for Expert Review.” I’m supposed to fill it in.

I started work today on a job that a colleague recommended me for, and I am finding it absolutely interesting. It is providing “expert review” on an educational unit for pharmacists. (This one particularly on post-myocardial infarction.) However, looking at the box that requires me to explain my qualifications makes me feel….well….. unqualified! I’m waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and say “Hey, who made you an expert?? Pass along this job to a real expert!”

Copyright Flickr, shared by aaron schmidt

Coincidentally, when I took a break from the work I pulled up this blog post by Jeff Utecht called “How Much Longer Will a Degree Mean Something?” The post is speculating on the future of education and points toward a growing trend, especially in areas of technology, where experience and knowledge can count for more than a degree.

He also discusses Stanford’s growing collection of free classes. Thousands are signing up for the same classes that others are paying huge tuition dollars for. You get a certificate rather than credit for the classes, but the learning opportunity is the same.

This had me pondering my own learning and “expertise”. What are my credentials other than my degree? What does my experience count for? And how about my passion for my practice and my desire to keep learning? Does that count towards expertise?

When I first got out of university I thought I knew so much. And I did really, I had lots of great book learning. (Seriously though, did we really need to learn the chemical structure of all those drugs??)

The most important thing I learned in University, however, is how to learn. And the knowledge I have acquired in the 15 years since I’ve been in practice is vastly greater than what I learned in University.

My first year practising a patient asked me how the drug captopril worked in the body. I proceeded to tell him in great detail how  angiotension converting enzyme inhibitors  worked including the entire renin-aldosterone system in the body. And while I’m sure he found that fascinating, it was probably too much information 😉

I’ve learned a lot about educating since then. I have also learned that some of my greatest teachers have been my patients.

Students today just can’t believe that when I started practicing pharmacy I had to keep paper files on every medical condition and drug therapy. I would clip journal articles or make notes

Copyright Flickr shared by Zach K

from text books. There was no internet, no google, no looking up original journal articles or searching relevant references in the blink of an eye. Technology has made acquiring knowledge so much easier and being able to find answers to clinical questions invaluable. Today I have the most prestigious medical journals at my fingertips and connection to colleagues around the world to debate with. If I want to learn, it’s there.

So, while I’m not sure I would go so far as to call myself an “expert” in any particular area, taking on a job that requires me to stretch beyond what I thought was my current knowledge base has lead me to realize that I am capable of much more than I thought and I have the tools right in front of me. I can reach into the area of “expert” and feel comfortable there for awhile.