Student Experience – Arlene Singh
During her 12-month Master of Health Leadership and Policy degree in Clinical Education, Arlene Singh discovered a new passion for digital health and virtual health – which became the focus of her practicum and led to launching a Health Hackathon to encourage other students to bring innovative design thinking to health-care challenges.
Why did you decide to pursue the MHLP?
I came into this program with eight years of experience at the Fraser Health Authority as a critical care nurse working in emergency. I’d also worked in the United Arab Emirates for a year, and when I returned to Vancouver in 2017, I began teaching in BCIT’s emergency nursing specialty program while continuing to work in emergency care on a part-time basis. Through my experience as an instructor and at the bedside in Canada and abroad, I realized there are many inefficiencies in how we do things in health care, and that if I wanted to contribute to positive solutions I would need additional education to impact change.
I chose the Master of Health Leadership and Policy (MHLP) program in Clinical Education for its combination of clinical education and business classes. Many leaders in health care have a strong business background, and I saw the value that they were able to bring to the workplace as a result.
What was your experience of the program?
The clinical education classes were interesting. I was able to draw on my experience as a clinical instructor and reflect on areas where I’d done well and areas where I could have performed better. I now have new tools and skills to apply to many different roles in health care.
On the business side, I thoroughly enjoyed the three-week business boot camp in the summer, which explored concepts in strategy, accounting, financing, entrepreneurship, operations and marketing. I also took a business elective on entrepreneurship, which was one of the best classes in the program. It built my confidence to think in new ways and consider how disruption and innovation can be used to do things better. All course assignments and activities were based on applying and following through on an initial idea from start to finish.
Tell us about your practicum experience.
This program sparked new interests in many areas that I knew very little about before starting the degree. While attending an emerging health leaders conference early in the school year, I met Megan Stowe, the executive director of virtual health at Vancouver Coastal Health. Her passion for virtual health got me thinking about how I could be part of the transformation in health care delivery. I approached her and was able to do my practicum with her and other virtual health specialists, focusing on how to increase adoption of virtual health across Vancouver Coastal Health. I helped create an Intranet page that includes resources and materials for staff to learn about virtual health and how it is being used to promote patient-centred care, how to incorporate it into their practice and where to find more information.
You also organized a health-care hackathon. What was that all about?
After taking the entrepreneurship class, I felt very strongly that we need to do more to bring design thinking to nursing. As front-line health care providers, nurses understand the inefficiencies and gaps in the system. I found a TED talk on this topic and then convinced a fellow student, Winnie Tam, to fly to Pennsylvania with me to participate in a nursing hackathon organized by the TED talk speaker.
This was one of the most inspirational weekends of my life, and Winnie and I decided to launch a similar version of the event here at UBC.
Thirty students – from both the MHLP and Master of Engineering Leadership programs – participated in the Health Hackathon in late November. Participants were asked to identify a challenge based on their experience and then over the day of the event they worked together in small teams to brainstorm solutions. What we found is that there’s amazing value in learning from the technical expertise of others. Rather than working in fragmented silos, if you can create opportunities to come together, you can develop innovative solutions. Teams explored challenges that ranged from looking at different modalities for hand hygiene using UV technology to a mobile app to support patients during and after discharge from hospital. They then presented a pitch deck to a panel of judges that included tech entrepreneurs and individuals active in health care.
It was a fantastic experience, and Winnie and I would like to run the hackathon again next year, inviting alumni to participate alongside current MEL and MHLP students.
Any advice for others who are considering this program?
One of the most valuable elements of the program is the networking and connections you can make. UBC does a lot to facilitate the development of your network, including encouraging you to attend events like the emerging health leaders conference.
I’m excited to bring about change at a higher level and to follow my passion for nursing innovation in my career.