Learning will continue far beyond when school ends!

Anishka Saldanha – McMaster University Student

The leaves have yet to switch colours, and I have already experienced a whirlwind of change. I am in my final year of Medical Radiation Sciences at Mohawk-McMaster, which means my peers and I are spending our last two semesters in clinical placements. We are soaking up many learning experiences at hospitals, clinics, and cancer centres.  For some, including myself, this has meant moving to a place that we have never been before. I am a radiation therapy student at the Windsor Regional Cancer Program.

Whether or not the city was new to us, the organization and its policies and procedures were likely different from what we knew at our first clinical site. The first policy (albeit a simple example) that I was informed of was the way in which we are to retrieve patients from the waiting area: call out their first name. Instinctively, I would want to address someone with a respective term (like Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. So-and-so). However, the rationale behind this policy was practical, which was to promote confidentiality. As a result, I really liked this policy.

That was the beginning of the changes that I began to notice between my skills-labs, my first clinical site, and here. I constantly found myself comparing the three to each other, to which I would tell myself, “Forget about what you did before, and accept what is to be done now”. I soon realized that while this may be the easier way to approach things, comparing them could actually be good for my own learning. Now when I see something that is a bit different from what I am used to, I am prompted to evaluate the pros and cons between my previous experience and my current experience. But it doesn’t stop there. I encourage myself to see if there are guidelines for best practice from overarching organizations, such as Cancer Care Ontario (CCO), CMRTO, CAMRT, or the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO).

Ultimately, the goals of each cancer program, regardless of where in Ontario it is located, are the same. In writing this blog, I came across two great documents which highlight this. The first is a succinct set of principles, the Radiation Therapy Patient Charter, which is endorsed by the CAMRT and the Canadian Association of Radiation Oncology. It highlights what each patient is entitled to receive throughout his or her course of treatment. In reading it, I knew that in my clinical placements each patient was receiving what they were entitled. It was a good feeling to know that the things that are most important are always addressed and provided. The second is a publication by CCO, the Ontario Cancer Plan IV, which outlines the goals of each cancer program. To achieve them requires collaboration between healthcare professionals, the organization, and the government, and so we all have a part to play in making Ontario’s program a leader that others look to.

Experiencing change has prompted me to learn new things and be more open to new experiences. Although I am only a few weeks into my placement, I have certainly learned a lot. I look forward to all the learning to come over the next number of months.  Note to self: Learning will continue far beyond when school ends!

Anishka is in her final year of the Radiation Therapy specialization of Mohawk-McMaster’s Medical Radiation Sciences program. In her last academic semester, Anishka worked on a research project to evaluate the use of feeding tubes in oropharyngeal cancer patients undergoing chemoradiation therapy. She enjoys trying new cuisines, and she currently spends her leisure time learning how to play guitar.

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