Talking Clinical Education with Sarah Wojkowski

Sarah Wojkowski is an Assistant Professor in the School of Rehabilitation Science and the Director of Clinical Education for the MSc PT Program. Sarah is also currently a member of the MAC H2ope clinic Executive Council.

This is part 1 of a 2 part interview I did with Sarah about her work at McMaster University, technology in physiotherapy and her learnings through her career.


1.What's your area of work?

I'm the Director of Clinical Education for Physiotherapy at McMaster University. In this role I help coordinate student placements in the Masters of Science (Physiotherapy) program. I also teach parts of the introduction to practice courses, as well as the community based physiotherapy unit where the students look at integrating services from within the community to address population health needs.

2.What's something you've recently learned that you're really excited to implement into your work?

You're going to laugh but it's the use of technology. We had some funds this year from the Ontario Online Institute that has allowed us to develop an online learning course. We're in the process of finishing up 5 e-learning modules specific to physiotherapists. It's been quite a process to learn how to use the technology and to understand how to best harness an online platform to help students learn and solidify concepts. We're looking forward to rolling them out in the fall and following this up with focus groups to improve upon the e-modules. Anyone who wants to participate in the e-modules can access them because the Ontario Online Institute is a public resource.

3.What does the next year of your professional life look like?

I hope to finish my PhD - my target is the Spring of 2016.

One of my goals in the clinical education program is to continue to diversify the opportunities our students have while they're on placement - we've really started to focus on concepts called role emerging placements where students will be in atypical placement settings for 6 weeks. These placements can be in health policy, research, program development, needs analysis and maybe a placement could take shape with healthSwapp down the road. This helps demonstrate what a physiotherapist can do to contribute to healthcare and health policy. This also helps students see broadly outside of the traditional roles of where a physiotherapist can practice.

4.What's one course or event that you're planning to attend in the next year that you're really looking forward to?

I always go to the Ontario Physiotherapy Association's InterAction and this year it's in Toronto! I always look forward to going to see what's happening in the province, seeing what colleagues are up to and hearing about their innovations.

Digging In

1. What has been one big 'Aha' moment that has helped shape your professional life?

My 'Aha' moment was when I realized that there was an area of practice that I was better suited for, even though I initially thought it might have been something different. We go through our training, prep and early career seeing ourselves in one area but in reality it may be something different that we're best suited for.

During the early parts of my careers I kept thinking that I was looking for something different in an area I thought I was always supposed to practice in. When I took a leap of faith and changed settings, all of a sudden I felt that this is where I'm supposed to be.
I had to explore a different role and be ok with the fact that it's not where I initially envisioned where I was supposed to be.

2. What's something that you learned the hard way that you would like to share with others?

Be patient - at times you have an end goal envisioned and you struggle with why you can't achieve it right away. If you're patient and keep plucking away at it, in the end you'll get there. It's not a natural tendency for me to be patient so I've had to learn to sit back and take things step by step. For example, patience has been essential while I've been completing my PhD part time.

3. What's the most valuable piece of advice you've ever received?

Trust your instinct - if you're really wrestling with it and you're trying to make yourself fit into a situation or an environment then step back and look at why. Use that to help guide your decisions. Take your time to think and to listen to where you need to go. Appreciate all of the pieces around you to make that decision.

4.What's one book that you think other practitioners/students should read?

Registered Physiotherapist
Co-Founder at healthSwapp