I have always known that working with people in order to better the health of the community is what I wanted to spend my life doing, and I was confident that the field of public health would enable me to pursue my passion. So, as a student of the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at the University of Saskatchewan, I was delighted to leave for Regina, Sask., in early summer 2016 to begin my 12-week practicum with the Community Care Branch (CCB) of the Ministry of Health. I was excited to start this new chapter in my public health journey, as this practicum strongly aligned with my interests in further understanding and exploring the field of health policy.
The practicum experience allowed me to delve deeper into the process of health policy integration and put the core competencies of public health into use. To facilitate my learning, I completed various activities, such as conducted a quality control analysis of all the Long-Term Care (LTC) facilities in Saskatchewan, implemented resident and family surveys on a survey platform, as well as created a summary report of individualized funding for autism programs available in Canada.
These activities enabled me to effectively communicate with Regional Health Authorities from different provinces, and identify the health concerns that exist within LTC facilities across Saskatchewan. I had the privilege to attend various health meetings within the CCB and, most memorably, the Saskatchewan health budget meeting, where I got to experience first-hand how the province’s health budget was allocated.
The most significant experience of my practicum was the research report that I put together, which involved developing and integrating policy recommendations for ventilator dependent clients in Saskatchewan. Collating this report allowed me to understand the issues faced by ventilator clients in the province and collaborate with colleagues to get different perspectives and gain knowledge. Furthermore, it allowed me to use my assessment and analytic skills, as well as advocate for healthy public policy.
This practicum was an amazing opportunity, as it was the first time I felt like I had the opportunity to explore the public health field and gain practical work experience. I established strong relationships with colleagues and was able to showcase my leadership and advocacy skills. This experience also helped me define myself and has positively contributed to my personal and professional development as a student.
I am very grateful to my practicum supervisor, Ginny Lane, senior policy and program consultant at the Ministry of Health, for her encouragement and guidance throughout this process and for making this opportunity possible. I am also honoured to have received the Dr. James Rossiter MPH Practicum Award through the CIHR Institute of Population and Public Health. Receiving this award has provided me with the financial support I needed throughout my practicum. I hope the next steps in my public health journey will be enhanced by the knowledge gained through this experience, both personally, and as a future public health practitioner.
By Arathi Arun, MPH candidate.