Student stories

Kinesiology student gains insight into the healthcare industry during her co-op

Camilla Briggs


My name is Camilla Briggs. I am originally from Quadra Island, and I worked in the marine industry for many years before starting my post-secondary education at the University of Victoria in Kinesiology.

Why did you choose to do co-op at UVic?

I chose to complete a co-op degree because I believe in real-world experience. There are things you cannot learn in a classroom, and there are things that work experience cannot teach you, and you must learn by attending school. Co-op is an opportunity to sample different professions without long-term commitment; it provides contacts, and references outside of the academic realm, and a co-op job reinforces the importance of the knowledge that we are gaining as students. 

The years I spent working taught me about people and teamwork. I also gained knowledge working alongside experts in the field and augmented this by pursuing continuing education in the evenings after work.

When I felt I was ready to leave the marine industry, I had no idea what went on in the world outside of boats. I thought co-op would be an excellent way to discover careers that I was not aware of and gain insight for myself in terms of what interested me. Above all, I chose to complete a co-op degree because I wanted to make sure the career I am selecting for myself would be agreeable to my personality, abilities and interests.

Where did you work for your last co-op work term?

My recent work term was with RebalanceMD, here in Victoria. It was my second work term, and I was hoping to gain some clinical experience as I am keen to work in the area of functional and mobility rehabilitation.

RebalanceMD is a brilliant model, the combination of sports doctors, orthopedic surgeons, physiatrists, nurses, physical therapists and kinesiologists produces a network of experts all in one office. These professionals collaborate to provide an extraordinary level of care. Being in this environment allowed me to learn about the inner workings of the medical system before patients make their way into a physical therapy clinic.

What were your responsibilities?

At RebalanceMD I was responsible for helping those who could not complete the medical history and symptom questionnaires online. I came to RebalanceMD the same time that a new computer system was being implemented into the office, introducing the online questionnaires. In my first few weeks I discovered glitches that were preventing some patients from successfully completing the questionnaires; these glitches were identified and fixed by the tech team. From this, I was able to better help patients trouble shoot the technical aspect of the questionnaires. I used knowledge from my kinesiology classes to help them understand various diagnosis, diseases, medications, and I explained medical terms, among other things. Feedback from patients was often gratitude for taking the time to understand their situation and listen to their story, a luxury that doctors, nurses and physical therapists don’t always have. They would tell me about concerns and fears that they would not necessarily tell the doctor in the appointment; with their permission, I would pass along information that I felt that the doctor should know.

Exposure to their background experience allowed me to have insight into the daily battles patients face with their injuries or joint degeneration. Understanding where a patient has been before they work with a kinesiologist may alter the approach taken to the patient’s rehabilitation. I learned that each person is unique in their situation; knowing what questions to ask and how to listen to a patient during their recovery is vital for successful rehabilitation.

How has co-op complemented your classroom studies?

In both of the co-op positions I have completed, I have been exposed to a wide variety of passionate and talented people that inspire me. I returned to classes with a renewed hunger for knowledge and a respect for the professionals in the industry I am studying to enter. Learning doesn’t stop when we graduate. As a professional, I anticipate being challenged every day and having to pull knowledge from my courses such as functional anatomy, biomechanics, exercise physiology and exercise prescription. I will use this information to understand movement deficits a patient is experiencing and understand how the physical therapist is working to correct movement patterns and help them recover. Additionally, upper-level science electives like medical anthropology, and determinants of health, have given me perspective on backgrounds different from my own and have helped me build empathy and rapport with people, which is vital to helping them heal in any capacity.

What have you learned on your co-op work term?

During my time with RebalanceMD I had the opportunity to talk at length with a variety of people. I learned a great deal about varying opinions regarding health and wellness as well as lifestyle choices, or lack of choice, in places I didn’t expect. I learned each person is an individual and that their motivations are specific to each of them. Motivation to heal and recover from injury, surgery or learning to cope with joint degradation is critical to the success of the rehabilitation; a professional that can help the patient access their motivations will be more effective.

What impact would you like to make?

My goal is to learn as much as I can from the professionals that I work with during my co-op work terms. The better the kinesiologist understands what the physical therapist is working toward and the techniques used the better the teamwork will be. I want to help people help themselves. Pain medications only work for a short time; a real effort is required in regaining mobility during rehabilitation. I hope that I can be the kind of kinesiologist that helps people access their inner strength and motivation to work through the difficult period of recovery.

What are your plans for your future career?

Looking ahead I hope to be the best kinesiologist a physical therapist can ask for. I want to be able to have enough knowledge that I can anticipate what the therapist is going to need in terms of support from me. I want to be able to make the patient comfortable, and I want them to know that I have their best interest in mind as I help them through what is sure to be a painful, challenging and somewhat uncomfortable stage in their recovery journey. I want to be able to listen and hear patients concerns in a way that together, we can come up with solutions. Motivation and autonomy are essential in many realms but especially important concerning health and wellness.

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