Student stories

Job shadowing at Island Health leads to co-op work term and more for health information science student

David Gu

Island Health

David Gu has made a habit of squeezing every last drop from new experiences. So when the health information science student was paired with Island Health during the 2014 “Co-op Student for a Day” contest, he didn’t hesitate to make it count.

The contest gives students the opportunity to shadow a co-op employer organization for a day to learn what it’s like to take part in co-op. Gu gave it his all, and it paid off—he later landed a co-op work term and a part-time contract with the same organization.

This ability to rise to new challenges is nothing new. When Gu first arrived at UVic, he was worried about living on his own. “It was the first time that I had been away from home and I didn’t even know how to do basic chores,” laughs Gu. “I approached this challenge as an opportunity to learn, and I quickly became quite independent.  Now I pay for my own expenses and have found a good balance between school, work and life.”

Gu was drawn to health information science because we wanted to make a tangible difference in his work. “I didn’t just want a salary. Working in this field lets me affect how health care is delivered behind the scenes—I can contribute to making things more effective and efficient and that is so rewarding.”

When Gu applied to the Co-op Student for a Day contest, he had no professional workplace experience. “Real life and textbook theory are two different things,” says Gu. “My day shadowing the teams at Island Health let me see many different facets of health information science. I saw concepts from the textbooks come to life.”

Gu shadowed three different teams during his day at Island Health:  the pharmacy team, the tele-health team and the project implementation team. “I was astounded at how different the work was in the three units,” says Gu. “They were all very receptive to my questions and took the time to show me what they were working on.”

John Bartle-Clar is a Project Lead at Island Health and was one of the staff members who welcomed Gu during his shadowing opportunity. He was impressed with Gu’s perceptive questions and interest in learning as much as he could. “You don’t normally see that in someone his age—he was interested in the mechanics of the work and how he could become an important member of the team.”

So when Bartle-Clar posted a pharmacy co-op position a few months later, he was pleased to see Gu’s name in the application pile. “We brought him in for an interview and he knocked it out of the ball park—he remembered what we had talked about.”

During his four-month co-op work term, Gu helped transition Pharmacy reports from the current system to a new domain that has new functionality. This is a huge undertaking and required Gu to process, test and validate criteria during the transfer.

“I was working on reports that will be used by health care professionals to make critical, evidence-based decisions around public safety,” says Gu.

In fact, Gu had such a positive work term that when it came to an end and the search for a new co-op student was not successful, he approached his supervisor with the suggestion that he stay on part time. Bartle-Clar agreed and Gu was able to continue working on the transfer project while also attending class.

“During my time with Island Health, I’ve tried to learn from my direct supervisors and co-workers, but I’ve also tried to connect with people beyond my immediate team. I’ve tried to take every opportunity to learn about different kinds of work.”

Bartle-Clar agrees. “David has a real technical aptitude, but he also has a genuine interest in the bigger picture. He’s been a strong addition to the office.”

As David prepared for his part-time contract to end, he is excited to bring the knowledge learned in the workplace back in the classroom and beyond. “For me, co-op is about learning about different facets of your professional future to help you get of feel for what you want,” says Gu. “I’m excited to see what’s ahead.”

The “Co-op Student for a Day” contest runs in the fall. Island Health was named the Co-op Employer of the Year for 2014. 

More about Health information science co-op