Technologies and Compassionate Care

Getting to Know 2018 AMS Phoenix Fellow Dr. Gillian Strudwick

AMS would like to introduce our new 2018 Phoenix Fellow Dr. Gillian Strudwick.  Dr. Strudwick is a Project Scientist in the Information Management Group at Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Why did you decide to become a healthcare professional?

As far back as I can remember, I was interested in being a health professional as I was interested in both people, health and biology, yet I was unsure as to the specific profession I would pursue. I also wanted to ensure that whatever profession I selected was one that would be of benefit to society. After my first year of my undergraduate degree in Kinesiology, I had an opportunity to shadow a nurse in a global health context and I was amazed by the role. It was far more expansive than I had understood it to be. Upon returning from overseas, I switched into the nursing program.

What was the catalyst for your interest in compassion in healthcare?

There have been a number of moments where I have paused and reflected on compassion in healthcare. For example, I worked for a couple of years in a fast paced surgical oncology unit in an Ontario hospital. One of the things that I was initially proud of was that I could always get my work done on time (a rare ability it seemed in this setting). This included being a very efficient documenter within the electronic health record system. This environment I found to be quite stressful. The goal was to make it through the day. In this environment, I felt that I had lost my ability to provide compassionate care. I felt that the environment (workload, technology, etc.) provided a situation in which it was difficult to be person-centred and difficult to truly be present with those I cared for. These feelings ultimately led me to change employers, however these reflections have stayed with me since this time.

How were you introduced to the Phoenix Program?

I learned about the Phoenix program through several mentors of mine: Dr. Rani Srivastava, Dr. Lynn Nagle and Dr. David Wiljer. Dr. David Wiljer encouraged me to think about this topic in a more academic sense. He has offered me several opportunities to learn more about AMS, and digital compassion and is my mentor for the Phoenix Fellowship.

What inspired you to apply for a Fellowship?

I was inspired by some of the challenges that currently exist with technology and how it takes away from (or contributes to) compassion. I applied for the Fellowship as a way of being able to explore this relationship further. I am looking forward to using a specific technology (patient portal) to anchor my learning within a mental health context.

What value does being an AMS Fellow bring to you professionally?

There are multiple ways that being an AMS Fellow will support my professional development. First, I am looking forward to meeting the members of the AMS community, and learning from these inspiring people. Second, I will have dedicated time to pursue the Fellowship work, which includes both formal and informal learning that will apply to my project and beyond e.g. qualitative methods skills development.

What one little thing could we do to make our healthcare system more compassionate?

A pause. A quick moment to be present. Time for health professionals to pause with their patients. During each interaction, remember what we are here for. Perhaps this is teaching health professionals how to find calm and awareness in the chaos of our environments.

Have you ever been given advice by a patient that changed the way you practice medicine? If so, what was it?

I had a patient ask me: “What are all of you (nursing and other health professional staff) doing on the computers all the time? What about us (referring to patients)?”

About the author

Dr. Gillian Strudwick

Delivering Compassionate Mental Health Care through and with Technology …

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