Caitlin Schultz’s Journey to a New Area of Healthcare

By Emma Kushnir, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

Caitlin Schultz’s career has progressed into something even more exciting than she had originally pictured. She attended Fanshawe College from 2007 to 2010 and studied Respiratory Therapy. This is a three-year program – and the last year is all clinical work. Her placements were at University Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital and the Stratford General Hospital. After her placements ended, Caitlin secured a position as a Respiratory Therapist at University Hospital, and worked there for five years. She also worked at Stratford Hospital and Alexandra Marine & General Hospital, in Goderich, as a Charge Respiratory Therapist. 

Then Caitlin’s journey took a new direction – to a newly created position at London Health Sciences Centre: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Patient Navigator.  COPD is a disease that is 80%-90% caused from smoking and doesn’t typically onset before age 40. As a chronic condition, it can be managed, but not cured. So, patient care is based on disease management and patients need help with that.

Caitlin’s job is to work with COPD patients under the Respirology Service. A big part of her job is teaching patients.  She does patient consultations that involve education about COPD, self-management skills, community resources and discharge readiness.  After patients are discharged from hospital, she continues to follow up with them by phone to ensure smooth transitions.  Since the job is fairly new, and she is the first one to step into the role at London Health Sciences Centre, another big part involves developing projects and new initiatives.  These include things like a connecting-to-home initiative, standardizing education for COPD patients, and creating a clinical pathway for patients to follow. Caitlin is a certified respiratory educator in both asthma and COPD.  In addition to this ­– and her respiratory therapy training – she sees the special skills required for her job are patience and a genuine desire to help people improve their own lives.

Many events and people inspired Caitlin on her journey to this career. When she learned that her younger brother had asthma, and he had to get pulmonary function testing, that is when she learned about respiratory therapy. In Grade 12, she was interested in health care, but didn’t want to become a nurse.  She did some research and got her first glimpse of respiratory therapy. A neighbor worked as a respiratory therapist at Goderich Hospital, and so –  pro tip! – Caitlin job-shadowed him. This proved helpful in choosing to study Respirator Therapy in college and she felt confident and happy in the choice.

After college, the connections and experiences from University Hospital, Goderich Hospital and Stratford General Hospital, helped Caitlin decide exactly what she wanted to do.  In those organizations, she had broad experiences –  everything from acute to chronic disorders, and inpatient to outpatient settings.  When she heard about the job opportunity as a COPD Navigator, she was already doing some COPD education in Stratford – and she realized patient education interested most. It just made sense!

When asked what she loves about the job, Caitlin says that it’s “the change made with the patients, when from start to finish there is visible improvement, and satisfaction from it. It is very rewarding being able to improve patients’  experiences, and engage them in their care, especially when you can see how much more comfortable they are about going home and being at home. You really get to know some of the patients and it is so rewarding being a constant person for them in the hospital. Patients need continuity of care and integration of care.”  She also explains she loves seeing the changes in the hospital, as initiatives start to happen, and witnessing the hospital become more patient focused.

Deciding to drop everything and commit to an environment that was outside of her comfort zone was the biggest challenge in getting to where she is now. Having to give up her other jobs was hard.  Taking a jump in the hope that it would work out was huge. Caitlin had never worked at Victoria Hospital before, and it was a big decision to commute over an hour to work every day.  Further, many things that she is doing now would have intimidated her a while ago – such as all the presentations and public speaking. She worked her way into it slowly, each presentation getting a little bit bigger.

Caitlin’s advice for those interested in healthcare?  “Think outside the box when it comes to health care jobs!  There is a lot more in health care than just the front-line stuff you typically see and hear about – such specialty jobs…Definitely job shadow! You can do research, but it’s hard to know until you get into the action. So any chance you get at seeing things firsthand – take it!” 

The People Side of Voices.com: Kaitlyn’s Story

By Michelle Doyle, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

Do you ever watch a trailer or hear an ad on the radio and think to yourself “Who is that voice? Where do they get these people from?”  Wouldn’t it be nifty to have a platform for voices and businesses to connect?  Kaitlyn Apfelbeck is the Human Resources Manager for Voices.com in London, Ontario–  a global voice talent company that does exactly that!

In her role, Kaitlyn deals with all the people-related matters of the company – “the hiring, the firing, benefits, payroll, compensation, training and development, health & safety, and many other day to day responsibilities that come up.” She finds the best part of her job is the people with whom she gets to work. Even when her work piles up and gets to be a bit overwhelming, she still loves it simply because she’s working in such a fun and supportive environment.

Kaitlyn began her journey at Western University in 2007, where she entered the Bachelor Management and Organizational Studies (BMOS) Finance Program. After just one year, she knew she didn’t love accounting. This wasn’t a matter of her not doing well in the program; in fact, she was actually doing very well. Rather, it was that the human resources (HR) courses that she was taking really intrigued her. In her third year, Kaitlyn decided to follow her interest and transitioned into the HR stream of BMOS.

Although she graduated in April, 2011, Kaitlyn didn’t land her first job until November of that year. This job took quite a bit of networking to land and she was pleased in at St. Joseph’s Health Care London as an HR Assistant on a 6-month contract.   After that, Kaitlyn moved to auto parts manufacturer Takumi Stamping Canada Inc and eased her way up the manufacturing stream – from HR Assistant to HR Specialist in a short 3 years. She explains that it was during this period of time that she learned the bulk of her HR knowledge.  As she puts it (pro tip alert!) “if you ever want to learn HR inside and out, work in manufacturing. It's a very strict environment, and it helped that my manager was chock-full of HR knowledge and experiences. Some of the biggest pieces of HR info I learned was from conversations with my manager.  I was always interested in the previous situations he had found himself in and what he did about them.”

Kaitlyn knew she wanted to move further up and so she continued on her career hunt. It was then that she connected with Voices.com, and as it seems, she got extremely lucky.  “The stars were aligned for me at that time, because I landed the best job I've had in my entire life!” Kaitlyn explains her love and passion for her job as being a result of truly believing in the industry. She found it much easier to stand behind the company, as well as exert her passion and motivation simply from believing in the company.

Kaitlyn’s advice for those searching for their dream job is to realize that this won’t just happen within the first few years of graduating. “You'll make less money than you thought you would, you'll struggle, and you'll question if you're in the right industry or if you should've taken a different academic path. Trust me–  it's all worth it.”  She also discussed the importance of always trying the best you can, to ensure that previous employers have nothing but good things to say about you.

 “The world is small, and you'll likely run into those previous employers at Costco on more than one occasion – so be pleasant and humble!”