Lessons from a sleep lab co-op student

Louise De Andrade is a fourth-year Psychology student, in the Arts and Business program. She shares her experience looking for a co-op in the arts and talks about her achievements and challenges during her co-op terms.

Louise’s Co-op Journey

An image of Louise Work Term 1: Louise was a research assistant at the University of Waterloo, Faculty of Engineering. She assisted in creating a Qualtrics research study and a Waterloo ethics submission for two PhD students.

Work Term 2: Louise worked at Dozr as a business development representative. She helped with administration processes and assisted in the sales of heavy equipment construction rental.

Work Terms 3, 4 and 5: Louise worked at ACCQ Sleep Labs in her third co-op term as a medical office/ technical director assistant. She carried out admirative clinical work in using Electronic Medical Records (EMR) System. She is currently also working at this company for her fourth and fifth co-op terms. Now she is a migration lead, assisting with migration from EMR to the Telus Collaborative Health Record (CHR) System. She also helps out with training and research and aims to make all current processes more efficient for the company.

After two co-op terms working in unrelated fields, Louise was determined to find a position that was in the field of psychology. She reiterates that finding a job in the field of arts can be difficult, however, you shouldn’t give up on your search for the right co-op position.

Q and A with Louise

An image of Louise Q: What is your biggest accomplishment in a co-op position so far?

A: “My biggest accomplishment was during my current role at ACCQ Sleep Labs. Managing a companywide record tracking system transfer was a lot of responsibility. Not only did I have to spend weeks on researching the back ends of the system but I also had to shadow all my colleagues in the office to learn their roles in order to ensure the system had the capabilities catered for their day to day work. Additionally, I had to spend time making a detailed training manual to assist my colleagues in the migration. There was a lot of work and research that went into not just creating the guide, but also implementing it in the office. I feel proud of myself for getting to that point without letting the small things fluster me.”

Q: What are some obstacles you have faced during co-op?

A: “One of my biggest challenges during my current co-op term has been the implementation stage of the migration. The company has been using the current EMR system for over 20 years therefore there was some resistance from people about moving systems. However, I was very empathetic towards their concerns as change can be difficult. During the training process I noticed that some colleagues needed extra assistance in the move, particularly the more mature colleagues. To combat this and make it easier for everyone, I offered 1v1 additional help and recorded videos of myself performing the new procedures on the new system so everyone could follow along. Others found the migration rewarding with the new technological features and were able to switch systems more seamlessly.”

“Another challenge I faced during this co-op term was juggling many demands. I had to learn the new system from scratch, customize it for our office and make training guides. I was given a relatively short timeline to get the system up and running. Our official launch date was supposed to be February 2023, but we were only able to launch in March even though I started working on the project in late December. Being organized, honest, and motivated really helped me throughout this period.”

An image of Louise Q: Do you have tips on staying organized during a work term?

A: “For the most part I work independently. I have my own office and there is no one constantly checking on me to see if I am getting my work done. For me being organized has a lot to do with self-regulation and the intrinsic desire to work. Another good asset for staying organized is time management. Having goals, a task list and prioritizing tasks helped me stay on track. This way, I could understand how far along I was on the project and didn’t leave things on the backburner. The desire to finish the ‘to do’ list helped me stay motivated and focused for long periods of time. Lastly, when I had times nearing burn out, I took time to take a break, work on a less demeaning task and even would go on walks to give my mind a break”

Q: Do you have any advice for first time co-op students?An image of Louise

A: “I did not start my first co-op until a month into the term, so I understand the pressure of not having found a co-op. My advice would be to not give up. If you have a passion for something, don’t stay confined to the jobs that are displayed on the given portals. Network, send emails, or make phone calls to places in fields you are interested in and if you hear back, start a conversation with them. These conversations not only could land you a job but can also point you in the right direction or provide valuable information in your field that you may not get from a classroom. I also know how discouraging it can feel to be interviewed for a position but not selected, but don’t let that dishearten you. Use all of this as a learning experience. Now you know what to do, and what not to do.”

“If you don’t find a co-op position that is related to your degree, don’t let that impact your decision on choosing it. My first co-op was in the engineering department and it was very far off from psychology. However, I learned technology, research and soft skills that are helping me tremendously now and additionally I have some great academic contacts I can use in the future.” 

An image of LouiseQ: What’s next for you?

A: “If I continue this path, I can become a registered polysomnographic technologist. In Canada there aren’t a lot of programs for sleep, but I am still interested in doing a master's in psychology and continuing my research in sleep. For now, I am looking for a master’s in researching sleep psychology. I am also interested in the business side of this field, specifically the privatization of sleep care and improving the patient care process, which would be a good area for me to explore in the future.”

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