With 25-years of experience in the healthcare industry, 18 of which have been in an Occupational Health and Safety capacity, Michele Chase has a thorough understanding of the complex challenges involved in providing safe work environments for health care practitioners. “Healthcare is generally quite resistant to traditional WorkSafe, or worker’s compensation prevention plans because of a perception that the regulations are industry-based, and don’t apply to them,” she says. “Healthcare professionals work with people, not machines.”
In her current role as Occupational Health and Safety Officer at the British Columbia Nurses Union, Michele advocates for the 43,000 nurses of BC. OHS programs use a hierarchy of controls to mitigate risk and work toward resolving safety issues. “One of the mitigation strategies is to eliminate the risk. You can’t eliminate all the risks in healthcare; for example, in violence prevention, we can’t eliminate our patients”, she says. Healthcare workers are often subjected to violent situations as part of their working conditions, and without the ability to remove the risk, Michele supports healthcare workers to determine causational factors and corrective actions, helping employers avoid blaming the worker and looking at ways to improve the working environment going forward.
The Advanced Certificate in Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace at UFred is designed for those working in supervisory positions within occupational health and safety units, human resource departments, and departments responsible for implementing workplace health and safety strategies. With Michele’s strong occupational health and safety background, and role in advocacy for healthcare workers, she knew this was a necessary next step in her educational journey.
“The Occupational Health and Safety education currently taught in most of the colleges and universities is very much external environment cause and effect driven,” says Michele. Her Advanced Certificate in Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace from the University of Fredericton (UFred) has allowed her to merge her OHS education with a psychological component to help reduce the risk and advocate for healthcare workers:
“You can’t easily apply the traditional industry occupational health and safety practices into the health care environment. So, the Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace philosophy bridges that human factor gap by building on safety culture in healthcare. We can use the Psychological Health and Safety Standard to compel the employer to look at other causation factors rather than blaming the worker.”
Completing her studies at UFred proved ideal for Michele. She needed a program that would fit her schedule with the demands of work and family. The UFred online platform helped give Michele the “confidence that whenever I log in to do what I want to do, read something, or download a resource, that’s it’s there, it’s available for me,” she said. The lessons she learned, she could apply real-time in her work.
She’s eager to contribute her part to the development of a strong safety culture for healthcare workers in BC. “I think we’ve got a pretty good patient safety network,” she says and acknowledges that there is a need for “strong worker safety, not just the physical safety of the environment, but the psychological safety of workers who are in really difficult working conditions.” All health employers have agreed to implement the Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace National Standard by 2019, and Michele is ready to assist with her UFred education.
“I’m one of those people that are going to be a lifelong learner. I’m not a full-time student, I hold a full-time job, but I’m a lifelong learner,” Michele enthusiastically states. She is confident in the quality of education she has received at UFred and is a current student of the Sandermoen School of Business at UFred, working toward her Master of Business Administration with a specialty stream in Health and Safety Leadership.