Emily Spargo is a Psychology student at the University of Victoria. In 2019 she was nominated for UVic’s Co-op student of the year for her eight-month work term in the Education and Research department of Victoria Hospice. Describing her responsibilities at Victoria Hospice, Emily told ACE-WIL;

“My role was quite diverse as I worked on a number of research projects, education programs, and community engagement initiatives. I was deeply involved as a research assistant, while also supporting the groundwork, presentation and facilitation of education programming for healthcare providers and activities for the public. Additionally, I was responsible for administrative tasks such as the online bookstore and the processing of copyright requests for clinical tools created by Victoria Hospice professionals.”

A lot of people might be put off by working at a hospice. It seems like a place that would be very emotionally draining to work in. But Emily’s experience was quite the opposite;

“The circumstances in which one arrives at my workplace are not widely seen as positive, this is true. Death is an uncomfortable topic for most people in my experience, a taboo that carries a reputation of darkness. Hospice strives to make the end of life a smooth, comfortable transition, one that is peaceful, normalized, and filled with warmth. I was aware of the impact Hospice had on families that I knew, and it excited me to potentially be part of such a caring environment. As I applied for the job, I was nervous that my empathic nature would be overcome with emotion, however, this was not the case at all. I am humbled to have seen the day-to-day operations of Victoria Hospice, and can tell you that it is such a joyous place to work. Loss and grief are difficult and sad, there is no doubt. But everyone at Hospice loves what they do, and they are immensely skilled. My perspective on death and dying has shifted dramatically, and my work has ignited so much excitement for the future in caring for peoples’ mental health.”

During her work term, Emily had to take on more responsibilities after a co-worker resigned. Fortunately, her colleagues were supportive and helped her rise to meet the challenge.

“For me, it did not feel as though responsibility was thrust upon me, as I had a tight-knit and supportive team that all helped each other pick up extra work. My team was focused on working hard towards a common goal, and I was just doing my best to keep a steady pace. From a research standpoint, there was much work to be done for a time-sensitive project, but with the support of my Director the two of us completed the remaining report together and I benefitted enormously from one-on-one time working with an incredible mentor. I never felt like a junior member of the team, I was grateful to have my contributions valued and held to the same standard as any other employee.”

Though Emily faced the challenges outlined above she came away from the experience determined to pursue a career in clinical psychology and with many skills that she will be able to carry forward. She credits the work terms with teaching her about event management, public engagement and communications. Perhaps most importantly though, Emily feels she has a greater understanding of the capacity of people to show compassion to those who are in a vulnerable state. 

In 5 years’ time, Emily hopes to be in graduate school completing meaningful research towards a PhD in Clinical Psychology.