UAlberta clinical educator wins national Fieldwork Educator Award of Excellence

Royal Alex occupational therapist recognized at CAOT Annual Conference in Banff

Laurie Wang - 20 April 2016

Though she's known to be passionate about occupational therapy, Cherie Henderson chose to refrain from waving her arms in the air when she found out about the award.

"It felt a little 'braggy' to run out of my office waving my arms and saying, 'I got an award!' to my team so I quietly forwarded an e-mail to my husband," Henderson chuckles.

This year's recipient of the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists' Fieldwork Educator Award of Excellence for her commitment to the MSc Occupational Therapy program at the University of Alberta's Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, Henderson has much to brag about, and people to brag for her.

"Cherie's commitment to occupational therapy (OT) clinical education is contagious! She proactively engages her whole team in fieldwork and, as a result, they have consistently and effectively mentored students from the U of A and from other OT programs across Canada," says Cori Schmitz, academic coordinator of clinical education and assistant professor, Department of Occupational Therapy.

Henderson graduated with a BSc Occupational Therapy from the University of Alberta in 1992. Currently the OT Professional Practice Lead at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, she has supervised more than 10 students and has coordinated and supported her team to supervise more than 20 student placements each year. Henderson has also been a sessional instructor and guest evaluator within the U of A MSc OT curriculum. She continues to teach in some of the program's practical courses, including content related to physical medicine, stroke, acute care and driving.

"I'm passionate about occupational therapy and love helping students and staff grow and develop," says Henderson, who recommends becoming a mentor and hosting clinical placements for students to fellow occupational therapists. "It will absolutely make you better occupational therapist! Having a student encourages you to examine your assumptions, articulate your clinical reasoning, and hopefully keeps you connected with new and emerging concepts."

The UAlberta students continue to impress Henderson with their enthusiasm and the change she sees in them when they are able to translate what they learn in the classroom to clinical practice.

"They're just so smart!" says Henderson. "Seriously, the students are so eager to take all the great academic knowledge and apply it to clinical situations. It's so great to watch them go from timid and unsure to connecting with their clients, using their skills and gaining confidence."

"Congratulations to Cherie Henderson on this well-deserved award. We value our clinical educators. They are integral to our teaching and their mentorship makes all the difference for our students who strive to emulate their preceptor mentors," says Lili Liu, chair, Department of Occupational Therapy.

"Cherie has been an invaluable resource among our Edmonton fieldwork partners, as she communicates clearly and emphasizes a team approach to creative problem-solving and student growth," says Schmitz.

Henderson's passion for OT is unwavering as she continues to encourage fellow alumni and occupational therapists to take on the clinical educator role and mentor OT students.

"Don't feel like you have to have all the answers or be the 'expert.' Students need to know as professionals, we never know all the answers and are continually growing and learning! There are lots of great resources and support out there. The clinical education team at the U of A is great and always willing to help too."

This year's CAOT Fieldwork Educator Award of Excellence will be presented at the CAOT Annual Conference in Banff this week, where UAlberta's Department of Occupational Therapy is also hosting an alumni event to celebrate OT graduates from U of A.