Carving a Career Path in Geriatrics – CFN Fellow Sarah Dolsen’s Story
My name is Sarah Dolsen, and I have found so much fulfilment in my career as a nurse. More specifically, I feel my life and career have forever been impacted since finding my passion in Geriatrics and the care of older adults. I didn’t know anyone who was interested in Geriatrics when I was first starting out, and I found it challenging to find like-minded people and the right clinical opportunities that would help me build my skills in this complex field of medicine. I found the stigma and ageism frustrating, but I was driven to carve my own path to become a more knowledgeable advocate for older adults as a result of an inspiring relationship with my grandparents.
I share this initial part of my story because it is important for you to know that, if you have an interest in geriatrics, there is a much larger network out there than there used to be. The CFN is one example of the many networks out there if you are seeking a fulfilling career in geriatrics and/or up to date facts and information.
I was driven to carve my own path to become a more knowledgeable advocate for older adults as a result of an inspiring relationship with my grandparents.
After completing my Masters of Nursing at the University of Toronto in 2012, I became a Clinical Nurse Specialist and Geriatric Emergency Management (GEM) Nurse at Northumberland Hills Hospital in Cobourg, ON. In this role, I provided geriatric assessment and consultation for older adults and their families in the Emergency Department (ED). It was in this role where I dove deep into the complex world of frailty, and observed the impact that frailty has on older adults living in the community. I want to take this opportunity to thank the countless older adults, the devoted family/friend caregivers, the community service providers, and the mentors that I met along the way taught me what it truly meant to be a geriatric nurse.
After several years of developing an expertise in GEM nursing, I wanted to take all of my learnings and apply them in a way that would give back to the field of geriatrics. I felt that I could contribute through research. I began my PhD journey in the Aging and Health Program at Queen’s University, under the supervision of Dr. Kevin Woo. I became a CFN Interdisciplinary Fellow in 2018 and that is where I was able to develop unique leadership skills, network across Canada with a group of inspiring women, and narrow my research interest in frailty. My research interest is to understand how clinicians provide care to older adults with frailty in the ED, using Constructivist Grounded Theory.
I now have paired my background in clinical geriatrics with academia, and both perspectives have highlighted a gap in the field of geriatrics. There is a lack of support for family and friend caregivers of older adults. As a result of this gap, I have found my role starting to shift more towards Knowledge Translation activities. With all of these elements rounding out my career, I had the experience and interest to carve a new career path in Quality Improvement while maintaining self-employment as a Knowledge Translation Specialist.
I now have paired my background in clinical geriatrics with academia, and both perspectives have highlighted a gap in the field of geriatrics.
Since carving this new path, I have worked on contract with the Regional Geriatric Programs of Ontario, and the Ontario Caregiver Organization to support the co-design and implementation of online education for caregivers across Ontario. I am currently working part-time as a Quality Improvement Specialist at NHH in Cobourg, ON.
I would strongly encourage you to carve your own path if you have an interest in pursuing a career in geriatrics, and there will be many individuals and groups ready support you along your way. I thank CFN for supporting my interests and helping me carve my path.