Learn Blue Skies

Published on June 17th, 2015 | from CAMH Education

Blue Skies: Ivan Silver inspires at Centennial Convocation

Dr. Ivan Silver, VP of CAMH Education, recently addressed graduates of Centennial College’s Community and Health Studies at their convocation. Here’s the full transcript, including his very useful Five Tips for Navigating a Career in Healthcare.

President Buller, Governor Vosper, fellow Dais Members, Guests and most importantly, Graduates.

Thank you very much for providing me the honor of addressing you today. Dr Karim has oriented me to the many programs under the umbrella of Community and Health Studies including all the Health and Wellness programs and Nursing programs. I am aware that your journey to get here today has been through diverse pathways. Many of you are mature students with families that you are supporting. Some of you have returned to school after many years in the work force. Others who are graduating today are already enrolled in your next academic program. Most of you will be looking for jobs in the near future. As someone who has graduated a few times including my last graduation in my mid 40’s, I aware that in the broad field of health care, that most of you will move in and out of jobs going forward and some of the younger graduates today will have at least 3 discrete and distinct careers in the future.

That is what is distinguishing careers in health care today, that work that you start with is often not where you land 10 years later. I have spent a career trying to enable others to be more than they think they can be: this includes my patients with severe and complex mental illnesses, my students, clinicians who are trying to maintain their competence in practice, and more recently, as a hospital administrator at CAMH a whole institution where we are trying to transform lives. One of favorite activities in my career has been to enable the careers of my junior colleagues from diverse health specialties. Now, I would like to try and help you, our graduates as you take the next steps in your journey.

Ivan Silver's Five Tips for navigating a career in healthcare

Here are my top 5 modest suggestions for navigating well in your careers in health care and related disciplines.

  1. Health care in the 21 century is optimally practiced in teams. Embrace this. Learn what others working around you do for a living, how it relates to your work and help them with their work because in return, they will help you succeed with your work whether you are massage therapist, a nurse or whether you work in food services. You have already learned a great deal about working with others because many of you are surrounded today by those in your family who taught you those lessons. Being able to practice and learn at work within your work based teams can be key success factor for future advancement.
  2. Related to this is the suggestion….treat your patients and clients, your co-workers and your students as though they are guests in your home. I would like to suggest that a useful way of getting this right is think of all the relationships you have in life as a Hall Of Mirrors. Every relationship you have and the quality of that relationship should ideally be mirror images of each other. I think of this often when I am with my patients and my students are watching me interact with them and also when I with my 3 year old granddaughter playing hide and seek and we are creating memories together. To be authentic, and to mirror the caring culture that we all crave, I am constantly aware of what is at stake in these interactions. Reflect on your own Hall of Mirrors – how are the relationships that you have with your parents, siblings and partners mirrored in your work relationships and the connections you have made while you have been at Centennial? Are they accurate reflections of each other? Have you got it right?
  3. We are all visitors. I have realized this more as I have gotten older. You may have the experience in the future of seeing someone work in the office that you used to work in, with the furniture that you had used. You may the experience of someone else taking over your job and changing everything that you had put in place. Life moves on. Times change. This isn’t a negative phenomena; this is a positive one. It means that while you are working in a position or role, you have an opportunity to make a difference and to leave the role or job in a better place than you found it. This modest outcome is something to celebrate. We can all make a difference and you can too!
  4. Know when to say yes and when to say no. In health care, you will be asked to do more that you signed up for. This may come in the form of joining a committee, leading a project, going the extra mile for a patient or applying for a position with increased responsibility. To grow in your role, you sometimes need to take steps to do things you are not quite comfortable taking, that are a bit out of your comfort zone. Sometimes these requests can feel like you need to be courageous and take a leap. Where you may often land by saying yes is a place where you learn something important that you can take with you. Knowing when to say no, is equally important – where it interferes with your work/life balance or takes you in a direction that is not part of the plan for your career.
  5. Be a life-long learner. For those of you who have already been in the workforce and now have returned to school by completing a diploma or certificate, you know what I am talking about.

All of you are literally being catapulted out of Centennial College with new knowledge and skills. However, within 5 short years, 50% of what you have learned in the past year or two will be out of date and you will need to continually update your skills in order to remain competent at your work. One of the best ways to do this, is through self-directed work-based learning that is organized with a peer group. If you work in a hospital, LLL will increasingly be supported through the EMR for all health disciplines.

In summary my 5 suggestions for adapting to the changing health field: Be a good team member, Remember the Hall of Mirrors and that we are all visitors, know when to say yes and be courageous and also when to say no. Be a life- long learner. These are my key messages today.

Finally, I remember so well how I felt when I graduated from the psychiatry program at U of T. It was after 13 years of post-secondary school education. I had taken an exam in the morning and found out in late afternoon that I had passed – the final step in my journey as a specialist in psychiatry. It was a beautiful day in June much like this one – blue skies, no clouds. I was driving home along the Don Valley going home to celebrate with my family when I turned on the radio and the song, Blue Skies sung by Willie Nelson was playing. I have never forgotten these words or the exhilaration that I felt:

Blue skies smilin’ at me
Nothin’ but blue skies do I see
Blue birds singin’ a song
Nothin’ but blue skies from now on

Graduates, may your journey be all about blue skies. You can make a difference in the new work you will do and you will be well remembered for it too. Good luck to all of you!!



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