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Sarah McBain helps families become better prepared

By Alena Boczek

Sarah McBain is Manager of the Family Centre which includes a large health information collection and a children’s library. She holds a master’s degree in Information Studies from University of Toronto and earned her bachelor’s degree at Dalhousie University in 2002, completing an advanced double-major in International Development Studies and Spanish. She is currently completing a Certificate in Project Management at the U of TPhoto of Sarah McBain smiling School of Continuing Education. Before joining SickKids in 2010, she was Librarian, Patient Education & Survivorship Programs, at Princess Margaret Hospital.

Kelly McMillen, Director of the Learning Institute, says McBain’s work directly supports SickKids’ vision. “SickKids is dedicated to supporting the education of our patients and their families, and through her leadership of the Family Centre, Sarah plays an integral role in helping to ensure that families have access to the health information that they need.”

Tell us about an initiative that you are working on to support learning at SickKids.

As the Manager of the Family Centre, my job is focused around education and support of SickKids patients and families. There are two main educational components to the Centre – health information and the children’s library. On the health information side of things we help parents find information about their child’s medical condition. By empowering them with information, they can feel more prepared to participate in and make decisions about their child’s care. In the children’s library we have a collection for kids and youth of all ages to support their learning and recreational needs.
I also work closely with the team from AboutKidsHealth to develop patient education materials for families. I love working with staff to help them transform a brochure full of medical jargon into something written in plain language that can truly help families take care of their kids.

How does learning make SickKids a better place?

There are so many opportunities for learning at SickKids and I think it really does shape the organization. It makes people feel supported and valued, from both a family and staff perspective. Families, who know that we encourage their education and support their needs, will have a better experience here. Also, our staff know that if they want to improve their skills and become better at their jobs, SickKids will support them. Learning is entwined in the fabric of our organization and I think people experience that on a daily basis.

Which education initiative at SickKids inspires you?

The AboutKidsHealth project is a wonderful initiative. By harnessing the knowledge and expertise of SickKids clinicians, the team has created a patient education tool that can help families all over the world.

What makes working at SickKids special?

Working at SickKids is so rewarding – seeing the positive impact that education and support have on families every day. We may not be able to make their child’s illness disappear or stop them from worrying about it, but we can help them become better prepared to deal with whatever may happen on their journey. That’s an amazing reason to come to work every day.

How do you think education will change in the future?

Advances in technology can be especially exciting for education in the hospital setting, both from a patient/family and staff perspective. In the future, I can imagine our patients participating in their home classrooms through web-cams and instant messaging. And, I can see staff using tablets at the bedside for patient education – in fact, some of that is already happening here at SickKids.

Who was your all-time favourite educator and why?

My all time favorite educator was one I read about in one of my favorite plays, The Miracle Worker, which is about Helen Keller, a girl who was blind and deaf, and her teacher Anne Sullivan. Ms. Sullivan wouldn’t give up on Helen and she found a way to teach her to communicate and live a satisfying life as an author and public figure. It is an inspiring story that shows us that people have an amazing capacity to learn – if they are taught by someone who cares.

Learn more about the Family Centre