Evidence to Care: From Curiosity to Evidence

Curiosity. It’s the very thing that drives Sarah Keenan each day. And that’s good, because working as a Life Skills Coach at Holland Bloorview – an emerging profession in a dynamic environment – means there is a lot to discover.

As a Life Skills Coach, Sarah helps kids with disabilities build skills to thrive in their daily lives. She specializes in helping teens transition into adulthood by focusing on preparing for post-secondary education, employment, independent living and other transition goals.

Sarah’s job has several different parts. Each week she finds herself wearing different hats as a clinician, researcher, educator and student.

Commitment to evidence-based care

As a discipline, Life Skills coaching is still in its infancy, so professionals like Sarah are working with a limited evidence base.

But Sarah is committed to changing that. In fact, Sarah’s commitment to providing evidence-based care led to her being recognized as Holland Bloorview’s 2015 knowledge translation champion.

Holland Bloorview created the Evidence to Care (EtC) team to bridge the gap between research, clinical care and policy to inform the best care for children with disabilities within Holland Bloorview and beyond. The EtC team created the knowledge translation award to recognize an employee who excels in this area.

“We owe it to our clients and families to guarantee that our care has some kind of evidence base behind it,” Sarah explains.

Sarah’s professional commitment, along with formal and informal mentorship from scientists and the EtC team, inspire her to keep evidence at the forefront of everything she does. “When you work with Holland Bloorview scientists, you immediately understand that bringing evidence to care is top-of-mind at all times,” Sarah says. “Knowledge translation is a key priority for what the scientists are doing every day and, in everything I do, I constantly ask ‘How does this affect our clients and their goals?’”

Sarah has put her knowledge translation to work creating educational videos, developing comic strips and offering workshops that help clients and families understand key concepts in an accessible way. But she is proudest of the work she has done on friendship, a project that responds to number of clients who hesitantly approached her looking for help in making friends. “Initially, I was worried because I didn’t know the evidence base, but I knew it was significant enough that we had to do something. We did a search and found one intervention, albeit with a small evidence base. We adapted this research and created a clinically-based intervention to better meet the needs and challenges of our clients,” Sarah explains. As an innovative area with meaningful outcomes, the friendship project has the potential to truly improve life for youth with disabilities.

The project has also changed Sarah’s practice by bringing full circle the challenge, solution and evolution of practice. She now proactively asks clients and family members if they want to add friendship building to their goals.

Holland Bloorview’s knowledge translation leaders transform care through evidence, knowledge generation and translation. With champions like Sarah, kids with disabilities have a healthy and vibrant future ahead of them.