“Jobs of the Future” is a series focusing on career paths, local job opportunities, programs, and tales of success that highlight North Bay's diverse job market.
There is always going to be a need for more people who understand health and medicine, and Mabel Plourde-Doran is passing along her passion and expertise to that next wave of professionals.
Plourde-Doran is a Professor at Canadore College in the Occupational Therapist Assistant and Physiotherapist Therapist Assistant Program.
“I know it sounds cliché, but since I started teaching, it's one of those things where you wake up and you actually love going to work every day,” she says.
“The students are amazing and they are passionate about learning in this field.”
Plourde-Doran has been at the college in a part-time role since 2014, but it became a full-time job in 2019.
“I always wanted to be a teacher, but in grade 12 I wanted to be a math teacher and was going to pursue that degree,” she says.
“At the time, my sister Agnes was in the Phys Ed. program at Nipissing University and just spoke so highly of that program.
“I decided that I would follow in Agnes’ footsteps and switched over. Once I got there, I knew I still wanted to be a teacher and I thought maybe doing Phys Ed and Math would be my teachable subjects.”
However, after a placement with a physiotherapist, Plourde-Doran decided that was what she wanted to do.
“I knew that there was a challenge to that, and that was attractive and I felt that it could be the right pathway for me. Every year in the Phys Ed. program I did placements with physiotherapists. After graduating with that degree I ended up going to Western University to earn my Masters Degree,” she said.
While still at Western, Plourde-Doran got offered a job in North Bay.
“Martin Payne at Manual Physio Solutions called me and offered me the job and at the time, my husband was finishing his Masters of Education at Nipissing and so that just made it an easy decision to settle in North Bay.”
The Kapuskasing, Ontario native says, “There’s always been something special about North Bay and I knew that’s where I wanted to be. It’s pretty central to both our families and growing up in a small town, North Bay always felt like the big city to me.”
While she found a job in her field, Plourde-Doran says that her passion to teach never left her and an opportunity came up at Canadore College shortly after her graduation.
“Canadore, at the time, had a program for Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists Assistants and so I reached out to the coordinator and pitched my vision of being able to teach one or two courses within that program,” she says.
“For five years, I taught anywhere between one to five courses a semester. There were a few crazy years where I was acting coordinator and teaching up to 18 hours a week and holding down a full-time job at Manual Physio Solutions. That was before I had kids though!”
Plourde-Doran says, “Even though I love working with clients and being out in the clinics, I feel like I can be even more valuable teaching students and helping convey my passion to them and pass along everything I can.”
She still does a couple of hours a week at the clinic on top of teaching full-time.
“That’s one of the beautiful things about getting into physiotherapy and why it’s so appealing. There are so many possibilities,” says Plourde-Doran.
“You graduate with a Masters Degree, so right there that opens so many doors. Within Physiotherapy itself, there are many different settings you can work in such as hospitals, clinics, and schools. You can work with different demographics of people too, which is nice because people will go to school thinking they want to work in one area and they learn about all these other places they can end up.”
Plourde-Doran says while the last two years have been a challenge for everyone due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the students have stayed resilient and excited about their education.
“The biggest issue has been with placements for the students. But that’s an issue right across the board,” she says.
“For the classes themselves, the students have been amazing at adapting and being flexible with schedules changing at the last minute and doing things online. All the theory content for the past two years has mostly been delivered online. And at the same time, Canadore College has done a tremendous job in creating a safe place so we can do all the practical learning on-site still.”
Plourde-Doran says there are also students who enroll in the program knowing the only thing they want to do, is find a way to help people.
“A lot of students will come in and not know what occupational therapy is and once they learn about it they fall in love with doing that,” she says.
“We typically get students who want to work in health care and have an idea of physiotherapy. But most don’t come here knowing the entire scope of all the possibilities of where they can work. They want to be here just on the basis of wanting to help people in the medical field, but then they get really excited when they see those possibilities, especially while on placement and they see it all put together.”
Plourde-Doran says one of the biggest attractions to the program is the integration of The Village, health and wellness facility.
“The Village is a groundbreaking addition to Canadore College and we are an integral part of that in the rehab sciences,” she says.
“It’s amazing, they call it the future of education and there’s a lot of research that supports this model. The Village has the space for the different labs for health care professionals to work in, providing an opportunity for students to easily learn from each other. This is a wonderful model for enhanced interprofessional education. Our students collaborate with many other programs. We do events all together and the students love having that experience of learning from and working with other professions.”