Paula Rowland PhD

Scientist – The Wilson Centre | Post MD
Assistant Professor, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Cross Appointment, Institute of Health Policy Management and Evaluation

Professional Learning in Workplaces

Paula Rowland began her healthcare career as an Occupational Therapist, primarily working with children and adults with various forms of neurotrauma. Following the opportunity to work across a continuum of healthcare services in Canada and abroad, she became interested in how the places where healthcare professionals work shape how they could work, with whom, and to what effect. This interest prompted graduate education in organizational studies, culminating in a PhD in 2013.

Starting with this enduring interest in how healthcare professionals work in organizations, Dr. Rowland contributes to the field of health professions education by exploring professional learning within clinical workplaces. In her research, Dr. Rowland uses sociocultural perspectives of learning as a way to understand and represent professional practices. She is interested in how professional learning, knowledge, and identity intersect in organizational contexts such that certain practices are sustained while others are changed.

To that end, she has two related streams of research activity. The first builds upon her doctoral dissertation work on patient safety programs and is currently taking shape as a systematic exploration of professional and organizational approaches to breakdowns in practice (e.g. mistakes, unexpected events). The second stream of research stems from her post-doctoral work and explores programs and initiatives that position patients as sources of knowledge and expertise (e.g. patient engagement programs for quality improvement, patients as educators).

Together, these two streams of research activity form a research program on professional learning in workplaces and have relevance to the fields of continuing professional development and workplace learning. Ultimately, Dr. Rowland aims to contribute to the practices of healthcare, such that the people, places, and processes of health services organizations do not exacerbate the burdens of illness, but work to contribute to the health and wellbeing of patients and publics.