Jae Yon Jones is an alumna of the Master of Health Administration program at JSGS. (Photo: Submitted)
Jae Yon Jones is an alumna of the Master of Health Administration program at JSGS. (Photo: Submitted)

From laboratory medicine to public policy: on a mission to improve long-term care quality

Jae Yon Jones spent more than 20 years as a clinical laboratory technologist at a small hospital in Comox. For almost 10 of those years Jones was in charge of the microbiology department, leading her team while continuing to do clinical work. During the planning phase of a new hospital build in the community, Jones began exploring further education.

“I really liked systems and project work and managing people,” Jones said. 

When she came across the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy’s (JSGS) online Master of Health Administration (MHA) program, it looked to be a great fit. 

“The program was life-changing for me,” said Jones, who is now Long-term Care Director for quality assurance and contract monitoring at Island Health on Vancouver Island. “At that time in my life, being a mom of two very active children, even with managing my daughter’s soccer team, and a very supportive husband, the delivery model of this program seemed well-suited for me.” 

Jones was just a three-minute walk to work and was able to start her coursework as soon as she came home. 

“JSGS was just the perfect model for being able to work as a full-time professional and integrate study off hours due to the asynchronous delivery,” said Jones, who was one of the early graduates from the program and one of the first to complete the internship placement program. “It was enriching to meet health-care professionals from across the country, and even globally.” 

She said being able to learn and understand other people’s jurisdictional responsibilities and in other sectors of health-care was invaluable. 

“A nephrologist was in my cohort, and we had a very robust discussion and debate about healthcare topics and then when we met in person, we had a good laugh about these discussions and he said I was one of the few who he enjoyed debating with,” said Jones.  

The program also gave Jones a chance to look at the bigger healthcare picture. Shortly after Jones was finishing her MHA at JSGS, the building of two new hospitals were almost complete in the north part of Vancouver Island. Jones applied and landed the senior project coordinator position for North Island Hospitals Transition Team. Jones was responsible for organizing and preparing for site readiness for various program partners such as human resources, volunteer resources, food services, information technology hardware, logistics, maintenance, and supply chain coordination, and coordinating the various parties who needed to be on site to prepare for opening day, among other project duties. 

“I was part of the team responsible for supporting different programs for site readiness and also coordinating large groups of people, equipment and hardware to come together to get the hospitals ready and transition into the new buildings,” she said. “Never before have two new hospital builds occurred concurrently with opening day being three weeks apart. It was an honour to be part of history in healthcare for this project. I used what I learned in my degree program to apply a more systemic lens on different deliverables.” 

She said managing a full-time job, a home life and doing a degree program all at the same time is like completing a large project. 

“The course selection of the MHA program was very relevant and informative for key healthcare policy and systems thinking, there was expectation for engaged discussion and regular posting. The experience was intense due to the content and timelines to participate but so enriching in making you think beyond your scope of previous knowledge and experience. I really enjoyed how this master's program made you think broader and dive deeper into certain issues and topics by researching relevant information to make your posts stimulate more robust conversations.” 

Jones was accepted to an internship with the Ministry of Health in Saskatchewan in 2016 where she was assigned to research how health authorities were addressing emergency department transfers for seniors. This work helped her decide the next direction her career would take and landed her current position. 

“I knew in my heart that I wanted to work in long-term care to provide dignity and respect for people in their last phase of life,” she said.   

Her first long-term care position was managing a 100-bed facility in Campbell River. She was then seconded to do COVID-19 prevention work when the pandemic hit full-force. When her current job became available two years ago, she was well-positioned to move into the role of overseeing quality in 60 long-term care homes, 17 owned and operated by Island Health and in addition, monitoring contract compliance for 43 affiliated care homes that have publicly funded beds in private care homes. 

“This is a new role in long-term care so setting the quality framework was new in the first year,” said Jones, who still has COVID-19 response duties and added clinical operations oversight, on top of her regular work.  

Jones has also contributed at the provincial and national level looking at standards on operations, infection prevention and control. She is now involved the development of a new national standard for mental health and wellbeing in long-term care and assisted living. Her ‘Appropriate Use of Antipsychotics Initiative’ submission to improve quality of care and quality of life for persons living with dementia in long-term care, in partnership with Healthcare Excellence Canada and the B.C. Patient Safety and Quality Council, has garnered interest from almost 40 LTC homes.  

Jones said she is focused on improving person-centred care in long-term care homes, focusing not just on the clinical aspect, but also the social aspects of what residents and families need. 

“We now have a new regional resident and family-led councils network with the goal to have a council at every single care home to build a stronger voice for residents and families,” said Jones, who has been known to share inspirational stories and jokes with people - even writing poetry. 

These groups get together to hear what systemic issues need to be addressed and communicate that back to the Ministry of Health. 

“We can drill down to the care-home level to make sure transformation happens,” said Jones, who added that the courses at JSGS have been relevant in taking on all of these challenges. “The knowledge I acquired and the mentoring I received from the professors has paid insurmountable dividends. I highly recommend this program for any healthcare professional looking to expand both their own scope and healthcare improvement.”