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Board Q&A

The College couldn’t function without the leadership shown by its Board of Directors. Why have people decided to participate and further the ideals of public protection and self-regulation? We talked to current and recently departed Board members about their motivations, lessons and advice about service.

Why did you decide to run?

Heather McFarlane, new Council member in District 5:

“It’s a new challenge, and an honour to serve on a regulatory body. I appreciate that I can practice occupational therapy in Ontario, and thought it’s a way to give back. You’re charged with protecting the public across the province. The scope is longer than anything I’ve been involved with.”
Stephanie Schurr, new Council member in District 6:

“As a profession, we need to show the public that when you’re working with a registered OT you can know they’re safe and following a high level of standards. In that way, I feel I’m giving back to the profession by making sure it’s the best it can be.”
Teri Shackleton, new Council member in District 3:

“Over my occupational therapy career, I’ve experienced the introduction of self-regulation for our profession in 1991 and the growth of trust over the last 28 years. I’ve admired the strong leadership of our professional members who’ve sat at the Council table to make sound and fair decisions, and am very appreciative of the opportunity to contribute to the work of the Council.”

How do you see the College’s role as the stewards of the standards for the profession?


“The College is the keeper, and that’s how they judge concerns and complaints. But of course the standards are ours as professionals. We have to bring the standards up, and make them accessible and evident to all.”
Shannon Gouchie, former Council member:

“It’s important to ensure that the standards are very reflective of practice, based on what practice looks like, and very readable too.”
Peter Shenfield, public member:

“The fact that there are standards, and an organization that upholds them, is important for the public to understand.”

What are the most valuable things you’re learning from your Council experience?


“As a clinician, you’re often thinking of the College as someone who’s making you check off boxes of what you have to do. Where are those ideas and bylaws coming from, to protect the public? I find that interesting.”

“I learn a lot about leadership and teamwork. It also fosters greater pride in what you do every day. Helping people understand why the policies exist is important. We’re working together for the common good. That’s why we go into health care.”

What are you most proud of from your time on Council?

Jane Cox, former Council President:

“The number of structures we put in place to ensure the standards we hold members to are current and evidence-based. The work we did to promote transparency to the public was also a significant accomplishment.
Laurie Macdonald, former Council member:

“The chance to make an impact on the quality of standards with which we work, and be on the QA Committee, was so rewarding.”

How has your time on Council had an influence on your own work as a professional?

Macdonald: “It has contributed to who I am as an OT. I can bring a more well-rounded knowledge to my Quality Practice Council at work. It has also made me a better advocate for clients.”

Self-regulation is a partnership with the public. As a public member, what views and experiences do you bring to the table?

Shenfield: “I was an executive recruiter for a management consulting firm, then had my own company. I’ve also been an active volunteer for close to 30 years. I looked at many opportunities, and wanted to do something I could bite into. When I volunteered with an HR association, we started to develop standards for the profession. We dealt with a lot of issues that aren’t dissimilar from the Colleges. Seeing how a regulator evolves was interesting to me. Having been in business, I also understand the financial side.”

Why is the professional and public partnership so important on Council?

Gouchie: “It’s a respectful relationship, and I think an essential one. When we’re going through the weeds of a standard, for instance, the professional members know what the profession is all about and impart that knowledge. Conversely, we sometimes get caught up in those weeds, and need to appreciate how the public will respond. It’s a really nice synergy.”

What are some of the most important skills to have to serve on Council?


“Being a critical thinker, not afraid to question.”

“A willingness to ask why and how is this helping to protect the public. We need to ensure there is the oversight to ask these questions.”

“A longstanding commitment to the importance of inquiry and innovation in continuous quality improvement to health services.”

What challenges do you see ahead for Council?

Shackleton: “Over the course of my three-year term on Council, it’s very possible that there will be significant change in the governance structure of professional regulation in Ontario. I feel strongly that COTO is as prepared as it can be, for this potential paradigm shift. The recent work that has been done to review COTO’s Values forms a strong foundation for Council and College staff to work together to protect the public in times of change.”

What do you want your peers to remember about self-regulation?


“We’re not just doing a job. We are occupational therapists – and it’s a privilege to be that. We’re entrusted to do what’s in the best interests of the people that we serve.”

“As a clinician busy with the everyday demands of your job, it’s easy to become removed from the work of COTO, and take the privilege of professional self-regulation for granted. I believe there are many rewarding opportunities to be actively involved with the Council to contribute to occupational therapy’s professional commitment to advance the safety and quality of care to our patients.”