May 25, 2023 | News

Reprinted from Providence Care News

The next generation of health care professionals are gaining hands on experience through a unique partnership with St. Lawrence College. The “Living Classroom,” located at Providence Manor long-term care home, is an innovative educational experience that sees personal support worker (PSW) students learning in a functioning, long-term care home. The collaboration with Providence Manor PSWs is leaving lasting impressions.

“PSWs play an extremely important role in the health care system, especially in long-term care. Our partnership with the college provides an excellent opportunity for our staff to share their knowledge with the future generation. Housing this program at Providence Manor offers an increased level of engagement between students, staff, residents and their loved ones,” says Stacy Jowett, Providence Manor’s Coordinator of Student Placement and Recreation.

PSW students have the opportunity to participate in all aspects of the program in a classroom located in the lower level of the home – from theory, to labs and clinical placements. Launched in December 2019 and led by post-secondary educators from St. Lawrence College, hundreds of PSW students have gained the highest level of hands on learning possible at Providence Manor. The opportunity to learn how to deliver care in a compassionate and caring manner helps ensure students are well prepared to enter the workforce.

“Our relationship with Providence Care and this program is very important to the College. This living classroom model allows students to develop their skills but also their relationships with residents and staff, while completing their training. They become part of the team, even before they graduate. This “on the spot”, real time opportunity to practice skills and interact with staff results in graduates who already feel part the organization and have shown they are more likely to stay and further their career with Providence Care. It is a win- win situation for all involved,” says Dr. Barb Le Blanc, Dean, Health and Wellness at St. Lawrence College.

A distinct feature of the living classroom is the real-time opportunities students have to practice skills, both clinical and relationship based, having resident home areas easily accessible from the classroom. What students learn in lab can be practiced on the resident home areas the same day, rather than waiting for clinical placement towards the end of the semester. This feature of the program builds confidence early on and reinforces learning that might otherwise be lost due to delays in practical learning at placement.

Kelly Thompson is a PSW who has worked at Providence Manor for 28 years. She is a preceptor for PSW students and her role is critical in their success. Each student is matched with a staff member like Kelly who provides mentorship and supervision to students, while guiding them with the skills and knowledge to meet their learning objectives.

“I remember my first day at Providence Manor and how nervous I felt. I want students to feel comfortable and happy with their career choice of becoming a PSW. Students are bringing new perspectives to the home and they are so willing to help and learn. Plus, the residents receive extra one-on-one time, which is also teaching them the other side of being a PSW – how to socially engage with the people you are caring for,” explains Kelly.

The living classroom initiative is a win for recruitment and retention at the home as well. Many living classroom PSW students are hired at the home immediately following graduation.

“By providing the appropriate time and attention to supporting these students like Kelly does, ultimately we are fostering a great learning environment and making students feel comfortable and at ease. They know the home well and they have already built relationships with staff and residents. It’s a no-brainer for them to start their career here with us and what these students are bringing to the table is really fun and exciting,” says Stacy.

And it’s not just PSWs that are completing placements at Providence Manor. Student placement opportunities at the home have expanded significantly over the past two years. Placement opportunities for students now include spaces for those learning to become Registered Practical Nurses, Registered Nurses, Behavioural Technologists, Music Therapists, Registered Dietitians and Recreation Therapists.

In 2022, 100 students completed a placement at the home; 30 of which were living classroom, PSW students. Providence Manor is proud to offer a rich and interactive learning environment.

Preceptors like Kelly are paving the way for the next generation of health care workers and teaching them a few time saving tricks to help them on their journey. Kelly’s advice to students is to stick with it – being a PSW can be one of the most rewarding careers!