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Implement the Living Classroom: (7) Identify and Connect PSE Faculty and LTC Teams, (8) Integrate Curriculum and LTC Activities, (9) Define Communication and Coordination Mechanisms


Define Communication and Coordination Mechanisms

This building block refers to the process of informing all stakeholders on a regular basis to make sure that important information is exchanged on a timely basis to help organize, implement and evaluate all LC processes, resources, and services to sustain a successful LC.

From our LC experience, we value and encourage open and ongoing communication. In the LC, we have several team meetings, as well as ad hoc meetings when needed. During these meetings, resident and family councils, PSE faculty and the LTC team are included. These groups all have important contributions to make during the LC implementation and consultation meetings so it is important that everyone’s input is considered.

There are two pathways by which communication and coordination take place: formally and informally.

The formal channel of communicating and coordinating takes place between those stakeholders with decision making authority or information items that need to be documented or communicated in an official manner. In general, this type of communication provides structure, rules and accountability. Communications can be vertical and horizontal, as shown in Figure 3 below.

Diagram of communication process
Figure 3: Communication Process

The informal channel of communicating and coordinating does not follow any prescribed or official rules or procedures. Information moves freely in all directions. In any organization, this type of communication is very natural as people interact with each other about what is important at the time. Quite often, we informally communicate through emails, face-to-face conversations, and phone calls. Most of these informal conversations take place when discussing space requirements, ordering equipment for the LC, and planning out our SOPs (refer to building block 4 and building block 6).

Communication Vehicles

Below we describe some of the formal and informal communication vehicles we found useful in the LC.

Student Orientation

Orientation is more than simply telling people a few facts about the LC. Rather, it is an activity that is planned, introduces different people, and combines information, experiences, and a translation of the values and culture of the LC. The goal of an orientation is to provide students with the foundational information to learn well, and to integrate themselves into the LC initiative. In addition, an orientation brings a community together, where each and every individual is given a sense of belonging and recognition prior to starting their LC journey. Therefore, it is important for a LTC home and a PSE to collaboratively plan and host the orientation so everyone feels welcomed and onboard with the LC mission.

Handbooks and Newsletters

Handbooks and newsletters serve as another strategy to communicate and connect people. Handbooks and newsletters are important written materials because these documents share information with various people about the LC. Furthermore, these handbooks and newsletters are useful resources when people need to remind themselves or others of LC commitments, goals, and expectations. Our collaboration works with the following written materials:

Program handbook — includes information about the PSW program at the LC, the resources available to students, professional code of conduct, health and safety regulations and requirements, and information about the collaboration between the PSE and the LTC home. An example of our Student Handbook can be found online through the Conestoga College website (www.conestogac.on.ca).

LTC Team handbook — includes information on communication policies, performance evaluations, working with family and residents’ concerns, confidentiality policies, media policies, workplace violence policies, health and safety policies, social committee, and WSIB training.

Resident handbook — in addition to information about living at the Village, this handbook includes information about the collaboration between the LTC home and the PSE and the LC activities and events. Often, this handbook is given to residents and families upon admission to the LTC home.

Volunteer handbook — includes information about the role of volunteers, the Resident Bill of Rights, volunteer’s rights and responsibilities, the general safety rules and health policies of the LTC home, and codes of conduct.

Newsletter articles — are provided monthly so that residents and families, students, PSE faculty, and the LTC team and the community are aware of the activities and events taking place in the LC. To see a few examples of our monthly newsletters, please visit the RIA website (www.the-ria.ca).

Scheduled Meetings

Scheduled meetings are a formal way of communicating and coordinating the LC. Scheduled meetings serve the purpose of keeping everyone up-to-date on the current issues and status of the LC. From our experience, we hold scheduled meetings between the PSE and LTC home to discuss the following topics:

1. Keeping residents and family members engaged in the Living Classroom — Meetings are scheduled so that the PSE faculty and the LTC team can discuss opportunities to invite and engage residents and families in LC activities. Residents and families can participate in conversations with students in public spaces (i.e. café, Mainstreet, and resident rooms), assisting students with assignments, participating in classes either as a teacher or a learner, and providing feedback about student involvement in placements.

Resident and Family Councils are valuable mechanisms for engagement about the LC. Building relationships is an important part of the LC Program Coordinator’s and General Manager’s responsibilities.

2. Planning and coordinating specific activities in the Living Classroom — Several meetings are scheduled to discuss how the LC team (faculty, LTC team members) respond to and follow through with requests and commitments for the LC initiative. For example, day-to-day coordination of students in the LC is discussed with the LC Coordinator and the LTC lead. The LC Coordinator and the LTC lead meet regularly to discuss the plans per semester and develop a schedule outlining when students will visit or participate in the LTC home.

“The opportunities for students to be part of a LC have provided many students with a chance to observe and participate with health care professionals and residents. Many qualities of providing exceptional care are apparent when it is demonstrated or observed rather than just reading it in a textbook or practicing it in our clinical skills lab.”

— Marilyn Arsenault, Program Application Specialist, the Village at University Gates, Waterloo

Sharon Clarke“The students bring their experiences back to the classroom and share learning as it comes up in theory. For example, when we were learning about a tub bath in theory class, some PSW students had already observed a resident taking a bath in the home and were able to share tips with the rest of the class. What the textbook says offers a foundation, but students benefit from having ‘real-world’ experience that allows them to start problem solving early-on.”

— Sharon Clarke, Conestoga College, LC Coordinator, the Village at University Gates, Waterloo

3. Extension of environmental services in the Living Classroom — From a practical perspective, meetings are scheduled to discuss how best to report and respond to any maintenance concerns between the PSE faculty and the LTC team. Housekeeping, accessibility to washrooms, appropriate signage, or concerns with parking all required a few ad hoc meetings so that these issues and concerns could be addressed in a timely manner.

4. Monitoring student adherence to infection control and health safety procedures — It is important that the LTC team and the PSE faculty meet regularly to inform each other of communications in the event of an infectious outbreak. Students and faculty members must adhere to infection and health safety procedures in the LTC home. Moreover, these infection and health safety procedures need to be respected and disseminated to each new cohort of LC students. The following health and safety procedures include:

  • What to do in case there is a fire in the building?
  • What to do in the event of a facility-wide outbreak in the LTC home, where Public Health deems it necessary to close major sections of the home or the total facility for nonessential services?
  • What are the LTC home infection control policies and practices?

5. Volunteering and coordination of formal placements within the LTC Home — Students in the LC are recommended to apply for volunteer positions in order to gain valuable experience by engaging with different residents and team members. Similarly, the LTC home provides regular clinical placements to all its LC students, but also to other programs and schools as well. This practice ensures that the LC is seen as a resource for workforce development beyond the LC students. The number of students completing placements at any point in time in the LTC home is determined through meetings between the LTC team and the PSE Office for Clinical Placements. Students who are seeking to gain experience outside of the LTC home are able to carry-out practicums in other health related organizations such as hospitals, acute care, hospices, home care agencies, and community care settings.

6. Community Connections — Scheduled meetings are useful when planning activities and celebrations that connect the community with the LC. Building community connections promotes meeting new people who share similar interests in the care for older adults and the LC initiative. Guest speakers from community agencies and older adults from the community expand the breadth and depth of the learning experience for students, but also for the LC faculty and LTC team. Spaces used by the LC during the day can be made available to other groups during evenings and weekends.