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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


Implement the Living Classroom

Implementing the LC is a process that is both demanding and rewarding. It is not always a linear path. Therefore, be prepared to be engaged in a cyclical implementation process, whereby you may find yourself moving forward on some activities while needing to backtrack on others (see Figure 2 below).

Diagram of three cyclical implementation stages: planning, implementing and monitoring
Figure 2: Cyclical Living Classroom Implementation Process

Identify and Connect Post-Secondary Education Faculty and Long-Term-Care Teams

People are the greatest asset in LCs, as in many other businesses and collaborations. The LC creates an environment for shared learning between PSE faculty and the LTC team and leads to enhancing personal and professional growth for both groups. This positivity influences the faculty and LTC team’s quality of teaching and mentoring of students. PSE and the LTC team are encouraged to engage with one another, discuss best care practices, and seek out innovative teaching strategies for curriculum enhancement (see building block 8).

In the LC, the PSE academic team delivers the program: PSE faculty provide theoretical learning and lead curriculum development and evaluation of knowledge and skills in the labs and placement experiences, and Practice Application Specialists support students to demonstrate and improve their application of knowledge and skills in the experiential settings. LTC team members may provide specialized demonstrations of key content in the LC space as well as in the LTC home. Most importantly, students have an opportunity to see team members in action where they are role models and mentors to students. Not to be forgotten is the valued role that residents and families have in student learning and mentoring. Careful planning and consideration should go into identifying and connecting the LC faculty and LTC team.

Building the Living Classroom Team

From our past experience, we found four human resource components to be important for a highly functioning LC running a PSW program. These include:

1. A full-time PSE LC Coordinator with a team of part-time instructors and support staff, who have expertise in seniors care and come with a commitment to collaborate with the LTC team members

The first LC Coordinator at the Village of Riverside Glen explains why a combination of full-time and part-time faculty is beneficial in the LC:

“Having a full-time PSE faculty on-site ensures that there is always a contact person. It provides staff, residents and family with a consistent LC person. The residents, Village team and family know who I am, and I am able to build relationships with them. As a LC Coordinator, I know the policies and procedures well enough to ensure everyone’s safety and provide information. I also know the residents well enough so they feel comfortable with my students and are aware of the LC activities. I also know which LTC team member to approach if there is an issue.

On the other hand, having part-time PSE faculty and support staff is also beneficial for the LC because it gives students a new person to learn from. Part-time PSE faculty bring a new perspective to the LC because they come from different health care backgrounds, providing students useful and rich information, which can serve them well when working in the Village. Lastly, faculty’s different teaching abilities are great for students who may have different learning styles. All of this combined provides a well-rounded learning and mentoring experience for the students.”

— Amy Stiles, Living Classroom Coordinator, Conestoga College, Village of Riverside Glen

2. A management person in the LTC home (may or may not be the General Manager but needs to have sufficient responsibility to support LC functions) has the responsibility to liaise with the LC Coordinator to plan for student involvement in the LTC home and to engage LTC home team members in the activities of the LC. The LTC team facilitates transitions of knowledge and learning from the LC setting and into the LTC home setting. They assist students with problem solving, clinical skill development, and handling the social and emotional aspects of providing care and services in a LTC setting. LTC team members help students feel welcome and confident in this practice setting.

3. Leadership for day-to-day operations of both the PSE and LTC home

  • The Chair of Nursing is academically responsible for the operation of the LC and has regular contact with the LC staff, as well as the students to ensure that they are given support for and alignment with academic standards. The Chair relies on the on-site program coordinator to represent the College on a daily basis to ensure consistency of academic delivery and linkages between students and student supports as required by the College.
  • The General Manager for the LTC home is accountable for LTC home support for the LC and is a key individual in creating a collaborative environment for LC operations and resolving on-site concerns in an effective and expeditious manner.

4. Organizational leadership
It is essential that the LC has organizational support and involvement of senior leaders from both the PSE and LTC home. These leaders confirm the viability and feasibility, and shape the Win-Win approach for the collaboration

Characteristics of a Successful Team

Whether hiring a LTC team member or a PSE faculty, it is important to identify the characteristics that best match the LCs values and goals. Below are a few examples of these characteristics:

  • Experience working in LTC home(s) and with older adults and their families
  • Experience working with older adults diagnosed with dementia or related impairments
  • Experience teaching students with different learning capabilities
  • Experience with curriculum development and development of hands-on activities
  • Strong communication skills
  • Good technology skills
  • Being committed to promote quality of life and well-being for older adults
  • Believing in the goals and initiatives of the LC
  • Ability to inspire students about caring for older adults
  • Strong people engagement skills
  • Ability to provide constructive feedback to student learning
  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Desire to mentor or pursue a mentoring experience
  • A champion who will motivate others to optimize course objectives, content, and teaching strategies
  • Ability to work in a dynamic interprofessional team

When a LC team has been chosen, it is important to invite all team members to a team and faculty orientation. Orientations help the LC thrive by providing PSE faculty and the LTC team an opportunity to become acquainted, build working relationships, and supports the understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities within the LC (see more information in building block 9). A few of these key roles and responsibilities are found in the list below.

Roles and Responsibilities

Role of the Living Classroom Coordinator:

  • Delivery of the program in accordance with PSE policies, PSE procedures, and LC and LTC home SOPs
  • Responsible for unlocking and locking entrance of LC
  • Creating connections and providing opportunities to learn and grow in the LC
  • Scheduling monthly meetings with LTC home General Manager to discuss infection control policies, student vaccinations and codes of conduct, etc.
  • Assigning students to lockers
  • Organizing student and staff orientation
  • Connecting with the CSI Services Coordinator to discuss and arrange activities applicable for students attending LC programs
  • Responsible for double checking room bookings with Executive Dean or Chair of Nursing
  • Maintaining copy of keys to the LC
  • Overseeing that all health and safety requirements are met and will connect with the General Manager of the Village
  • Reporting maintenance or housekeeping issues.

Role of PSE faculty and staff in the LC:

  • Delivery of the program in accordance with PSE policies, PSE procedures, and LC and LTC home SOPs (see building block 6)
  • Being a role model for professionalism
  • Creating connections and providing opportunities for all LC players to learn and grow
  • Developing and documenting opportunities to integrate learning activities in the curriculum to enhance student learning (see building block 8)
  • Day-to-day coordination with the LTC home activities and schedules (see building block 9)
  • Engage with residents and families through resident and family council and through LTC home communication channels in collaboration with LTC team (see building block 9)
  • Market the program and maintain community connections (see building block 10)
  • Identify other PSE programs that may have placements in the same LTC home and develop relationships with these programs to optimize interprofessional learning.

Role of PSE Chair in the LC:

  • Approve SOPs in collaboration with LTC home administration
  • Oversee program delivery (i.e., curriculum, course outlines and assignments) through regular communication with the LC team and students as required
  • Annual enrollment and financial management of LC
  • Coordination of annual program reflections with LC Coordinator and the main campus PSW team.

Lynn Voelzing“As a Chair, success with a LC has three aspects: increasing the opportunity for students who might not have been able to come to the main campus to gain this education; ensuring alignment of program delivery with overall standards of the college program and services; and facilitating sharing of experiences from the LC with the main PSW program and vice versa.”

— Lynn Voelzing, former Chair, Nursing, School of Health and Life Sciences and Community Services, Conestoga College

Role of LTC team:

  • Collaborate with PSE faculty to develop SOPs to ensure clarity of student integration with LTC home operations
  • Role model professionalism in providing care and services to residents and family, as well as in collaborating with fellow team members
  • Collaborating with PSE team to develop unique learning opportunities for students to learn, reflect, and grow
  • Support students as they become involved in the life of the LTC home
  • Ensure LC faculty and students know how to respond in case of a fire or emergency, an infectious outbreak, etc.
  • Engage in regular communication and coordination activities with the LC faculty team (see building block 9)
  • Ensure communication mechanisms are in place with residents and families so they stay informed of the LC activities and students.

Role of LTC Home General Manager:

  • Foster a learning environment in the LTC home, as a key foundation for mutual gain with the LC
  • Encourage and support LTC team members during student visits and activities in the LTC home; engage with residents and families to ensure they understand the LC and help identify opportunities for engagement
  • Meet monthly with the LC Coordinator to coordinate student events and activities within the LTC home
  • Verify with the LC Coordinator that all pre-practicum health requirements are met by the students
  • Responsible for informing LTC team members of the opportunities available in the LC (i.e., attend a skills lab, renewing CPR certification, dementia workshops, etc.)
  • Address all inquiries regarding housekeeping and maintenance in the LC.

Timothy Hutten“I am proud to be part of the LC in a different way. I am a Registered Practical Nurse at the Village of Riverside Glen, working within the role of team lead and caregiver, but I am also a Practice Application Specialist with the Conestoga College LC. Within this role I have the opportunity to share my experience, knowledge, confidence and passion with PSW students; members of the health care team, who provide frontline care.”

— Timothy Hutten, PN, the Village of Riverside Glen