School board’s PSW program helps fill ‘acute’ need in community

The Near North District School Board (NNDSB) launched a program this past October to help train personal support workers (PSWs), and the response has surpassed expectations…. Continue reading

By David Briggs. Reprinted from BayToday.com

Program provides hands-on training within a ‘living classroom’ setting

The Near North District School Board (NNDSB) launched a program this past October to help train personal support workers (PSWs), and the response has surpassed expectations.

The first cohort has been accepted, with 18 students taking part in North Bay with another 12 in Parry Sound. “We have created a wait list for September,” explained Lisa Spencer, the board’s coordinator of student success, “in the chance that we’re able to offer the same program again.”

Ideally, the program will once again receive funding from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, who paid the $2,000 tuition fee for each accepted student. The ministries also offered up to $5,115 for each student in the program to help offset living costs while they completed their training.

If similar funding can be arranged, and if there is interest from students, the plan is to extend the program and expand it to other areas, like Mattawa.

Interest was high for this intake, Spencer explained, noting that some of the new students “are graduates of the nursing program” and some are “re-engaged students” working to achieve a secondary school diploma. Some applicants came as “far as Moosonee” for the interviews. It is a “very wide-reaching program with a very wide variety of candidates,” she said.

The program is unique in that it allows students to earn up to six secondary school credits while they attend. For those without a diploma, this can help them reach that goal. The teaching method is also unique, focusing on hands-on learning, what Lucio Pavone calls “a living classroom.”

Pavone was the principal of Chippewa Secondary School in North Bay. Now retired, he is helping the board oversee this PSW program. “We started in mid-October,” he said, “and we are very pleased with the outcome as to where we’re at right now.”

He mentioned “one of the challenges of the pandemic is to find qualified instructors, and I think we’ve secured two amazing instructors,” one of whom holds a PhD in nursing, and the other is an RPN currently working at Cassellholme.

Cassellholme is one of the facilities where students will be placed, “learning the theory and application” of the job “right at the long-term care home,” Pavone said.

As the students advance “they are strategically placed with other PSWs in community placement, so it’s not necessarily restricted to those sites offering the learning,” Spencer explained. For instance, after gaining skills within a long-term care home, students may want to work with disabled adults or children with pervasive needs.

They will be “able to translate their skills to other places in the community,” Spencer said, and the additional workers will fill a need for PSWs in the area, a shortage that Pavone has heard referred to as “an acute crisis.”

The board is “happy to support” the PSWs entering the workforce through this program, noting it leads to “a solid career path with solid employment opportunities in our region.”

Pavone and Spencer are also working on Phase 2 of the program, which would help interested high school students stream directly into the PSW program upon graduation.

Feedback has been positive, the organizers said. One student mentioned to Pavone “that this is a life changing program for him,” and testimonials like that “really hits to the core of why we do what we do.”

For those interested in the program more information is available on the board’s website. Applications are open for a September 2022 start.

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

West Nipissing General Hospital, Algonquin Nursing Home Partner with Near North District School Board on PSW Program

As a testament to the value of the program it is offering, Near North District School Board (NNDSB) has just created its third and fourth Memorandum of Understanding in two weeks. West Nipissing General Hospital (WNGH) in Sturgeon Falls and Algonquin Nursing Home in Mattawa plan to provide living classrooms in order to train Personal Support Workers (PSWs).

WNGH and Algonquin Nursing Home are the two most recent organizations to commit to working with NNDSB to provide a living classroom, in which students will learn theory in an on-site classroom, then apply those skills on the floor of the hospital. Students will do their clinical work on WNGH’s long-term care and complex continuing care units, and in the long-term care home in Mattawa.

Student costs of this program will be subsidized; tuition is covered by NNDSB.

Cynthia Dèsormiers, President and Chief Executive Officer of WNGH, says the hospital is eager to partner because, “there is a critical shortage of Health Human Resources (HHR) throughout Ontario and in our community as well. This is a program that allows us to think outside the box while fulfilling a need at WNGH and in our community. This program will provide a great opportunity for people in our community to kick start a new career in health care, and with the tuition being waived in the first year, it is like a gift for those who may have financial difficulties.”

NNDSB’s Director of Education Craig Myles says the board has worked hard to bring this hands-on learning opportunity to learners 18 years and older. “We’re excited to offer this training, which is accredited through the Personal Support Worker Professional Association. NNDSB will be training PSWs who will be ready to begin work upon completion of the course.”

The PSW program is a collaborative effort of the board, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and community organizations. The other partnerships will see living classrooms set up in Cassellholme in North Bay, and Belvedere Heights and Lakeland Long-Term Care in Parry Sound. (Hyperlinks are to media release about those partnerships.)

Dèsormiers says the program and partnership “is a win-win for both the hospital and the students. This is an opportunity for us to grow our own PSWs, which usually leads to recruitment and improved retention when they are from the community.”

Jay Aspin, Chair of the Board of Trustees of NNDSB, says the PSW initiative is a great way to re-engage adult learners while addressing a critical shortage of healthcare workers. “NNDSB is proud of its role in helping to educate and train skilled PSWs that are in high demand in all areas of the board. This innovative program serves so many purposes in our communities, including marvelous opportunities for our students.”

Dèsormiers says WNGH is “grateful for the opportunity to partner this year and in future years to fill a huge need in healthcare, while providing great employment opportunities and careers for people in West Nipissing and surrounding areas.”

Spaces in each program are limited. Anyone interested should plan to attend the information session on Thursday, Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. online. (Meeting is hyperlinked.)

Students who do not yet have their Grade 12 are eligible to apply. They can earn up to six credits towards their diploma while taking this training.

NNDSB is seeking partnerships with local long-term care homes in all regions of the board to re-engage learners who are 18+ interested in training to become a PSW. Any long-term care home interested in partnering should contact Liana Blaskievich, NNDSB’s Officer Corporate Affairs at 705-472-8170 ext. 5056 or liana.blaskievich@nearnorthschools.ca.

Seniors’ Care Enriched by Living Classroom Model

Reprinted from Impact Stories, Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging.

Personal support workers (PSWs) provide hands-on care for more than 80,000 long-term care residents across Ontario. Their role in our healthcare system is vital to the well-being, health and quality of life of older adults.

In early 2020, a report from the Ontario Health Coalition drew attention to the escalating issue of PSW shortages in the province, which are now at crisis-level. The report raised daunting concerns for resident care and safety.

The Living Classroom partnership model addresses these challenges and profiles long-term care (LTC) and senior living as a rewarding career opportunity.

The Living Classroom partnership model was first implemented in the province in 2009 through a collaboration with Conestoga College, the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging and Schlegel Villages. Stemming from a shared vision to improve quality of life and care for LTC residents by training work-ready PSWs, the Living Classroom brings employers, educators, students, and residents together. Training takes place directly in LTC homes, providing real-world experience for students and mentorship opportunities for residents, while enabling employers to hire new graduates who understand the sector and are more confident about working with older adults.

The Living Classroom partnership model has been tested and evaluated in long-term care and retirement homes in both Guelph and Waterloo, with a recent publication in the journal Educational Gerontology providing evidence to support its success.

With support from the Ontario Centres for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care at the RIA, the Living Classroom model is being shared across Ontario. In 2020, the model was adopted by the St. Louis Adult Learning and Continuing Education Centres with the Waterloo Catholic District School Board.

“We were looking for creative solutions to address space constraints and to enhance the learning experience,” says Tammy Cantin, Program Manager of PSW Training at St. Louis.

“I heard about the Living Classroom through network meetings. It seemed like the ideal approach to meet both the needs of St. Louis and the community. We worked through the Implementation Guide provided to us by the RIA and then began looking for care partners who might be ready to try out this model with us.”

After eight months of exploring potential partnerships, St. Louis identified local care providers interested in adopting the model. Fairview Seniors Community in Cambridge, Ontario was ready to collaborate.

St. Louis and Fairview partnered and worked to transform unused space at the seniors community into a new classroom, complete with equipment to build hands-on skills, as well as a kitchenette and break room.

The first cohort of St. Louis students began their learning experience in October 2020.

“We wanted to explore innovative ways to encourage people to get involved in the rewarding field of caring for seniors,” says Elaine Shantz, CEO of Fairview and Parkwood Seniors Communities.

“The Living Classroom allows students to experience the incredible privilege of working with older adults. Not only are they learning practical skills to work in their field, they’re also fostering rich interpersonal skills – building relationships, evaluating how this work fits with their career goals, and gaining real-life experience so they can hit the ground running after graduation. It’s a unique learning opportunity.”

The partnership and adoption of the Living Classroom model also benefit residents and employers.

“Our residents enjoy connecting with younger adults; they benefit socially and mentally from the rewarding interactions with students,” says Shantz.

“From a workforce standpoint, we get to know students and can hire directly out of the program. The transition into employment is smooth and comfortable for students. The process is efficient for us. When the experience is mutually beneficial, we see higher retention rates. And that’s exactly what Ontario needs right now.”

While COVID-19 has affected the program’s enrollment capacity and interactive features for 2020-2021, both St. Louis and the Fairview Seniors Community expect that the Living Classroom experience will only get better.

“We’re excited to see how this model will look without pandemic restrictions,” says Tammy Cantin.

“But already we’re seeing meaningful impact for everyone involved. If we could run all of our classes this way, we would.”

The Living Classroom model is a prime example of how the RIA drives innovation to solve real-world problems and enhance quality of life and care for older adults.

To learn more about the Living Classroom, click here.

Immersive Courses Bring Professionals and Students Together in Long-Term Care

Over the course of the past year, frontline health care workers have been a vital support to the long-term care sector. Whether personal support workers, nurses, allied health professionals, or support staff, these roles serve our residents and their loved ones each day.

The devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have shown the challenges faced by the sector and the need for greater capacity in these roles. By the end of 2020, the Ministry of Long-Term Care launched a call to prioritize the education and recruitment of health care workers to strengthen long-term care and invest in a better future for the sector’s workers and residents.

Bruyere, La Cite and CLRI logosIn response, La Cité, in partnership with Bruyère’s Saint-Louis Residence, launched a Living Classroom designed to accelerate the training for new personal support workers in our community. The partnership integrates practical education sessions directly into the long-term care home to support workforce development in the sector through a culture of shared learning and real-life experience. The Ontario Centres for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care (CLRI), which has been an integral support in the program’s launch, brings knowledge and expertise to support improvements to quality of life and care in the sector through applied research, education, and training.

“Saint-Louis Residence is thrilled to be part of this collaboration with La Cité to launch a francophone living classroom within our home,” says Melissa Donskov, VP of Residential and Community Care Programs at Bruyère. “Learning from staff within a long-term care setting is a fantastic way to prepare future personal support workers for a career in the sector. It is also engaging for our current long-term care heroes, offering them opportunities to develop in their careers and to share all of their knowledge and expertise.”

With dozens of students enrolled in the first spring training cohort, Bruyère expects to see more than 20 additional students benefit from an education directly embedded in the workplace before the end of summer. Covering many of the basic techniques for residential care, including supporting mobility and transfers, students are gaining skills firsthand and stepping into careers with confidence. In this experiential learning environment, students are learning side-by-side with our dedicated Saint-Louis Residence’s frontline staff who have stepped up as teachers and supported the program.

“This is a good opportunity for personal care work students to gain valuable knowledge at Saint-Louis Residence,” said Jesule Balmir, a student in the first classroom cohort. “This program that leads to a certificate will open the door to other related training that may be useful in the future. Our teachers are highly qualified. They give us training based on years of experience so that we are well prepared for the personal support worker profession.”

Despite still navigating the challenges of COVID-19, the outpouring of engagement and interest to train the next generation of health care workers has been overwhelming among staff members. The response from staff at Saint-Louis Residence to foster a space for compassionate and integrated learning once again shows the incredible generosity and strength of our teams that continues to ripple through the community.

Students and instructor in the Living Classroom
“It is a privilege to be able to share the knowledge I have gained in my 40-year career as a personal care attendant. The live class not only teaches the theory, but also allows for direct practice with the students and validates if the different approaches and methods have been understood. For example, when working with a resident who has dementia, there are tips and tricks that make the experience better for the resident. Being able to directly relay these different nuances to them is great!

I love my experience as a living lab teacher at Saint-Louis Residence. We’re training the next generation of attendants, the heartfelt people who make all the difference, especially with our residents who are so vulnerable!”

—Monique Van Den Akerboom, personal support worker

“It is very motivating to take up this challenge as a living classroom teacher,” says Mireille Nduami, RPN at Saint-Louis Residence and former student at La Cité. “It is a great opportunity to bring my contribution during such a difficult time when the demand for health care workers is really a priority. By training the next generation, I too am growing and strengthening my knowledge. I am so grateful to be part of this innovative program!”

“It is truly a lesson that inspires the whole life. We had very good teachers,” said Hortense Mugandakazi Cikwanine, another student in the program.

La Cite students practicing at the bedside
“I find this experience very dynamic as we interchange our ideas and experience the theoretical lessons with practice which allows for a more direct and easy assimilation.

It will help us better understand the functioning of patients, their physical and psychological environment, to define our relationship with them and our responsibilities towards them.

I learned how to use the different tools necessary for the comfort and transfer of patients; I also understood the best attitude to have depending on the condition of the client to facilitate and embellish his daily life.”

— Nicole Bernisse Nkakanou Tchokotcheu, student

The Living Classroom partnership model was first implemented in Ontario through a collaboration with Conestoga College, the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA) and Schlegel Villages. Conestoga and the RIA, with support from the Ontario Centres for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care, are working to spread the model and support workforce development for the senior living sector.

John Noble Home partners with Grand Erie Learning Alternatives to open new Living Classroom

John Noble Home in Brantford, Ontario, has partnered with Grand Erie Learning Alternatives to deliver a new Living Classroom within the home to nurture the growth and professional development of Personal Support Workers. … Continue reading

John Noble Home in Brantford, Ontario, has partnered with Grand Erie Learning Alternatives to deliver a new Living Classroom within the home to nurture the growth and professional development of Personal Support Workers.

Registration for the January 2021 class is now open. For more information, visit https://www.granderie.ca/schools/gela/student-services/interested-becoming-personal-support-workerpsw.

Fairview Seniors Community and St. Louis launch a new Living Classroom

Fairview Seniors Community has partnered with St. Louis Adult Learning and Continuing Education Centres to offer a progressive Living Classroom experience for 22 PSW students, who will receive their training in the newly constructed 1,000 square foot classroom at Fairview Mennonite Home in Cambridge, Ontario…. Continue reading

Fairview Seniors Community has partnered with St. Louis Adult Learning and Continuing Education Centres to offer a progressive Living Classroom experience for 22 PSW students, who will receive their training in the newly constructed 1,000 square foot classroom at Fairview Mennonite Home in Cambridge, Ontario. The inaugural part-time St. Louis PSW class began on Tuesday, October 6, 2020.

Read more about the new Living Classroom:

Aged care: Some workers feel they’ve drawn the short straw

Aged care workers are among the lowest paid and the least qualified in the sector with many feeling like they had “drawn the short straw” if they ended up in their jobs. Yet a highly successful Australian program that provided on the job training, research and education in 16 aged care facilities was dropped in 2015 because the federal government wouldn’t fund it…. Continue reading

By Julie Power, Brisbane Times.

Aged care workers are among the lowest paid and the least qualified in the sector with many feeling like they had “drawn the short straw” if they ended up in their jobs.

New models of “teaching nursing homes”, though, had improved retention with many seeing a job in aged care as a career, the Royal Commission on Aged Care Quality and Safety heard on Tuesday.

Yet a highly successful Australian program that provided on the job training, research and education in 16 aged care facilities was dropped in 2015 because the federal government wouldn’t fund it.

A report found the Teaching and Research Aged Care Services (TRACS) program had proved the value of providing “ongoing education to the existing aged care workforce to further build their skills and understanding of care for older people”.

Read the full story at Brisbane Times

Conestoga workshop shares best practices for implementation of Living Classrooms

College administrators and faculty from across the province recently attended a full-day best practices workshop delivered by Conestoga’s Schlegel Centre for Advancing Seniors Care to discuss the key features of implementing a successful living classroom — an innovative interprofessional approach to preparing students for successful careers working with seniors in long-term care and retirement living…. Continue reading

Reprinted from Conestoga College News

College administrators and faculty from across the province recently attended a full-day best practices workshop delivered by Conestoga’s Schlegel Centre for Advancing Seniors Care to discuss the key features of implementing a successful living classroom — an innovative interprofessional approach to preparing students for successful careers working with seniors in long-term care and retirement living.

Conestoga’s first Living Classroom opened in 2009 in partnership with Schlegel Villages at the Village of Riverside Glen in Guelph, and the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA). In 2015, a second Living Classroom opened at the Village of University Gates in Waterloo.

The experiences of Conestoga, Schlegel Villages and RIA in developing these Living Classrooms has been compiled in an implementation guidebook for other institutions interested in launching similar models.

“Seniors deserve the health care they need and it’s our responsibility to develop a workforce that can serve them,” said Dr. Veronique Boscart, director of Conestoga’s Schlegel Centre for Advancing Seniors Care, as she welcomed participants at the Doon campus. “Today we want to focus on the Living Classroom and share our experiences, including what works well and what doesn’t.”

The motivation behind the first Living Classroom was to increase the number of personal support worker (PSW) and practical nursing graduates to meet workforce demands in Guelph. PSWs comprise more than 70 per cent of the staff in long-term care, but there aren’t enough of them to support the care needs of the growing older adult population. The situation is only expected to worsen over coming years as the population of seniors continues to grow.

Boscart stressed that the solution goes beyond just placing a classroom within a long-term care setting.

The Living Classroom is an interprofessional approach where a post-secondary program is delivered within the context of a long-term care home, with team members consisting of faculty, students, long-term care teams, residents and families who engage with each other within a culture of learning. Students bridge the gap between theoretical learning and clinical practice in the actual setting where they will eventually practice.

During the interactive workshop, Boscart introduced participants to the 10 building blocks for the Living Classroom, which are grouped under four stages of implementation: exploring the potential of a Living Classroom, developing the foundations, implementation, and promotion and sustainability.

The approach has proven successful with a variety of stakeholders, including residents and families, who report they have been positively impacted by the Living Classroom.

“I really do believe that we can change things,” said Boscart when discussing the current challenges of seniors’ care and the role colleges play in building a workforce that will contribute to the continual improvement of long-term care. “Together we are a lot stronger than we think we are.”

The Living Classroom at Riverside Glen delivers PSW programming, and both PSW and practical nursing students attend classes at The Village of University Gates. To date, more than 800 Conestoga graduates have trained at a Living Classroom and approximately 90 per cent of them continue to work with seniors.

The Schlegel Centre for Advancing Seniors Care at Conestoga College works in collaboration with Schlegel Villages and the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging to develop innovative education, improve workforce development and strengthen care practices to support care for seniors and their families across Canada. It provides a hub for collaboration with partners to advance training and practice approaches and share best practices and resources to enhance seniors care and living.

Educating future LTC PSWs through a Living Classroom

The Living Classroom at Perley Rideau is based on a successful model introduced by Conestoga College and the Ontario Centres for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care (CLRI) at the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging. The program meets all of the requirements for the one-year Ontario College PSW Program Certificate…. Continue reading

Reprinted from Ontario Centres for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care

It’s hard to argue with the numbers. Government of Canada projections indicate that by 2030 nearly one in four Canadians will be over the age of 65. Less than a decade ago, this figure was closer to one in seven. At the same time, the pool of personal support workers (PSWs) in long-term care (LTC) has been declining to the point where the Ontario Personal Support Workers Association (OPSWA) refers to it as “an occupation in crisis.”

One LTC home in Ottawa South is doing something about it. In an effort to recruit motivated new PSWs into careers in long-term healthcare, the Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre is going back to school. Or, rather, school is coming to them through an innovative Integrated Personal Support Worker (IPSW) project in partnership with Algonquin College’s School of Health and Community Studies.

They call it the Living Classroom, an interprofessional healthcare education program delivered on-site at the Perley Rideau campus. Working out of a specially outfitted classroom laboratory, Algonquin College PSW students learn theory and skills from their own teachers, and are then able to put what they’ve learned into practice by engaging with residents, families, and healthcare team members inside a real work setting. The first cohort graduated in January 2018.

The Living Classroom at Perley Rideau is based on a successful model introduced by Conestoga College and the Ontario Centres for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care (CLRI) at the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging. The program meets all of the requirements for the one-year Ontario College PSW Program Certificate.

The environment for this IPSW immersive, shared learning project could not be more ideal. The Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre is one of Ontario’s largest and most progressive LTC homes with 250 veteran residents and 200 community residents. It is also an innovative Seniors Village that also includes 139 independent-living apartments and a guest house. The Perley Rideau has a long history in the nation’s capital and was established in its present configuration in 1995. Today, it is served by 800 staff and 350 volunteers, and is rapidly positioning itself as a centre of excellence in frailty-informed care.

According to Director of Clinical Practice Jennifer Plant, plenty of opportunity exists for students to see how PSWs at Perley Rideau are treated as integral members of the healthcare team. The goal of the Living Classroom, she says, is ultimately to produce strong graduates who will want to take up staff positions in LTC.

“It’s very difficult to recruit healthcare professionals into long-term care,” Plant says. “By having the Living Classroom on site, we have an opportunity to showcase what we do so that students can see how our PSWs are valued as peer trainers and as members of our quality improvement teams that recommend, develop and implement leading practices.”

Research Coordinator Enrique Soto, PhD, a sociologist with an extensive background in health care research, has been with Perley Rideau since 2017, and is heavily involved in a comprehensive evaluation of the Living Classroom’s first cohort. The Ontario CLRI at Bruyère is assisting with the qualitative data analysis of the evaluation through the expertise of researcher Shelly Crick, PhD, and in sharing what is being learned through the offices of knowledge broker Michele Fleming.

“We thought this was a great way to partner with people who have the expertise and talent to help us with the evaluation,” Soto says.

Feedback from the participant questionnaires and focus group discussions following the first cohort graduation looks promising. PSW students who chose the immersive Living Classroom model over the standard model of college-based instruction interspersed with periods of clinical practice indicated they were more likely to go on to work as PSWs in LTC.

This is encouraging news to Plant, whose sights are squarely set on attracting strong healthcare recruits. She says that implementing evidence-informed practices such as the Living Classroom supports staff professional growth, which is key in improving the quality of resident care and patient safety.

“We continue to partner with the Ontario CLRI in building our Living Classroom,” Plant says. “We have a common goal in spreading innovation, and we want to make sure we are achieving this by showcasing the rewarding careers we can offer in long-term care.”