Earlier this year, St. Lawrence College (SLC) announced it was offering an accelerated Personal Support Worker (PSW) program in Kingston, Brockville, and Cornwall. Now, the first of three cohorts have completed an on-campus training component on the Brockville campus and are looking forward to a paid 300-hour placement at one of three long-term care homes in the community.
On Feb. 25, 2021, the Ontario government announced funding for the accelerated program that covers students’ tuition and other expenses. The accelerated program started April 5 and allows participants to graduate with full credentials within six months, according to a release from SLC. The standard PSW programs at colleges take eight months to complete.
The college said the free, accelerated program was announced by the Government of Ontario to address PSW staffing shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic. The province hopes to have as many as 8,000 new graduates working by fall 2021. Students began in April, May, and June across the College’s three campuses.
Samantha Guild, a student in Brockville, said the program is a perfect opportunity to get into the healthcare field, and a “gift” from the government she doesn’t plan on wasting, as she plans to further her education in the Practical Nursing program. “I joined the accelerated PSW program because I love working with people and in the community,” she said. “I want to thank St. Lawrence College for their wonderful teachers and materials. It has been amazing far and I am very excited to continue on this journey.”
Samantha and her 23 classmates just finished their clinical simulations on campus where they received important hands-on training, according to the release. Training included learning how to stop the chain of infection (proper hand hygiene, donning and doffing personal protective equipment), activities of daily living for a resident, including bathing, dressing, feeding, ambulating, and learning how to use lifts safely. Gentle Persuasive Approaches training with the Alzheimer’s Society was also included in their training, including bed making and proper body mechanics, moving, positioning, and transferring with wheelchairs. The college said the students will return to campus for one more week of clinical training at the end of June.
The program is welcomed by health care organizations in the community. “Maple View Lodge is proud to partner with SLC and particularly excited to collaborate in the accelerated PSW program,” said Tracy Jordan, Administrator at Maple View Lodge, a long-term care home in Athens, ON. “The quality of the SLC program is reflected in their students who are fully prepared to take on the role of PSW in long-term care. We are pleased to offer a learning environment for them, their energy and enthusiasm is infectious, and our residents benefit greatly by their presence.”
The accelerated program allows students to fulfill the program requirements more quickly by increasing the number of study hours per week and uses a hybrid model that combines online learning with in-person practical experience, according to the release. Students in the program have been completing courses online and participating in laboratory classes available at the College and in care settings.
“We’re thrilled at the response this opportunity generated here in Eastern Ontario and know graduates of this program will help the province fill a much-needed role in our healthcare sector,” said Glenn Vollebregt, SLC President and CEO. “By helping connect well-trained PSWs with agencies and individuals needing care, colleges once again are helping where it is needed most, and we appreciate the support of the Ontario government and our Ministry to make this happen.”
“Our incredible faculty and staff have worked hard to adapt curriculum and are helping students succeed, and our community partner placement agencies have responded generously to provide opportunities for students to learn hands-on while completing their training,” he said. “This has truly been a community effort.”