The Personal Support Workers who care for and assist the vulnerable people of any community are a special group of people; their selfless dedication to others comes from the deepest roots of compassion, and their kindness can lift the darkest of spirits.
On Jan. 31, The Village of Wentworth Heights in Hamilton officially welcomed its first cohort of PSWs-in-training with the launch of Mohawk College’s Living Classroom in the Village. This new partnership offers students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the Village’s supportive environment while learning the fundamentals of true person-centred care. In a demanding field where care providers are straining to recruit the best team members, these students will have the opportunity to learn from the best.
“Our students learn by doing,” says Lori Koziol, Dean of the School of Health at Mohawk College. “This partnership with Schlegel Villages demonstrates how we’re delivering on our commitment to providing our students with exceptional learning experiences that put them on the path to success.”
There are currently 11 students enrolled as part of the inaugural Mohawk College cohort in a program that will eventually educate 25 future caregivers per session. The program is modelled after Conestoga College’s successful Living Classrooms operating out of two other Schlegel Villages – Riverside Glen in Guelph and University Gates in Waterloo – which have ushered hundreds of new team members into the field over the years.
Lisa Burke, the interim wellness coordinator at Wentworth Heights, knows just how valuable practical, hands-on experience is for students who aspire to be caregiving professionals. She studied as a PSW before bridging to the Practical Nursing program, and she completed her field placement in the village’s long-term care neighbourhoods.
“That’s where I was first introduced to the Schlegel homes and I was blown away by the philosophy and how it met with my values,” Lisa says. “I knew then and there that I was meant for working in geriatrics.” The current and future students of the Living Classrooms will have the same opportunity to learn these values, Lisa adds, and they will carry them forward in whatever professional role they graduate into.
“They’re going to carry the philosophies and the values that we have here with them,” she says. “It’s almost like a kid growing up and learning their morals; it’s as if these students are going to gain these morals and take them to the workplace.”
The demand for such workers has never been higher, says Schlegel Villages president and CEO Jamie Schlegel, and the organization is proud to play an important role in preparing for the future in partnership with Mohawk College.
“The best way to prepare for the future is to create it,” Jamie says. “The Living Classroom creates a rich learning experience for students and encourages Wentworth Heights residents and team members to be part of the learning environment as coaches and mentors, thus bringing more meaning to their lives and work respectively – a true triple win.”