St. Clair Internship to Inspire Excitement in Future Caregivers

The people who are excited about what they see, that’s who we want,’ says DOC

By Kristian Partington

Among the crowd of almost 200 people who’s gathered in mid-June at the Pearson Convention Centre in Brampton for the 2nd annual Innovation summit presented by Schlegel Villages and the Schlegel-UW research Institute for Aging (RIA), sat an eager nursing student from St. Clair College in Windsor.   

St. Clair director of nursing care Emily Swirgon posing for a photo along side neighbour  Darlene Radigan and nursing student and intern Jenna Lamb

Jenna Lamb was part of a large delegation that travelled from Windsor representing the Village at St. Clair, the 256-bed long-term care home that opened on the edge of the St. Clair College campus two years ago. The summit was her initiation into the Schlegel Villages culture, having only just begun her time in a unique intern position in the village set to span 14 weeks between her first and second year of studies. 

The fully-paid internship was open to all St. Clair College nursing students, offering the fortunate candidate the opportunity to capture a glimpse of the realities a nurse faces in a long-term care setting. But beyond that, Jenna will also learn about every other contribution made to village life by team members in every corner of the village. As much as she’ll be a shadow among the nurses, she’ll spend time in the kitchen and serveries, she’ll gain appreciation and understanding of the personal support workers’ role and she’ll see firsthand how the housekeepers are able to go beyond their typical duties to interact and support the village neighbours (residents). She’ll see the beauty of a truly cross-functional team in action and dispel any notion that health care teams must work in traditional departments, only focused on one aspect of support for those they serve.

Members of the leadership team created the internship as a means of engaging with the students from the college next door, explains director of nursing care Emily Swirgon. When she returns to class in the fall, Jenna will stand before her fellow students and describe all she’s learned about village life. If this inspires others to consider a role in long-term care, then the internship has been a success for both Jenna and the future of the sector, which desperately needs dedicated people to support Canada’s aging population.

Jenna, in Emily’s mind, embodies the necessary spirit and ambition that will help reshape the way long-term care operates in our society. Neighbours and team members alike interviewed potential candidates, and she stood out in many ways, not least of which was her ability to instantly connect with those she’ll support and learn from.

“She’s going to learn about village, life, establish those relationships with neighbours and team members and during the course of 14 weeks build a really great presentation on village life. She’s going to document everything she does – coming to the innovation summit; working in these roles; the many activities we do with our neighbours – and then go back to the college and present this with the neighbours to get other students really excited about village life and our philosophy.”

“How do we get the best of the best?” Emily asks, thinking of the caregivers needed to support future neighbours. “The people who are excited about what they see, that’s who we want.”

For her part, Jenna is a natural caregiver, having offered support for a loved one living through the final stages of cancer. She has also seen the institutional model of long-term care in action and decided that was not how life should be for those who must live in such settings.

“That’s not how long-term care should be,” she recalls thinking. “That’s not how residents should be treated and it motivated me to want to change it.”

At the Village of St. Clair, she hopes to learn about what’s possible for team members in LTC and the neighbours they support. “I’m very optimistic,” she says. “I’ll go wherever my life takes me.”

That optimism and the natural gifts of her personality should serve her well in the village this summer.