Students and Neighbours Come Together at St. Clair

First year nursing students exposed to the social model of living in long-term care

By Kristian Partington

When the early vision of a new Schlegel Village in Windsor first came into focus, St. Clair College was always in view. The new village was meant to be more than a long-term care home – it would be a community hub that connected neighbours (residents) to the vibrancy of college life while allowing students to gain the unique perspective of wisdom and experience embodied within each neighbour.

An immense amount of effort was spent ensuring The Village at St. Clair was built exactly where it sits today, right next door to the college campus. In late-January, the fruits of that labour could be seen when neighbours from St. Clair visited first-year nursing students to share their insights into aging and life in long-term care.

Kaye was one of the St. Clair neighbours to visit the students, mentioning that she was keeping a keen eye out for the gems of the class, hoping to inspire them to consider joining the village team upon graduation. She’s since connected with a couple of the students, both of whom are eager to learn more about the illnesses that impact her life every day.

In doing so, the nursing students are able to put a face to some of the issues they learn about in the classroom, opening up the potential for new relationships to form the foundation of a future in health care.

“I’d like to teach them about ourselves,” says Kaye, “and we can teach them how to care for us as people, not just as a patient.”

In the health-care field, Kaye agrees that it’s all too common for care providers to fail to see the person behind the diagnosis. If future caregivers are given this insight early enough, however, a person-centred approach may guide them throughout their career.

Julie D’Allesandro, the village’s general manager, is also a registered nurse who knows firsthand how important authentic relationships are in a care environment, and she’s proud to know that the village’s neighbours are helping future nurses make this important connection.

“This was an excellent opportunity for our neighbours to be able to talk to the new students about the social model of living that we promote here at Schlegel Villages, getting away from more of that clinical, institutional model that long-term care has such a history of being known for,” Julie says.

Kaye points out that the team members at the village “deal with people on a basis of love and care,” and the students who come to the village on placement are able to see how impactful this approach is.

“I remember nursing school and I remember being very textbook focused,” Julie says, “but nobody is textbook and you learn that very fast once you graduate. This is really about learning from the experiences of the neighbours and being able to apply it.”