Near North District School Board expands subsidized PSW program

·3 min read

The Near North District School Board (NNDSB) has recently partnered with West Nipissing General Hospital and the Algonquin Nursing Home in Mattawa to train personal support workers (PSWs).

Earlier this month, NNDSB teamed up with Cassellholme to help “provide living classrooms” to train PSW students, explained Deb Bartlett, the NNDSB’s communications officer.

Another recent partner is Belvedere Heights and Lakeland Long-Term Care in Parry Sound.

As for the two latest partnerships, “students will learn theory in an on-site classroom, then apply those skills on the floor of the hospital,” Bartlett said.

Clinical work will take place in West Nipissing General Hospital’s “long-term care and complex care units,” she clarified, “and in the long-term care home in Mattawa.”

“We’re getting a lot of response from our community partners,” said Liana Blaskievich, the school board’s officer corporate affairs.

“There is a critical shortage of Health Human Resources (HHR) throughout Ontario and in our community as well,” said Cynthia Dèsormiers, the president and CEO of West Nipissing General Hospital.

“This is a program that allows us to think outside the box while fulfilling a need at WNGH and in our community,” she said.

Dèsormiers acknowledges the program also provides “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.”

The PSW program is a collaborative effort of the school board, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and community organizations.

Costs of the program are subsidized, and tuition is covered by NNDSB.

Blaskievich agrees with Dèsormiers point about this opportunity providing a launching pad for a new health care career, particularly for those who may not have completed their secondary school diploma.

Anyone over 18 is eligible to apply, and those without diplomas can work toward completing one while training as a PSW.

“It is a reengagement initiative for a lot of people out there who may or may not have their Grade 12” Blaskievich explained.

“What’s really great about going through the school board, and why people are really excited, is that we can do an assessment of our incoming students that allows them to earn up to six of the credits that they would need for secondary school at the same time as doing this program.”

She explained that program participants will be given a PLAR assessment, a “prior learning assessment recognition” that takes into account previous experience “to create that credit for them so that it’s not an onerous process.”

The program is accredited through the personal support workers professional association, Blaskievich emphasized. “We follow the same guidelines and provide the same amount of clinical hours” during training.

Space is limited for the PSW program, and Blaskievich urges those interested to apply soon, as funding is not guaranteed past this year.

“The funding that allows us to subsidize this program is only available for this year,” she said, adding that there “is a huge need” for PSWs within the community and “95 per cent of PSW students are employed while completing their co-op.”

Speaking of the NNDSB and their partners, Blaskievich said they are “pulling together to get people employed and to help them get started in the healthcare sector where it is so very needed.”

“This is not a job that is going away.”

For more information on registering for the program, visit the NNDSB’s website. A form is also available that one can fill out to receive more information on how register.

Any long-term care homes interested in partnering with NNDSB in the PSW program can contact Liana Blaskievich at liana.blaskievich@nearnorthschools.ca or 705-472-8170 ext. 5056.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca

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