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What started as a solution to continue delivering excellent patient care during a health care human resource crisis is optimizing the role of personal support workers (PSWs) and reinvigorating teamwork across UHN.
"'Building Strong Care Teams' is a strategy positioned to revolutionize the way TeamUHN delivers care to patients today and tomorrow," says Brenda Perkins-Meingast, Senior Director of Practice Based Education.
Grounded in an education program designed to build on the skills of PSWs, the strategy allows PSWs to contribute more meaningfully to their interprofessional teams, and ensures they and their nursing colleagues are empowered to work to their full scope of practice.
By enhancing the patient-facing skills of PSWs, which include activities of daily living, collecting non-blood specimens, mobilization and taking vital signs, nurses have the ability to apply their knowledge and clinical expertise to those who need it most.
"UHN's new model of care helps ensure patient needs are being met by the most appropriate team member," says Brenda.
Tray Collier, a PSW on Toronto Western Hosptial's 4B Rheumatology/GIM Inpatient Unit, says the strategy has made him feel more valued among his colleagues, and has increased job satisfaction.
"Because I'm contributing more, I feel a stronger sense of purpose, pride and fulfillment, every day."
Investing in TeamUHN
Friday, May 19 is Personal Support Worker Day – an opportunity to celebrate the valuable role the profession plays, in the health care system and our community. At UHN, we recognize more than 400 PSWs who are contributing to A Healthier World.
"Building Strong Care Teams" represents a long-term, sustainable solution to nursing shortages in Ontario.
The two-week education program starts with a three-day theoretical component in the classroom, followed by seven days of buddied shifts with nursing colleagues on their shared unit, where PSWs have the opportunity to practice new patient-facing skills.
For Tray, learning how to enter data into Epic – UHN's health information system introduced a year ago – has played a big role in integrating him and his PSW colleagues into their teams.
"Documenting in Epic, and seeing our names listed as part of the care team makes us feel more valued," says Tray, who has been involved in providing input to leaders about the program, since it launched last fall.
"Our work is seen, and we are heard."
Delivering positive work experiences
And the benefits of the "Building Strong Care Teams" reach far beyond enhancing skills. It's also reinforcing relationships and improving teamwork.
"There's more camaraderie between nurses and PSWs, as we work together in a more interprofessional way," says Noriel Fabros, a nurse who regularly teamed up with Tray when the strategy first launched on their unit.
"I've definitely noticed an improvement in workflow, but there's also a stronger sense of equality and respect, as we collaborate and assigning tasks within our own scopes of practice.
"I know new models of care can feel intimidating at first, but the reality is we're experiencing a nursing shortage and for the sake of our patients, we need to find creative solutions."
Brenda says she feels encouraged by the flexibility of TeamUHN, as this new strategy continues to roll out across all sites.
"This is an exciting opportunity to bring education and care together, to inspire, invent, and deliver tomorrow's care, right now."