Country Haven PSW says the pandemic cemented her career path

‘I felt that being a PSW was literally my passion,’ says Tiffany Brydge

Tiffany Brydge had been working as a care assistant worker at Almonte Country Haven for two months when a COVID-19 outbreak was declared March 29, 2020, at the Lanark County long-term care home.

When the outbreak began, Tiffany says she knew that becoming a personal support worker (PSW) was her calling.

She had already signed up for the September intake of a PSW training program offered through the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) and supported by the Canadian Career Academy (CCA), but seeing the difference front-line workers made to residents during this challenging time cemented her decision.

“I felt that being a PSW was literally my passion, and I felt that I had finally found my passion when I came to work (at Almonte Country Haven) when we were going through the outbreak,” Tiffany tells The OMNIway.

Tiffany was on Facebook 14 months ago when she saw an ad from the Canadian Career Academy (CCA) about an opportunity to enrol in a PSW training program through the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO).

The training program is offered to students at a comparatively low cost. The CCA covers a portion of the program’s tuition fees and allows students to earn money while doing their work placements.

For prospective students like Tiffany who were already working at Almonte Country Haven or who wanted to do a placement at the home, OMNI Health Care covers the remainder of the tuition costs through its bursary program.

“I haven’t looked back since,” says Tiffany, who worked in the retail sector for 22 years before deciding on a career as a PSW.

Almonte Country Haven administrator Carolyn Della Foresta says Tiffany has “shone” as PSW at the home.

Carolyn remembers the day during the outbreak when Tiffany told her she was convinced she made the right decision to become a PSW.

“She said, ‘I’ve found my purpose in life. I’ve now found my passion and my purpose and it’s to work as a PSW and to help these residents,’ ” Carolyn says.

Carolyn adds that Tiffany is resident-focused, and whenever she has a spare moment, she will find something to do with residents, such as accompanying them outside to fill the bird feeders.

Tiffany, who graduated from the PSW training program in February, commends the course as an excellent resource for people considering a rewarding career as a PSW.

“I absolutely loved it and I’m so happy that I came across this opportunity,” she says.

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Photo caption: Four Almonte Country Haven team members recently graduated from a PSW training program the home is involved with through a partnership with the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario. Pictured left to right, Tiffany Brydge, Sheila Warren, Rebekah Lafontaine and Tracie Boyd.

Almonte PSW grad found training program so rewarding she recommended it to her husband

Rebekah Lafontaine graduated from the CDSBEO’s PSW program in February. Her husband is enrolled for the September intake

Rebekah Lafontaine has found her role as a personal support worker (PSW) at Almonte Country Haven so enriching she has recommended the training program she recently graduated from to her husband, who is now signed up for the September intake.

Rebekah began working as a care aide at the Lanark County long-term care home shortly after a three-month outbreak of the COVID-19 virus ended in late June of last year.

She already had a friend who was working as a care aide at Country Haven who recommended Rebekah apply for the position.

“My heart just broke and I wanted to help,” Rebekah tells The OMNIway.

She found her work as a care aide so rewarding she enrolled in a PSW training program the home is involved with through the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO).

But inspiration was also coming to Rebekah from another source: her grandmother.

“My grandmother had worked in long-term care for many years, and I had always looked up to her, so I gave it a try and I fell in love with it,” Rebekah says.

Rebekah, who graduated from the program in February, recommended her husband, Shawn, apply for a position as a care aide and consider taking the PSW program as well.

Shawn found he enjoyed working at Almonte Country Haven as much as Rebekah and he will be starting his PSW training in September.

“I told my husband about how happy I was and how happy I think it would make him, and it turns out I was right,” Rebekah says.

The PSW training program, which is supported by the Canadian Career Academy (CCA), is offered to students at a comparatively low cost. The CCA covers a portion of the program’s tuition fees and allows students to earn money while doing their work placements.

Students who are doing their placement at Almonte Country Haven have the remainder of their tuition paid for through OMNI Health Care’s bursary fund, and they have a PSW position waiting for them once they complete training.

Rebekah says she has not looked back on her decision, adding she enjoys coming to work every day because of the difference PSWs make in residents’ lives.

“There is so much to learn and grow,” she adds.

Almonte Country Haven administrator Carolyn Della Foresta says Rebekah is “one of the most gentle spirits I have ever met in my life” and is well suited for her work.

“She wants to excel and she takes every opportunity to learn,” Carolyn says. “She is so passionate about her work.”

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Community kindness: Local couple donates A/C units and fans to Country Haven, but the home ended up with much more

‘This is a story of one raindrop falling but having an incredible ripple effect’

Paul and Lee Brennae were at home in Almonte, Ont. last year watching a TV news story about how many older long-term care homes in the province do not have air conditioning, and this gave the couple an idea.

One of those homes without air conditioning was Almonte Country Haven, which had also been affected by a three-month COVID-19 outbreak, and the couple decided right then to help.

Knowing the hot, humid days of summer were just around the corner, the Brennaes decided to buy two air-conditioning units and two large fans for Almonte Country Haven to help keep residents cool and comfortable when temperatures began to rise.

Paul contacted Almonte Country Haven administrator Carolyn Della Foresta to let her know of the couple’s intentions.

Carolyn thanked the Brennaes for their kind offer, and Paul went ahead and ordered the air-conditioning units and fans through the Lowe’s Canada website.

But when the items arrived there was only one fan, so Paul made some phone calls letting Lowe’s know they were one fan short on their delivery.

Eventually, Paul talked with a representative from Lowe’s executive customer service department who said the fan was misplaced, which explained the delay, so to make up for the error Lowe’s offered to ship an extra fan at no cost.

In the end, Almonte Country Haven received two air-conditioning units and three fans, and Carolyn and the residents were grateful to the Brennaes and Lowe’s for their kind gestures.

“Paul and Lee reached out in this incredibly kind and tangible way, and these air conditioners and fans are just amazing,” Carolyn tells The OMNIway.

“What was so amazing to me is that this couple in the community had no personal connection with the home, (but) they knew about what we were going through (with the outbreak) and they were touched by our story and they wanted to reach out with an act of kindness.”

But the story doesn’t end here.

When Lowe’s learned from Paul the items were for Almonte Country Haven, the company wanted to do something extra for residents.

“They said they really liked what we were doing, so we were contacted by the company president’s executive assistant who said (Lowe’s) wanted to do more, so they asked what else (Almonte Country Haven) needed,” Paul says.

Paul let Carolyn know about Lowe’s offer, and Carolyn asked members of the home’s residents’ council what they would like from the company catalogue.

Looking ahead to the summer of 2021, the residents said new outdoor furniture to replace the older furniture would be great for outdoor visits and summer picnics.

In October, Carolyn was invited by Lowe’s to send an e-mail outlining residents’ request, which she did, along with an accompanying thank-you letter.

She relayed residents’ request for new outdoor furniture, and Lowe’s responded by sending a $2,000 gift card.

The Almonte Country Haven team will be using the card soon to buy residents their new outdoor furniture.

Looking back, Paul notes how the chain of events leading up to Almonte Country Haven receiving an extra fan and then a $2,000 Lowe’s gift card was unexpected.

“Initially, I just wanted to know where the fan was,” he chuckles.

Carolyn says she’s touched by the kindness and generosity the Brennae’s and Lowe’s have shown for Almonte Country Haven residents.

“This is a story of one raindrop falling but having an incredible ripple effect,” she says.

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How COVID-19 prompted a dietary staff member to become a PSW

Sheila Warren had worked in the kitchen at Almonte Country Haven for 29 years, but when an outbreak began in March 2020, she decided to make a career change

Sheila Warren had worked in the nutritional care department at Almonte Country Haven for 29 years when a COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the Lanark County long-term care home on March 29, 2020.

Knowing front-line team members would need additional help caring for residents, and having previous health-care aide training, Sheila approached administrator Carolyn Della Foresta and asked to switch duties so she could work on the floor to help the personal support workers (PSWs).

Carolyn accommodated Sheila’s request and immediately noticed Sheila had a natural gift for PSW work. In fact, Carolyn, along with other Country Haven team members, thought caregiving may truly be Sheila’s calling.

Managers, PSWs and nurses suggested Sheila take PSW training and change job roles at Almonte Country Haven.

“As a management group, we saw that Sheila was amazing (working on the floor), she was meant to work hands-on,” Carolyn tells The OMNIway.

“We saw that Sheila shone outside of the dietary department working hands-on for her entire shift with the residents.”

There was also a perfect opportunity waiting for Sheila: Almonte Country Haven had recently entered a partnership with the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) through a PSW training program the school board offers.

The training program, which is supported by the Canadian Career Academy (CCA), is offered to students at a comparatively low cost. The CCA covers a portion of the program’s tuition fees and allows students to earn money while doing their work placements.

For people like Sheila doing their placement at Country Haven, OMNI Health Care covers the remainder of the tuition costs through its bursary program.

Sheila decided to consider the offer, but before making a final decision, she wanted to consult with one more person: her mother who, coincidentally, had been a caregiver at Almonte Country Haven.

“I thought long and hard about it and talked to my mum, and my mum was the icing on the cake for my decision to take the PSW course,” Sheila says.

“She basically said you are your mother’s daughter and you will be fantastic at it.”

Sheila completed the training program and is now a full-time PSW at Almonte Country Haven. Sheila says she has not looked back on her decision.

“I love it immensely,” she says of her new position.

Sheila also has words of praise for the PSW program offered by CDSBEO.

“It was very informative,” she says of the program, adding her neighbour recently expressed interest in signing up for the training. “Between doing the course, working and taking care of everything at home, my schedule was full, but it was a very informative program.”

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Photo caption: Four Almonte Country Haven team members recently graduated from a PSW training program the home is involved with through a partnership with the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario. Pictured left to right, Tiffany Brydge, Sheila Warren, Rebekah Lafontaine and Tracie Boyd.

Work-life balance has made Almonte Country Haven an ideal workplace, says DOC

‘I look forward to coming to work every morning’

When Susan Abernethy interviewed for the director of care (DOC) position at Almonte Country Haven last autumn, one of the first things explained to her was the importance OMNI Health Care places on work-life balance.

After more than 30 years of working as a nurse in hospitals, largely in emergency rooms, Susan says this was music to her ears.

“When I first spoke with OMNI for my interview and they said that work-life balance was one of the most important values, I almost fell out of my chair, because this is not the atmosphere in an acute-care hospital,” Susan tells The OMNIway.

Susan, who was awarded the DOC position at the Lanark County long-term care home in November, says she has found the promise of work-life balance to be “very refreshing and real.”

In hospital settings, nurses and other staff members often find themselves working 12-hour shifts. When Susan was a hospital nurse, she says she found her days off to be spent “recuperating rather than relaxing,” so the change has been welcomed.

Since becoming DOC at Almonte Country Haven, Susan says she has been enjoying the work-life balance OMNI promised. This, she says, has helped her enjoy her work and thrive in the DOC role.

“I look forward to coming to work every morning,” she says. “The days go by so quickly, which says to me that I am enjoying it, and there’s enough work that I am a ‘good busy,’ not a ‘stressed busy.’

“It is lovely to go home and sleep every night and to live a routine life – I had forgotten how good this life can be.”

Combined with the work-life balance, Susan says she has also found a strong “team approach” to resident care at Almonte Country Haven. Staff members, she says, are resident-centred and everyone works together to provide residents with the best quality of life possible.

“The management team here is a very well-oiled machine and they are an amazing team to work with,” she says. “I consider myself fortunate to be working here.”

– This is Part 2 of a two-part story

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Personal touch to care attracted DOC to Almonte Country Haven

Susan Abernethy brings 30-plus years of nursing experience to residents and staff

Susan Abernethy says she’s always had a passion for working with seniors, so when there was an opening for the director of care (DOC) position at Almonte Country Haven last autumn she decided it was time for a career change.

Susan had worked as a registered nurse in hospitals – largely in emergency rooms – for more than 30 years. While she enjoyed the work, by 2020 she felt “it was time for a change,“ and applied for the DOC position at the Lanark County long-term care home.

She became Almonte Country Haven’s DOC in November.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for working with seniors,” Susan tells The OMNIway. “The timing was just such that I felt I needed a change, (and) I happily accepted the position here.”

Unlike in hospitals, where patients are typically short-stay, long-standing relationships are built between residents and caregivers in long-term care homes which provides a unique atmosphere in health care, Susan says.

From her first day as Almonte Country Haven’s DOC, Susan says she wanted to embrace this personal touch to care. That meant getting to know each of the home’s residents on a first-name basis from the get-go.

“When I first came here, my way of getting to know the residents was to go into the dining room every morning and see how many people’s names I could remember, and that helped me fit right in,” she says.

“I wanted to get back to that nurse-patient relationship that is more human versus clinical.”

Working with Almonte Country Haven administrator Carolyn Della Foresta for the past four months has created “one of the best job circumstances” Susan says she has experienced.

What Susan says she is finding at Almonte Country Haven is an environment with exceptional leadership where everyone is fully dedicated to the residents they serve.

This dedication, she says, results in outstanding resident care.

“Carolyn is fully invested in the home in every sense of the word. She’s very passionate about the residents getting the very best care, and that filters down to the residents and staff,” Susan says.

“When you have someone who is integrating themselves into the care of residents in the way that Carolyn does, it has a positive effect on everyone else.”

– This is Part 1 of a two-part story

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Almonte Country Haven celebrates four more graduates of PSW program

Six team members have now completed PSW training through a partnership program involving the home

Almonte Country Haven recently celebrated the graduation of four more team members from a personal support worker (PSW) program the Lanark County long-term care home is involved with to help bring more PSWs into the health-care sector.

Tiffany Brydge, Sheila Warren, Rebekah Lafontaine and Tracie Boyd were honoured with a surprise graduation ceremony their Almonte Country Haven colleagues hosted for them on March 8.

Tiffany, Shelia, Rebekah and Tracie were presented with mortars and gowns to wear and received congratulations from their co-workers on their achievement.

Since early 2020, Almonte Country Haven has participated in a PSW training program offered by the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) and supported by the Canadian Career Academy (CCA).

The CDSBEO offers the PSW training program at a comparatively low cost. The CDSBEO has partnered with CCA to cover a portion of students’ tuition. Students are also permitted to earn money while completing their work placement hours.

Students who are doing their placement at Almonte Country Haven have the remaining portion of their tuition covered through OMNI Health Care’s bursary program.

Almonte Country Haven administrator Carolyn Della Foresta says the PSW training program is a valuable asset on many levels.

First, it’s encouraging more PSWs to work in the long-term care sector, which helps address the provincewide staffing shortage. The program also lifts financial barriers that sometimes prevent people from pursuing training and also provides students the opportunity to earn money while doing their placement at Almonte Country Haven.

Once their training is complete, the students can continue to work at Almonte Country Haven.

“This program is truly a win-win for the students because they’re earning while they learn, something full-time students aren’t always able to do,” Carolyn tells The OMNIway.

“From an employer’s perspective, it’s assisting us in recruiting PSWs which is fantastic. We are really excited by the partnership and we think it’s absolutely fantastic what they’re able to provide because so many people have been limited by the financial costs of (a PSW training) program.”

There are now six Almonte Country Haven PSWs who have completed their training through this initiative.

In October, PSWs Debbie Burke and Rebecca Smith became the first Country Haven team members to complete their training through the program.

Additionally, there are two students currently enrolled in the program and two more have signed up for the September intake, Carolyn says.

Carolyn says as the students progress, the expertise and confidence they gain through their training shine through.

“We are seeing that they are just blossoming in front of us, and we’re watching their confidence build as they learn and as they complete the practical components (of the program) in the home.”

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OMNI manager’s case study to be used as part of coursework on crisis management

Ruzica Subotic-Howell used her experience as a DOC during the COVID-19 outbreak at Almonte Country Haven in 2020 as the focal point for her submission

A case study focused on crisis management that Ruzica Subotic-Howell created as part of the coursework for a training program aimed at long-term-care home directors of care (DOCs) and assistant directors of care (ADOCs) was so well received by the company offering the course that it will now be used as a component of the training program.

Ruzica, the director of infection, prevention and control at Garden Terrace, was enrolled in the DOC/ADOC leadership program offered by Silver Meridian, a Whitby, Ont.-based health-care consultancy firm, in 2020 while she was DOC at Almonte Country Haven.

The Silver Meridian DOC/ADOC leadership program is a certificate course that includes components focusing on the challenges nurse leaders face in long-term care homes and how they can overcome those challenges.

The program is offered to directors of care (DOCs) and assistant directors of care (ADOCs) or those who aspire to hold these positions in a long-term care home.

The case study Ruzica developed was based on her experiences working at Almonte Country Haven during the COVID-19 outbreak that impacted the home shortly after the pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization last March.

Ruzica’s case study largely focuses on the challenges the home faced, the approaches used to control the outbreak, what she learned as a nurse leader, and how she and others worked with stakeholders in a fast-paced, constantly changing environment to control a virus which, at the time, little was known about.

The written narrative Ruzica submitted garnered positive feedback from Silver Meridian. Silver Meridian said her submission was an “exemplary example of a crisis management case study” that demonstrated innovation and leadership, was well focused and proactive.

Ruzica says she’s honoured Silver Meridian asked to use her case study to help others learn.

“I was deeply, deeply touched, because I wrote about the real-time experiences that we were having at the time of the outbreak so that we would retain that knowledge,” Ruzica tells The OMNIway.

Ruzica says a major highlight of her case study was on the importance of teamwork during a crisis. During the COVID-19 outbreak at Almonte Country Haven, people working in all departments came together to share ideas and information to help everyone through a challenging time. This teamwork proved to be valuable in getting the home through the outbreak.

“It was unbelievable; the nursing team and all the other departments came together,” Ruzica says. “It had to be a team effort, and the bonds and relationships that were created were unbelievable.”

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Almonte Country Haven residents receive first dose of Moderna vaccine

A team effort from residents, staff and the public health unit helped make Jan. 28 vaccination clinic a success

All residents of Almonte Country Haven have received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine to help protect them against the COVID-19 virus.

On Jan. 28, an immunization team from the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit was at the Lanark County long-term care home to administer the vaccine, which is given in two doses.

Carolyn Della Foresta, Almonte Country Haven’s administrator, says four of the home’s nurses helped the public health unit team vaccinate residents.

After each resident received the vaccination, they were given a special badge to wear that read, “I Got My COVID-19 Vaccine,” and were then brought to the front of the home where a public health unit nurse was standing by to ensure they were experiencing no side effects.

“It was all hands on deck and all of our staff were involved in supporting the recommended half-hour observation period to ensure that any possible reaction was swiftly identified and dealt with,” Carolyn said in a Jan. 28 e-mail.

“Thankfully, all of our residents tolerated the injection well, and then everyone enjoyed a lovely lunch following.”

After the residents were vaccinated, Almonte Country Haven team members monitored everyone for “even the slightest change in status” to add an extra layer of safety, Carolyn says, adding all staff members from every department are trained and instructed on the importance of close observation of residents.

Carolyn also commended the teamwork shown by residents, Almonte Country Haven staff and members of the public health unit’s vaccination team that ensured the day’s success.

“I would like to offer a huge shout of congratulations and thanks to our residents, our Haven staff and our partners at the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit,” Carolyn said.

“Today was yet another emotional day on our journey of healing, and it wouldn’t have been possible without everyone’s support.”

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Having a certified doula will enhance the quality of end-of-life/palliative care at Country Haven, says manager

RPN Rachel Gukert, who has a ‘passion’ for helping residents receiving palliative care and their families, recently completed her end-of-life doula training

Almonte Country Haven registered practical nurse (RPN) Rachel Gukert recently became a certified end-of-life doula, and her training and expertise counselling residents at the end-of-life stage and their families will help enhance the quality of care at the Lanark County long-term care home, says one of Rachel’s colleagues.

Ruzica Subotic-Howell, the director of infection, prevention and control at Garden Terrace, worked with Rachel at Almonte Country Haven when Ruzica was Country Haven’s director of care. She says Rachel has a “passion” for helping residents receiving palliative care supports and their families, and the knowledge she has gleaned through her end-of-life doula certification will enhance the already-strong palliative care team at the home, Ruzica adds.

“Doula” is a Greek word that translates to “servant” or “helper”. The goal of an end-of-life doula is to empower and counsel people who are at the end-of-life stage and their families on decision making when it comes to their wishes and needs.

While staff members working on palliative care teams already consult with residents receiving end-of-life care and their families about their wishes and needs, a doula specializes in the approach, Ruzica says.

“What (having an end-of-life doula) will mean for residents receiving end-of-life care is that they will have a specialized person who will be able to look at the domains of their care as they move to end-of-life/palliative care,” Ruzica tells The OMNIway.

“This is definitely related to the quality of resident care because Rachel is now a leader in that, and she’s a wonderful teacher and a team player who shares her knowledge with others, so it will be a tremendous benefit for the home.”

Ruzica says there are not many doulas working in Ontario long-term care homes, so being certified as an end-of-life doula is a “massive achievement” for Rachel that will benefit Almonte Country Haven residents and their loved ones.

“Rachel has been such a keen person, (and) she has taken on the initiative to (build upon) her palliative care knowledge, so this brings (her expertise) up quite a notch,” Ruzica says.

“She wants to work with residents at Almonte and really solidify the knowledge she has to help them.”

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