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December 31, 2020 Flu shot 1A Baycrest-led virtual education program helped long-term care workers feel better equipped to address the challenges of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.

“Long-term care homes have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and a lot of healthcare providers in long-term care have experienced increased stress,” says Lisa Sokoloff, Manager, Training and Simulation and Program Director, ECHO Care of the Elderly at Baycrest. “After attending our education sessions, many of our participants felt better prepared to deal with potential COVID-19 cases in long-term care.” “The program also emphasized the importance of healthcare providers taking care of themselves and their colleagues. Several participants told us that the program helped decrease their stress levels and feelings of professional isolation by making them feel more connected to their colleagues in the sector,” says Navena Lingum, Program Coordinator and lead author of the paper.

The program was part of Project Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO), a virtual, real-time knowledge dissemination program for healthcare providers across North America. Since 2018, Baycrest has facilitated numerous Project ECHO Care of the Elderly (COE) programs in partnership with the North East Specialized Geriatric Centre, a program of Health Sciences North. The long-term care based programs, including the COVID-19 program, are done in collaboration with the Ontario Centres for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care (CLRI) at Baycrest.

“We started with four one-hour sessions, to see what the interest would be during the pandemic. After two of these sessions, people were already asking if we could do more. We were doing in-the-moment needs assessments, setting one or two sessions at a time,” says Lisa. “We ended up with 12 sessions!”
Each session focused on a particular topic related to COVID-19 in the context of long-term care. The sessions began with a short presentation by a subject matter expert, followed by case presentations by participants, who were healthcare providers in long-term care.

“A beautiful thing about Project ECHO is that it really promotes just-in-time learning. You can talk about something that happened just that morning during your session, which is extremely useful during the pandemic, when information and best practices are rapidly evolving,” says Lisa.

The sessions covered a broad range of topics. Some focused on information specific to COVID-19, such as proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), busting infection control myths, and symptom and end-of-life management for COVID-positive residents. Other sessions focused on self-care and caring for colleagues, spanning topics such as building resilience and coping with stress and anxiety.

“We launched the program in April, and by the beginning of May we had about 250 participants from around 140 long-term care homes across Ontario, including rural and remote areas of the province,” says Navena. “The group included nurses and nurse practitioners, directors of care, physicians and other allied health partners.”
Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire about their satisfaction with the program, as well as any changes in their clinical practice resulting from their participation. This evaluation was supported by the team at Baycrest’s Kunin-Lunenfeld Centre for Applied Research and Evaluation (KL-CARE).

Besides reporting decreased stress and increased feelings of preparedness to work with residents in the context of COVID-19, many also said that they had implemented what they learned from the program at work or shared information with their colleagues. They also unanimously indicated that they would recommend the program to others.

“The positive feedback we received from our participants shows us that this program truly helped healthcare providers in long-term care during the first wave,” says Dr. David Conn, Vice-President, Education at Baycrest and Medical Lead for ECHO Care of the Elderly. “It may be a critical tool during this pandemic and in future crises to deliver just-in-time learning during periods of constantly changing information.”

About Baycrest
Baycrest is a global leader in geriatric residential living, healthcare, research, innovation and education, with a special focus on brain health and aging. Baycrest is home to a robust research and innovation network, including one of the world’s top research institutes in cognitive neuroscience, the Rotman Research Institute; the scientific headquarters of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, Canada’s largest national dementia research initiative; and the Baycrest-powered Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation, a solution accelerator focused on driving innovation in the aging and brain health sector. Fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, Baycrest provides excellent care for older adults combined with an extensive clinical training program for the next generation of healthcare professionals. Through these initiatives, Baycrest has remained at the forefront of the fight to defeat dementia as our organization works to create a world where every older adult enjoys a life of purpose, inspiration and fulfilment. Founded in 1918 as the Toronto Jewish Old Folks Home, Baycrest continues to embrace the long-standing tradition of all great Jewish healthcare institutions to improve the well-being of people in their local communities and around the globe. For more information please visit: www.baycrest.org
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