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August 29, 2019 This post is written by a student intern at Baycrest’s Centre for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care (CLRI), as part of a reflective series.

Written by: Anna Crone (Fourth-year Bachelor of Kinesiology student at the University of Toronto).

When I began the internship at Baycrest’s Centre for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-term Care (CLRI), I expected to learn about the best practices in gerontological care and gain an understanding of the typical or atypical aging processes. In the last few months, what I learned is far deeper and more meaningful than mere factual knowledge. Working with nine other students with a shared passion for geriatrics, but with different expertise, backgrounds and strengths facilitated a rich learning experience. I gleaned valuable insights from all my colleagues regarding the roles that different professionals have in patient care. It was invaluable for me to hear other perspectives regarding caring for older adults.   

My main takeaway from this internship is the importance of relational care. One quote from an educational module about the value of storytelling that stuck with me is “before you ask your patient ‘how are you,’ ask ‘who are you.’” Providing care is more than completing a set of tasks to treat a condition. It is about human connection and relationship building. Health is multidimensional and contains emotional, social, and spiritual aspects that need to be considered. Through an interview with a program leader, I learned that one resident went from falling three times per day to going 30 days without falling at all. This 90-fold fall reduction was not due to medication, physiotherapy or a new glasses prescription. It was through the implementation of collaborative leadership; leaders organized team huddles where staff took time out of their day to sit together and share any insights or information they had about a particular resident. The goal was not to rush to solutions as quickly as possible, but rather through the process of reflective discussions. In these discussions, relevant and meaningful information was shared, which helped staff identify why this resident was falling so much, and they were able to implement a rather simple solution. The best healthcare providers are empathetic in their approach and curious about those they care for.

One of the most interesting learnings of this internship came from a film project that allowed me to practice relational care. A fellow intern and I were paired with a resident living in the Apotex Centre, Jewish Home for the Aged at Baycrest, to get to know the resident and create a film based on our experience. We began the process excited and eager to learn about this woman’s life story and document it to share with others. It didn’t exactly pan out the way we expected it. Our resident was quite reserved and hesitant to share personal details about her past. I realized that we, as care providers, cannot predict how a patient will act, what they will value, or what they will like or dislike. My interaction with the resident was an eye-opening experience, as I learned that we cannot even assume that we know what is best for our patients. We have to be flexible and caring in our approach and value every patient as a unique individual. Through conversing with this resident, I learned about what brings her joy in her current life. I developed an understanding of what the creative arts studio at Baycrest means to her and other residents. Many residents do not want to or are unable to share their stories, but art is a way for them to share them uniquely. Though I didn’t come away from this project with this resident’s whole life story, I did learn about what it truly means to build a therapeutic relationship. I will go forward in my career as an empathetic, thoughtful and open-minded healthcare practitioner, and I will always carry the lessons I learned at Baycrest with me.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Baycrest.
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