Students asked to fill employment shortage at Long Term Care Homes

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Graphic by Taynaya Miranda

The wails of staffing shortages are heard across the country.

This is particularly prevalent in long term care homes where the most vulnerable reside. Thus, the Ontario Long Term Care Association has put out a call for students to fill those vacant roles.

They are a member-based association that represents long term care homes across Ontario. They represent over 70 per cent of that sector, including private operators, charitable organizations, and non-profit organizations.

Long term care homes had experienced staffing shortages even before the pandemic began. With half of the workforce being part-time and casual,  the staffing shortage was heightened due to COVID-19. 

Recently, 28 service members of the Canadian Armed Forces who were deployed to the long term care homes to fill those staffing shortages contracted the virus.

Moreover, there was also a $50 million lawsuit against long term care provider Revera with allegations of improper measures against COVID-19. With the recent government policy to keep all staff at a single site – compared to staff working at multiple homes before the pandemic – the staffing shortage has further increased. In long term care homes group activities have been limited, requiring more one-on-one care. 

“Early on, we knew that there was going to be an urgent need and that we needed to move fast. We reached out to a number of our partners and one of our commercial partners is Seneca,” Wiesia Kubicka, Vice President of Policy and Operations at the Ontario Long Term Care Association, said.

The Ontario Long term Care Association decided to partner with one of Seneca’s incubator companies, called Tazwiz, which creates quick hire platforms.

Tazwiz launched their platform on April 20, 2020 and currently they have more than 224 postings. There are now over 470 registrants, many of whom are students. 

“There needs to be strict safety provisions in place,”  Nicole Brayiannis, National Deputy Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, said.

“There should not be any risk for individuals entering into these roles. There should be sound safety provisions in place to ensure that the individuals entering into these roles as well as the loved ones that they maybe have at home, will be protected, should they feel comfortable enough to assume these positions and take on these responsibilities.”

Kubicka explained that the online platform has built-in mechanisms for active screening. As part of the screening process, students would be asked if they have traveled and if they have symptoms.

If they don’t pass the screen, the student will not be able to apply for the job and will be directed to seek health advice. However, the screening will not end with the application process. Long term care homes also screen their staff twice a day. During their employment, students would get personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Brayiannis said that students are uneasy about this upcoming summer now that they have lost jobs or had other opportunities to fall through.

Students are worried about their finances in regards to continuing their education and what life after graduation will look like.

Brayiannis added that students are eager to build their portfolio, especially students who are trying to build up their resume within those fields, or students looking to help during this pandemic. Kubicka echoed those same sentiments. 

“Anything from if you want to get your foot in the door to get some experience in the health care system in Ontario… to anything that’s more clinical… more apt for someone who is a graduate student that has some credentials and experience,” Kubicka said. 

The recruitment efforts started off with targeting mostly health and social sciences students but have now expanded to internationally trained health professionals.

However, Kubicka was clear that non-social sciences and health students are not barred from applying for these positions. 

“The core of competency that we are looking for is someone who cares, someone who feels that drive to be of service to provide care and we can bring in the technical expertise to teach you how to do the job, but you need that natural inclination,” Kubicka said. 

There are multiple roles that are being posted among which the most common is the ‘Resident Support Aid’.

It is a non-care role that includes responsibilities such as helping residents virtually connect with their family, one-on-one recreation activities, helping them during mealtime, and carrying out administrative duties. Kubicka urges that these non-care roles are also important as they take the weight off the clinical staff so that they can do the jobs for which they are trained.

Kubicka explained that these roles are open to all students including graduate, undergraduate, and international students. She specified that international students can be an asset as they can converse with the residents in their mother tongue. Overall, the entire hiring process is quick and students could be hired within days.

“Many of us feel incredible gratitude to our seniors who reside in long term care homes and this is such a great opportunity to give back, and it’s also an opportunity for people to get really great experience in healthcare,” Kubicka said.

“Long term care is a unique place. It’s different [from] the rest of the healthcare system. You really are serving our most elderly and our most vulnerable but it is also very enriching and rewarding. As demanding as the roles can be, it also is a heartwarming experience to be able to care for and support our seniors. I hope that we can draw some students in and they can learn more about long term care and maybe even consider it as a career opportunity for them in the future.”

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