Annual Working with Seniors Day empowers future health care professionals

Aging Suit

On May 10, 2018, Michener hosted its fifth annual Working with Seniors simulation day.

Following its introduction in 2014, the school has now incorporated the program into its curriculum so that all students enter their chosen career fields with basic competencies in supporting older patients within a health care setting.

Working with Seniors is made up of two components: a series of online learning modules and a simulation day. On simulation day, the second and third year students participate in a panel discussion in which seniors share their health care system experiences, followed by a series of simulation workshops including interacting directly with seniors, observing and participating in scenarios and wearing an innovative frail aging suit.

Some of the biggest takeaways from this year’s panel focused on treating patients as an individual rather than a condition, listening to and respecting a patient’s feedback, being open and honest with your patient about their situation and remembering to maintain a sense of humour.

“One of the must uncomfortable things is dealing with a professional who doesn’t have a sense of humour,” joked panelist David Wilkinson.

The panel also discussed the importance of imparting hope and the impact this can have on patient outcomes. “Hope, I think, is the most important aspect of health care,” said panel member Dave Redinger after sharing that a friend had passed away shortly after receiving a poor prognosis.

For the first time in history, there are more older people (over 65) in Ontario than younger, and that trend is forecast to continue. By 2034, the number of seniors in the province will have doubled, and the demand for health care among seniors is expected to increase dramatically.

“We know that the baby boomers are all moving into senior world. There are lots of perfectly functioning seniors but there are some that are not, and we have to be able to meet those needs, whatever they are, in day-to-day life,” said Jane Mattson, Manager of Continuing Education.

The objective of the program is that students will not only build knowledge and skills for working with older individuals, but also develop awareness of the biases that get in the way of providing care to this demographic.

The day proved to be an important reminder that while not every job involves direct interaction with patients, every member of the health care team plays a role in providing the best care possible.

This unique learning opportunity would not have been possible without volunteers from the Michener community who took on various roles to help facilitate discussions and simulation rotations for more than 285 students.