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New orientation program helps nurses transition into long-term care

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Beth Wilson doing long-term care training

 By: Kirsten Millar


Long-term care facilities were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. And here in Nova Scotia, with our aging population, we really felt the impact of the virus.

But, if COVID-19 taught us anything, it was that our health care workers are vital in keeping our community healthy and safe. In long-term care homes especially, it illustrated the vital role that nurses play in the wellbeing of residents.


Answering the call

One initiative aims to help more nurses transition into long-term care. The new orientation course is for Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) who have entered long-term care practice within 12 months.

It was born out of the 2015 Broken Homes Report, by Paul Curry, former Researcher, Educator, Government Relations, and Occupational Health & Safety Consultant for the Nova Scotia Nurses Union (NSNU). The report grabbed the attention of several provincial partners including the Health Care Human Resource Sector Council.

“Based on the recommendations of the report, the council felt there needed to be development of a standardized orientation for new hires and graduates entering long-term care—both RNs and LPNs,” said Genevieve MacNeil, Nurse Educator within the faculty of  Long-Term Care at the Nova Scotia Health Learning Institute for Health Care Providers.  “We are answering that call.”

With six different learning modules, the orientation takes three months to complete. The nurses take the first four modules online before entering a one-month practice in a long-term care home. They complete module five, followed by another one-month practice, and then the sixth and final module. The orientation also contains a Skills Day that can be delivered within LTC communities to help nurses to enhance necessary LTC practice skills.

“We designed it this way so that there is asynchronous learning, and the one-month practice experiences help the nurses consolidate their knowledge as they go,” said MacNeil.

The orientation includes additional supportive documents for long-term care staff and educators who would be orienting and welcoming nurses into the practice setting. Participating long-term care facilities would also have access to all the learning modules in PDF format to help them welcome new nurses.

So far, the orientation is being piloted in two long-term care facilities in Nova Scotia; Harbourstone Enhanced Care in Sydney and Taigh na Mara in Glace Bay.


Transforming the standard of care

“The purpose of long-term care orientation for RNs and LPNs is to provide standardized education for nurses as they transition into the practice,” said Beth Wilson, Nursing Instructor IV within the faculty of Long-Term Care at the Nova Scotia Health Learning Institute for Health Care Providers.

“The other goal is really about increasing the standard of care in long-term care and nursing more broadly,” said Wilson.  “It's important that people are aware that long-term care, as a practice specialty in nursing, is very underserviced in terms of the education that is provided to nurses in that sector. In creating this course, we hope to pave inroads into standardizing an education that's competency based, credible, and helps put long-term care on the radar.”

“We wanted to have a 360-degree focus in terms of addressing the needs of bringing in new employees,” said MacNeil. 

“We hope the orientation will lead to an increased quality of care for residents and provide extra support and leadership to allow nurses to feel confident entering a new field. And we hope that having nurses that are well prepared to work in long-term care will encourage them to stay in the field.”

There are plans in place for a province-wide launch of the course in March 2024.

“The relationships we've made throughout this process have been really helpful, supportive and fruitful, and are going to help propel us forward into this work in the future,” said MacNeil. “Knowing that this is just an orientation, we have a bigger vision of making a more comprehensive course for long-term care.”

To learn more about long-term care orientation, click here.