A dream come true –

PACE for PSWs online palliative care education is open for registrations!

By Kath Murray

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of Personal Support Workers. Anyone who knows me, knows that my palliative care career has focused on addressing the education needs of PSWs. And so, it is no surprise to those who know me, that one of my dreams would be to offer online palliative care education specifically for PSWs. And this week, this dream is coming to fruition as PACE for PSWs, Palliative Care Education for PSWs, opens to receive registrations.

Personal Support Workers, also known in Canada as “unregulated care providers” provide direct care to people with such diverse and often complex needs, in a variety of physical settings, with a variety of family and friends who also require support. PSWs provide this care with less than a year of formal education. In some settings, PSWs care in isolation, without team members there to provide support, to assist with lifting, to discuss the challenges. In other settings, PSWs might work among colleagues, but with a noticeable lack of team. Given the incredible work, the sometimes-insurmountable challenges, and yet the ongoing deep commitment to care for people – I am humbled to associate with PSWs and my career focuses on developing education and resources to support PSWs in practice, to support the PSWs educators, and to support the larger health care team. I am excited to write that over 250 colleges and organizations use our resources for integrating palliative care in their core curriculum and workplace education.

There are still thousands and thousands of PSWs who have received only a few hours if any palliative care education. These PSWs may not understand the benefit of integrating a palliative approach in caring for people with any life-limiting illness, they may struggle with multiple losses and ongoing grief and not understand that in so many ways they are doing the work of a hospice – and during COVID, they may have especially struggled to bridge the divide caused by COVID restrictions, to help patients and family communicate, and to be with those who were sick and dying when the family was unable to sit with them.

My questions became, How can we reach PSWs who cannot access face to face education, how can we support workplace educators who cannot provide face to face education and/or who cannot free up staff to attend face to face education?

With these questions in hand, I approached Hospice Palliative Care Ontario and the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, to discuss the development of an online palliative care education program designed specifically for PSWs.  I am deeply grateful that leaders in both organizations understood the need. We formed a collaboration, and for the past year have worked together to develop PACE for PSWs, an online program, where PSWs receive a national certificate upon completion of ten courses.

We are so grateful to receive grants from the Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem, from Health Canada and from St Elizabeth Health Care to develop the program and/or individual courses.

Today, as I write, the final registration glitches are being sorted out. Then, tomorrow, the website will open for PSWs to register.

In the coming weeks, I hope that colleagues will consider ways to treat the PSWs in their organization to this online learning, I hope that employers will step forward and register their PSWs as a way to give thanks for all their contributions and sacrifices made during COVID. I hope that the public will hear about PACE and will consider sponsoring a PSW to take the course, as a way to say, “Thank you”.

Yes, I am excited about PACE for PSWs to open.

And, I am honoured to have been a part of making this happen.

So, when someone asks, if I am excited about the launch of PACE for PSWs, I say, “Yes, it is a dream come true”.

To learn more and register head to www.PACEforPSWs.ca

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