Baycrest nursing interns learn practice and leadership skills

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As Canada’s population ages, the need for more nurses to specialize in caring for the elderly is growing more urgent.

The BScN Gerontology Nursing Internship program at Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care is one of the most highly regarded, according to Penney Minor. Back in 1999, she was in her fourth year of the BScN at Lakehead University and looking for a clinical placement.

“I asked my professors to send me to the best geriatric facility in the world -and they told me ‘Go to Baycrest’,” she recalls. “I wanted to learn from the best nurses, be linked formally with a nurse mentor, and pursue an area of research that I could implement into my nursing practice.”

Baycrest offered all of the above, plus a “network of support” from nurses on her unit, administrators and healthcare professionals in many disciplines. In fact, Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has singled out Baycrest’s program as a mentoring model for new nursing graduates.

“Our RN graduates acquire knowledge, skills, critical thinking, and an in-depth expertise in gerontological nursing,” says Rhonda Seidman-Carlson, Director of Nursing Placement, Development and Practice. “They are empowered by a workplace environment that supports their learning, encourages enquiry, and lets them develop an area of expertise. Of our new interns, 98% have gone on to do their Masters.”

At Baycrest, nursing interns spend four shifts a week providing clinical care to clients. One of those shifts spells off their registered nurse mentor who, in turn, is able to pursue her research or clinical interests. The intern spends a fifth shift with another mentor (usually an advanced practice nurse, manager or director) in which they carry out a project in an area that interests them.

Minor says the learning curve during the intern year at Baycrest is so intense that nursing graduates acquire both practice as well as leadership skills that open doors to a wider range of career opportunities, including nursing administration positions.

Upon completing her internship, Minor worked for six months as an advanced practice nurse at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute before returning to Baycrest in 2002 full-time. In her first three years as an RN, she completed her Masters and became a Clinical Nurse Specialist in dementia care. Her area of expertise is on finding more effective ways to care for aging adults who exhibit challenging behaviors, such as wandering and agitation.

She works in Baycrest’s Apotex Centre, Jewish Home for the Aged and The Louis and Leah Posluns Centre for Stroke and Cognition, where many of the residents have some form of cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s.

“I want to help residents sustain their personhood and improve their quality of life,” she explains. To achieve this goal, Minor works with nursing colleagues, personal support workers, and families of residents to find ways to better connect and communicate with those who have a progressive neurological disease.

Minor hopes to one day complement her advanced practice with lecturing at the University of Toronto, so other nursing students can benefit from the knowledge she has acquired.

It’s mentorship come full circle!

For more information on Baycrest’s BScN Gerontology Internship program, please contact: Rhonda Seidman-Carlson, 416-785-2500, ext. 2769. The program is open to recent RN graduates and those who graduated within the last year.