Making lifelong learning a priority for staff at Bridgepoint Health

From financial support for tuition and textbook costs, to offering training to upgrade skills or meet the needs of a changing workplace, Bridgepoint Health encourages its employees to expand their knowledge and expertise through higher education.

“We have always believed in supporting our staff and encouraging them to extend their professional development through continuous learning,” says Stav D’Andrea, Director of Human Resources at Bridgepoint Health. “Here at Bridgepoint, we provide staff with various training and educational opportunities as a priority in supporting lifelong learning.”

The human resources team at Bridgepoint recently partnered with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and was the only Ontario hospital to be awarded funding for Essential Skills Training. Through this funding, over 50 staff members participated in computer and role specific training to respond to their changing workplaces and evolving roles.

In 2009, when Bridgepoint enhanced its care model by moving to a regulated nursing model, the hospital offered Personal Support Workers (PSW) the opportunity to upgrade their education to achieve a Registered Practical Nurse designation.

“It was important for us to offer retraining opportunities to our staff,” says Mary McAllister, Director of Professional Practice – Nursing and Chair of Bridgepoint Health’s Education Support Committee. “Patient care and safety is a priority for us and through retraining we were able to achieve two objectives: maintain patient care, trust and comfort and continue to provide a contingent of staff who had the requisite skills and knowledge to deliver high quality care to patients with complex chronic diseases and disabilities.”

“Anytime we can offer education and retraining as an option to the recruitment process, is a benefit to our organization,” adds D’Andrea. “We were able to reduce recruitment and retraining costs and continue our high level of staff satisfaction and engagement.”

Bridgepoint also recently launched an Education Support Fund (ESF) as part of its Education Support Policy. This fund commits up to $40,000 per year towards staff professional development opportunities. The program was piloted in spring 2011 and fully implemented in August and has since helped over 40 staff members.

“The new Education Support Fund offers staff the chance to participate in short term educational events, conferences, workshops, etc., that are tied to specific skill sets and provide cutting-edge knowledge they may not find in other places,” says Elizabeth Hanna, Interprofessional Education Specialist and co-chair of the Bridgepoint Health Interprofessional Education Council. “The fund is yet another example of how Bridgepoint has embraced the cultural shift towards lifelong learning. It rewards staff for actively participating in education and training that contributes to the hospital’s vision of changing the world for those living with complex chronic disease and rehabilitation.”

The ESF complements Bridgepoint’s Tuition and Textbook Support Program (TTSP) which helps staff who prefer to learn in a traditional classroom environment. The program was developed to encourage employees to further their education while reducing the impact of costly tuition and book fees. The hospital provides up to $2,500 reimbursement for tuition costs and up to $300 reimbursement for textbook costs.

“Our staff really embrace educational opportunities like this and use such programs to advance their learning,” says D’Andrea. “Our employees benefit from developing a greater level of knowledge and skill which in turn is applied to programs and services to deliver continued excellence in patient care.”

Both full and part-time staff who have worked with the hospital for at least six months may apply for tuition or textbook support for eligible programs and courses at institutions recognized by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

“We recognize the commitment employees make when they choose to advance their education,” says D’Andrea. “Loss of working hours and time needed to study and prepare for exams are all part of the process. The Tuition and Textbook Support Program along with flexible scheduling helps alleviate some of those challenges.”

The hospital also encourages staff to take on the role of teacher, imparting their new knowledge and experiences with their colleagues.

“We definitely encourage and support employees to share their knowledge with their co-workers and teams,” says Hanna. “We believe every learner is a teacher and that the new information, innovations and methodologies they bring from the classroom or workshop can guide us in developing new efficiencies and improve our workplace.”

Bridgepoint Health continues to actively listen and engage with its staff as it plans its transition to its new building which will open in 2013.  A hospital wide survey of staff educational needs was conducted just this past fall.

“To grow effectively as a learning organization,” says McAllister, “we need to understand what our learners already know, what they feel is important to learn and how they can best acquire that knowledge.”

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