It worked exactly the way a health care system should work.
When he was travelling around Ontario in 2012, consulting stakeholders about the best ways to serve Ontario’s aging population, geriatrician Dr. Samir Sinha encountered a nurse in Lindsay, Ontario who talked – as many others had — about the lack of educational resources for social workers, doctors, therapists and nurses working with older adults.
Dr. Sinha, the newly appointed provincial lead of Ontario’s Seniors Strategy at the time, called Dr. Ed Brown, OTN chief executive officer, and asked if those geriatrics lectures might be un-archived.
“Of course,” Dr. Brown replied. But then he offered to go one better. “If you can supply the content, OTN could even build an online geriatrics learning centre.”
The Ontario Geriatrics Learning Centre (OLGC) became recommendation #134 in Dr. Sinha’s Ontario Seniors Strategy, Living Longer, Living Well. It’s one of a group of recommendations designed to help health, social and community care providers acquire additional knowledge and skills in the care of older adults.
“The Ontario Geriatrics Learning Centre is an excellent tool that will help providers better serve Ontario’s aging population,” says Dr. Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. “The OGLC gives providers access to a host of educational resources supplied by the province’s foremost experts in geriatric care. It is of great benefit to providers and, in turn, it means patients will receive the best quality care.”
According to both Ed Brown and Dr. Sinha, the learning centre helps address one of the greatest challenges facing front line health care providers in Ontario: geriatrics is not a mandatory requirement in the training of our current health and social care providers.
“In med school,” Dr. Brown says, “you learn about diseases but not necessarily about the different ways those diseases manifest in older adults.”
“It’s an odd situation,” Dr. Sinha says, “there’s mandatory training in paediatrics but not geriatrics. Yet older people now outnumber younger people in our population.”
The OGLC – geriatrics.otn.ca – is free, accessible 24-7 and features the province’s leading experts teaching about geriatric syndromes, common care issues and quality of life issues.
And it’s so unique and useful that, in the four months since it was launched, well over a thousand healthcare providers, administrators and even ordinary folks in 15 countries, from Curacao to China, Israel to India, have accessed the site to watch one or more of the 53 available video lectures. Usually about 45 minutes in length, the videos are designed so they can be watched in short segments and are supported by downloadable PowerPoint presentations.
“We wanted the learning centre to be a place where people can get practical, high quality education, free of commercial bias and organized in a friendly way. Our inspiration was simplicity and accessibility,” Dr. Sinha says.
“With only 250 geriatricians amongst 75,000 physicians in Canada – there are 10 times as many paediatricians – we recognize that we will never have enough geriatricians to care for everyone. The ratio is one geriatrician to every 21,000 people in Canada. Primary care providers – family doctors and nurse practitioners and others – will therefore have to be able to deliver the care and advice older adults need.”
Lecture topics and lecturers were chosen by the learning centre advisory committee which includes Dr. Sinha who is currently the Director of Geriatrics with the Sinai Health System and the University Health Network; Irmajean Bajnok, RN, Director of International Programs and Best Practice Guideline Programs at the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario; Katherine Berg, Associate Professor of the Department of Physical Therapy, University of Toronto; David K. Conn, vice president of education and Director of the Centre for Education and Knowledge Exchange at Baycrest Health Sciences; Carol Holmes, RN, Program Manager for the Long-Term Care Best Practices Program at RNAO; Hugh Kellam, PhD, Manager of Training Services and Customer Communications, OTN; Dr. John Puxty, Chair of the Division of Geriatric Medicine at Queen’s University and was chaired during development by OTN’s Joanna Hickey, partnerships and special projects lead.
Topics range from geriatrician Dr. Camilla Wong’s lecture on hospital-acquired delirium to Laurie Poole, RN, vice president of telemedicine solutions at OTN, with Dr. Rob Williams, OTN chief medical officer, on virtual care for geriatric and frail elderly. Dr. Mark Rappaport lectures on driving and dementia, David Conn on aging and keeping a positive attitude and Heather Keller on nutrition and dehydration.
“We’re grateful for OTN’s commitment to work with frontline professionals and use its resources to create the centre. We just put our heads together and made it happen,” Dr. Sinha says.