Real-life learning or clinical experience is difficult to get as we emerge from the pandemic. Many healthcare environments are still operating at reduced levels or under restrictive access. Taking an innovative step in hands-on learning, Algonquin College’s Occupational Therapist Assistant and Physiotherapist Assistant (OTA/PTA) program launched a new clinical placement with The Dementia Society to provide students with first-hand experience to learn more about dementia and the needs of our growing senior population.
As members of our future medical workforce, learning about dementia and working with people living with dementia is key to quality care. Algonquin College and The Dementia Society launched this mandatory clinical placement in January 2023. “We recognize that people living with dementia are at higher risk of falls. Our students will likely see people living with dementia and mobility issues in their work. With this in mind, we felt it was important to prepare our students for these realities as part of their clinical experiences,” says Tim Tosh, Program Coordinator of the OTA/PTA program at Algonquin College.
“The Dementia Society provides a great environment for us to learn .We get exposed to different recreational and engagement activities and I can learn from observing how the Dementia Society staff and Care Coaches respond to individuals who have been a part of this program with us,” says Richard, OTA/PTA student at Algonquin.
Another student, Auddery, says that she has learned many strategies to communicate with people living with dementia and seniors. “There’s a lot of first-hand experience and engagement. This placement has helped me put school knowledge to practice and connect the dots.”
The placement has also received positive response from Dementia Society clients participating in the placement program. One client wrote to thank the staff and students: “When Jeff came back from the session, he was so happy and pleased. He was in a better mood this afternoon for the first time in about a year. He is looking forward to next week’s program.”
The Dementia Society looks forward to continuing this collaboration, and to actively help build a more dementia-inclusive Ottawa and Renfrew County.