CCANS Bursary Awarded

CCANS would like to congratulate Heather Gillis from Antigonish who was awarded our first CCANS bursary for her compelling essay on the current state of the Nova Scotia Long Term Care system. Heather is a third year student at St. FX in the Nursing Program and has had extensive experience working in healthcare with Highland Crest Homes (RCF) and RK MacDonald Nursing Home.

There were many great applicants and it was a very close decision, in the end, Heathers creative essay was what set her apart from the others. Please find Heathers essay posted below.

CCANS would like to remind people that they can apply for the fall bursary, they can even resubmit their previous essay. We are already getting applicants sending in bursary packages for our fall award.

" CCANS Bursary Essay: The Value of Long Term Care and Future Trends

Heather L. Gillis                 Telephone: XXXXXX             email: XXXXX

I was initially introduced to the world of geriatrics in 2012 when I did a long-term care clinical at Valley View Villa in New Glasgow.  From there I opted to leave my regular employment as a waitress, that was fairly lucrative for me as a student, to work as a casual caregiver (CCA role) at Highland Crest Home; a residential care facility in Antigonish.  This gave me the opportunity to hone my skills as a caregiver and allowed me to see first hand the rewards of working in a long-term care setting.  After approximately a year and a half my curiosity pushed me towards working in a level II long-term care home.  I started work at the RK MacDonald as a casual and worked on all floors.  I naturally gravitated to the Alzheimer’s Unit and I had the good fortune of being offered a temporary full time job, on this unit, which I accepted as it gave me an opportunity to work in a very rewarding environment that married well with my school activities at the time.


While at the RK MacDonald I became very absorbed in long-term care and I indulged this interest by trying to learn as much as I could about geriatric nursing, responsive behaviours and the different types of dementia as well as the state of long-term care in our province.  By way of research I talked to my peers, senior nurses, support staff, Directors of Care and Administrators.  I read journal articles and took advantage of the resources available through STFX and the RK MacDonald.  I was particularly enamored with the teachings of Teepa Snow and watched her videos and participated in the related education offered by the RK MacDonald trainers whenever the opportunity presented itself.  Additionally, I followed the newspapers (mostly the Chronicle Herald) extensively to keep myself informed, as much as possible, of the state of long-term care in our province.


The former government’s handling of long-term care wages was somewhat concerning to me; however, the current government’s actual cuts to long-term care budgets causes me to worry about how this will impact on the quality of care.  It is my understanding, from our Premiere’s comments in the paper this spring, that there may be further cuts for the next budget year.  This gives me pause for great concern as it will handcuff the homes’ abilities to provide the quality of care we have come to expect from the facilities in our province.  I could understand the cuts better if long-term care was functioning extremely well; however, I do not believe this is the case.  While individual homes are functioning as well as they can within the constraints of their budgets; when you look at the size of the provincial wait list and staff shortages it is obvious that there should be more money infused into long-term care; not the cuts currently being experienced.


Further to this, the increase in the life span, our aging population and the government’s stance on increasing home care services to keep people home longer are additional reasons to increase funding to, rather than cut from, the budgets of long-term care.  Incidentally, I believe keeping people home longer is an appropriate action as long as; the required resources are attached to it, costs do not exceed the cost of caring for a resident in long-term care and the primary caregivers at home are appropriately supported.  However, it is important to note that while people are living longer they are also often living lonelier and more isolated in Nova Scotia than ever before.  Given the nature of the economy, especially in the rural landscape of the province, much of the younger population has had to move away from home to work.  Many have built their lives away and have had their families there.  Many will not return home even after they have retired.  Thus, the traditional extended family is often not present to be the informal caregiver that many need to stay in their homes longer after their health has robbed them of their independence.  The acuity of care is growing.  I have not been in long-term care long enough to have witnessed this change; but, all the seasoned caregivers I have worked with assure me that the work load is much heavier than it used to be.  If we keep people home longer, when they do arrive at a facility their physical and mental health needs will be more severe.  Living longer coupled with caring for them at home for as long as possible will not come without an exacting price; we will see a frailer, more demented, behaviourally challenged elder coming into the homes.  The government needs to look at how these consequences will impact care and fund the care of elders accordingly.   This is not the time to be cutting costs in long-term care.


Regardless of how the government supports long-term care I am sure the nursing homes know the aforementioned trends will continue and are positioning their homes to be able to provide the care the elders so deserve.  I have been lucky to work at the RK MacDonald and see first hand the benefits of employing cutting edge care philosophies.  The Gentle Persuasion Approach was starting just prior to me going on maternity leave so I am not as familiar with that as I am with some of the others; I know that they have two employees trained as instructors and they will be training the care givers as quickly as possible.  I look forward to the opportunity to learn more about this once I continue my employment in long-term care.  Teepa Snow’s teachings, PIECES, the Eden Alternative and SOME Poly-pharmacy are all practices and/or philosophies of care that the RK MacDonald has invested heavily in.  Working on the Alzheimer’s Unit with some of the most affected elders in the facility I was able to use techniques from all four of these approaches to good effect.


Despite the government’s dwindling support, freezing of wages, and their efforts to keep people in their homes longer, I am confident, long-term care will remain relevant.  How do I know they will stay relevant?  Because, of the people (employees) who are drawn to this sector.  It is during times like these when they shine the brightest.  Regardless of how dark it gets they will light the way.  People will always step up when our most vulnerable populations are at risk.  It is because of these people (whether they are in administration, care givers, support workers, maintenance or housekeeping) that I know long-term care will not falter.  I am not naïve enough to believe that everyone working in this sector will step up to the plate; but, I do know enough of them will and the residents/elders will not only live they will thrive.   Long-term care is a far more exciting place to work than most nursing students realize.  If the Nursing Degree program had a more robust geriatric component with a corresponding increase in clinical then the ability for long-term care to recruit new graduate nurses would be much improved. " Heather Gillis 2016 - CCANS Bursary winner