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In the eye of the storm: Pandemic social work during COVID-19 in long-term care Ontario.
Pandemic affected all social work practice areas and allowed us to uncover multiple extreme inequities in service delivery for vulnerable populations. In summer 2020, during the first global offering of the pandemic social work course at Thompson Rivers University, a practicing social worker from one of Ontario’s Long Term Care Home, Candace Hind, visited our class. What was initially scheduled to be a short overview of social work practice in long term care during pandemic became a four-hour presentation on the challenges long term care social workers face on multiple levels of practice. There is a shortage of social workers in long-term care. Not enough PPE, inadequate response from the Government of Ontario, “military savour operation” instead of having adequately trained professionals with adequate resources providing critical services to Canadian seniors. We listened to stories of resilience, teachings 100 years old Canadians shared with us through Candace quotes. It was always powerful, sometimes it was frightening, but we needed to hear social work perspective to think about future actions. Candace shared with us a new assessment tool developed to identify residents’ needs in pandemic and changes in how we practice in times of physical distancing. The need to reform current long-term care in Canada is critical to allow residents to live life with dignity before, during and after the pandemic. We learn that social workers went from being considered non-essential to essential workers of long term care. We had an active discussion throughout the lecture. It was a unique opportunity to connect literature to everyday practice.
In October 2020 we decided to record the presentation as part of the Voices Social Work (VSW) project. Those “AHA” moments pandemic social work students experience in June now can be shared with the broader community and bring necessary changes to long term service provision in Canada and globally. I will keep adding more Youtube links to this post so everyone who reads it can learn about ageing as a continuum of care and how “silence” was an initial response when the pandemic was announced on what happened next. The chronology of changes and policy responses. The first positive COVID experience. The stigma frontline workers face in providing care on who will be considered essential and who is not. The recordings are influential. I am incredibly grateful for Candace to share the time, so we will remember what it means to provide services during a pandemic and the critical role social workers play in the global public health emergency.
Part 1 of the lecture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCbBCcDYY-U covers a period from March 11, 2020 when WHO declared global pandemic to April 9 when the first COVID-19 positive case was recorded in the long term care where Candace was working, and social worker role was moved from being essential to being a critical service provider. Please feel free to share the recording with social work students, practitioners and everyone who want to promote necessary changes to ensure that every Canadian in long-term care is supported by a social worker to receive the best possible service in pandemic and beyond.
Part 2 of the lecture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIUJwqgQYMg focus on how social work role was changed from essential to critical. Candace Hind will share the change happened on April 9, 2020 when the first positive case was recorded in the long term care. Candace shared how safety plans were developed and what worked and what did not work and the critical role of the social worker during lockdown. Very passionate part of the lecture and lots of learning point on why social workers are required to be present in every long term care.
Part 3 of the lecture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xot8OOt7vA8 summarizes key learning points and provide an overview on what happened in one of the Ontario’s long term care facility after first outbreak and how social worker role was changing to respond to the needs of the residents. Candace offered three key lessons every student who plan to work in long term care need to learn. A great way to summarize the lecture and highlight the social worker role in long term care during pandemic March-June 2020.
Oleksandr (Sasha) Kondrashov, PhD
In Canada, September 30 is associated with the Orange Shirt Day when communities are coming together in a reconciliation and hope spirit because of every child matters. The day is recognizing the harm the residential school system did to children’s sense of self-esteem and well-being. It is an affirmation of our commitment to ensure that everyone around us matters.
Over the years, I heard many stories from my Indigenous students who were survivors of Canada’s residential school system. Each story was unique and reminded me stories I heard in Ukraine from people who attended “internats” and Ukrainian-Canadians who were part of Canada’s boarding school system. Many stories focus on the loss of love, culture, family, language, and home; experience of abuse, trauma, and violence. Each survivor had their “Orange Shirt” taken away. For some, it was a ribbon shirt or skirt, vyshyvanka or other pieces of clothing or artifacts that symbolizes family, love, care, support, culture, pride, belonging, and peace. Each story focused on loss, grief and trauma that changed survivors’ lives forever. Many stories share multiple sufferings survivors experienced while regaining their strengths, pride, culture, language and dignity. Some had more supports available to them; others were not that fortunate. I carry those stories in my teachings and encourage students to listen to stories from primary sources, read memoirs, and research the truth. For me, the “orange shirt” day is every day, and every child matter every day and everywhere. Every story counts. I am hopeful that a new generation of children will know stories from the past, support survivors of abuse and violence, and create ways to stop any future harms from happening. I also hope that together we allow everyone to experience love, care and share from their families and those who support their personal and professional growth and development of individual and collective gifts.
In Ukraine, September 30 is associated with the day of Mother Sophia (Wisdom) and three Daughters Vira (Faith), Nadijya (Hope), and Lubov (Love). Their story is also very tragic as Roman Emperor Hadrian followers killed them because they practiced Christian beliefs and values. When I read the story of Sophia, Vira, Nadija and Lubov, review names of 2900 children who died while attended residential schools, and listen to some of the stories from 150 000 residential school survivors, I question the actions of those who forcefully remove children from loving homes and call it “assimilation”. I condemn those who use “good Intentions” to promote hate, abuse and violence. I question those who say that they practice love, care, and support while harming families and communities in Canada, Ukraine and globally.
September 30 might have additional meaning for you. Some might celebrate the UN International Translation Day as an act to recognize the role of professional translation in connecting nations. Others might celebrate Botswana’s Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom on September 30, 1966. For me, it is a very special day as my Canadian Mama was born today, and I am thankful to be able to experience many things in life because of having Audrey’s presence in every day I have been in Canada. I know that every child who meets Audrey through the professional social work practice and beyond will experience the love, care and share that Audrey offers to everyone as every child matters!
Why Students Who Can Start/Return to Universities in the Fall are Making the Important Choice to Advance their Careers in Times of Pandemic?
Dr. Oleksandr (Sasha) Kondrashov.
This year many universities are worried that students might not return to study and take a gap year. It might seem as a legitimate worry as no one can predict the impact of the pandemic on post-secondary education. Soon universities will release fall admission numbers, and we will know the impact of the pandemic on this year’s enrollments. Despite the challenges that pandemic can create, here are a few ideas to consider why taking university studies will benefit those students who choose to pursue post-secondary education in fall 2020.
Universities before, during and after pandemic provides students with a broad and integrated education that develop strong thinking skills and values community engagement. The skills students learn in the university are skills that employers value and society needs. Students need to know the community needs that they are passionate about to address and find a university program that can help them to realize their dreams.
Post-secondary education is not only a continuation of the educational journey after school but also an important decision that leads to more opportunities to strengthen personality and career choices. Joining university life at any time allow people to re-imagine their future, learn new skills, and re/enter the workforce after graduation with new ideas and innovative solutions. Pandemic changes the way people think, work, play and learn. Attending university in times of pandemic creates new problems for both students and instructors. Problems lead to innovations, innovations to new careers. If you can join the university in times of pandemic, you will be ahead of anyone else who chooses to take a break or not ready to join the post-secondary education at this time.
Every day more employers are looking to hire graduates with university education. Many choices of a career set high standards by mentioning the requirement of academic title as an initial step to meet the criteria for employment. These options include social workers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, engineers, educators, and scientists. Compared to those who do not go to pursue a university education, those enrolling in universities are growing in numbers.
The value of higher education lies in its capacity to develop critical reasoning and practical wisdom. In a pandemic, society needs people who can think outside the box, find new solutions to address the growing number of concerns. University graduates before, during and after pandemic are equipped with the interest and ability to figure out what is the right thing to do for the right reasons to address societal concerns.
The rationale for investing in university education is that it enhances the prospect that people will have flourishing lives now and as they grow. You can check anyone who made essential contributions to their field of practice, and they will often credit their educators for inspiring them to seek new knowledge. University professors were working through wars and other disasters and will continue finding innovative ways to work with students during and after the pandemic. A University education is an integral part of life for someone who wants to be successful. Excellent specialists are needed everywhere. A university degree gives a person the confidence necessary to contribute to the development of others. It also allows individuals to change the world. It moulds creative and deep-thinking people who have the potential to lead the commencement of future generations who are more prosperous in every way. The trend will continue for those who can afford to take a university education in pandemic and beyond. Check your local university and see if you can still enroll in the program that can expand your future possibilities and allow you to become better prepared to address challenges in times of pandemic. You will not regret it.