Occupational Therapists Cassie Smith and Brittney Dumouchelle ( in the picture above left and centre) were working in Complex Continuing Care (CCC) at West Park together in 2019, when they felt change needed to happen.
“There was a lot of CCC that hadn’t been able to be kept up over the years, whether it be due to lack of resources or staff,” Dumouchelle says.
“So we were feeling there was really this need to have something better and we were personally feeling quite overwhelmed with our caseloads and that we wouldn’t be able to do it. So these conversations started where we thought ‘What if we had students come in?’ Over time we kind of developed this idea of starting a LEAP placement.”
LEAP stands for Leadership, Emerging/Enhancing, Advocacy, and Program Planning and Evaluation. LEAP placements are specialty placements that OT students at the University of Toronto undertake in addition to a typical placement. Collaborating with UofT, Dumouchelle and Smith began figuring out what a LEAP placement at West Park would look like.
Smith and Dumouchelle, who were both former students at UofT, thought “wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could have students come in and actually have the time to be able to dedicate and use their skills to be able to look at our group programming and really update the CCC programs in a way that is evidence-based, and then they put the time into doing the research and really implementing and formulating the program?” Smith says.
Since the fall of 2019, students on CCC/Respiratory Continuing Care have contributed to the program development of the unit-based OT therapeutic groups – including mindfulness, cognitive, and sensory stimulation. The most recent students this spring created an entire resource binder for future OTs/RAs to use.
“I think UofT offering LEAP placements is really interesting and we were able to do this because they have that opportunity built into their program, and I think it’s really unique how we did it using a series of students over time on the same project,” Smith says. As preceptors, Smith, Dumouchelle, and fellow OT Imelda Falco were heavily involved with overseeing the students and guiding them along the way.
Each placement looked a little bit different. At the start of the project, students were more involved with research and conducting needs analysis, but toward the end of the project, different students were then able to look at that work and say “based on this literature, these are the strategies we are going to implement,” Dumouchelle says.
Throughout these stages of the project, Dumouchelle says they ensured students also learned about advocacy, a requirement of the LEAP placement. This can involve advocating for more staff members to implement a new program, or for new equipment, and above all for the importance of OT in patients’ quality of life. Dumouchelle says some students were able to do a bit of advocating themselves, which is something she didn’t get to learn about during her own student placement, “and this is how we’re helping to bridge the gap.”
For their hard work and dedication to student education, the three clinicians received Fieldwork Educator Recognition Awards from the University of Toronto’s Department of Occupational Therapy and Occupational Science.
“At the end of all this we have actual, physical proof of all this work that’s been done, and for future placements and for future staff, students have had a major impact here,” Falco says.
“There is now a resource that can be used on an everyday basis, so what the students did will have impact on the unit weeks and months later. One of the students is also now an employee here at West Park so it’s also rewarding to see that growth.”
Congratulations to each of our award winners and thank you for your hard work in developing and implementing these valuable LEAP placements!