Innovators Are Ageless

"The capacity to innovate is a human trait. Our ingenuity when faced with a predicament defines us as a species. It's an aspect of ourselves we can count on, not a specialty reserved for a few."  Al Etmanski, Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation

The notion that centennials (youth) or millennials are the leaders and innovators of today or that there is a robot or app for every problem we have, has somehow been planted in our global psyche. I argue that innovators are ageless. They can be found in all sectors and they cross all boundaries of gender, ethnicity, religion and socio-economic status. 

Great innovators are curious thinkers and persevering problem-solvers. Some work better alone and others as a team.  Take Gutenberg's invention of the printing press in 1440. Gutenberg was a goldsmith by trade and was "using unrelated skills, processes, technologies and assets available in the world around him" to invent the press (Rowan Gibson, The Four Lenses of Innovation). Gutenberg was 46 years old when he created this ingenious machine that changed the world.

There is no doubt that the last fifty years has seen a unique abundance of scientific and technological advancements. Today you can order and build your own robot, breed crypto kitties using block chain technology and purchase drones with aerial photography at your local business depot. In Canada, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is highly funded by the federal government (Budget 2017 provided 50 million over 2 years) and STEM remains a key focus for youth and the future work. The world is sufficiently excited, but mostly distracted, by the coolest of cool technology.

While the digital economy explodes and the bitcoin’s value surges our oceans are dying, entire generations are being murdered or displaced in countries like Syria, women remain underemployed around the world, and closer to home, an unacceptable number of indigenous women and girls have gone missing or have been murdered. Technology won’t save us. Humans will need to lead us out of the mess we have created.

“The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology but an expanding of the concept of what it means to be human.”  John Naisbitt.

To solve the complex and wicked problems of today we need to empower and encourage everyone, from 2 to 92 to use their skills, knowledge and creativity to generate new solutions.  Solving today's most pernicious problems is less about the age of the person and more about the human desire to contribute in a way that moves our society forward.  

Personal Support Workers in Long-Term Care

the first step to improving the lives of residents in long-term care? Ask the Personal Support Worker.

Today, May 19th, is Personal Support Worker Day in Ontario. This article is inspired by the compassionate and hard-working front-line staff responsible for the care of our loved ones.

***************

If you want to know what’s really going on in a long term care facility, ask the personal support workers (PSWs).  We recently completed a project seeking to bring innovative solutions to problems faced in a local long-term care facility. We had the opportunity to interview, shadow and learn about the role and responsibilities of PSWs.  We soon came to know them as a dedicated, skilled and compassionate part of the health-care team.  PSWs are the eyes and ears on the ground and their views are key to operational improvements.

"PSWs are the eyes and ears on the ground and their views are key to operational improvements."

PSWs provide care to our most vulnerable seniors and residents, including those with complex mental and physical challenges. The role of the PSW is both physically and emotionally demanding.  Working in this fast-paced environment often leaves them exhausted and overwhelmed by the end of the day.  Through observation and discussion it was no surprise to learn that the nature of the profession lends deep insights into organizational governance, workplace culture and employee wellness - all factors that greatly impact a residents quality of care.  

"...the nature of the profession lends deep insights into organizational governance, workplace culture and employee wellness - all factors that greatly impact a residents quality of care."

Applying Human-Centered Design principles we worked to cultivate empathy for PSWs at all levels of management by listening to compelling personal stories and immersing ourselves into their workday.  Through questions and observations we developed a narrative to share with the management team that highlighted the complex problems experienced in the delivery of care by front-line staff.

Our research found that to perform their role well, PSWs must gain the trust of multiple residents and their family members, colleagues and management. This trust is critical considering the work PSWs are responsible for.  PSWs complete delicate tasks such as toileting and general hygiene (bathing, brushing of teeth, combing of hair, etc…) while also being the heavy lifters, moving grown men and women from beds to wheelchairs and back again.

"PSWs are constantly on the move, monitoring their environment, antennae raised to catch potential falls before they happen, redirecting wanderers and documenting every detail of a residents day."

PSWs are constantly on the move, monitoring their environment, antennae raised to catch potential falls before they happen, redirecting wanderers and documenting every detail of a residents day.  Even mealtimes are a time for care and nurturing: skillfully feeding residents spoonfuls of softened food and medicine, and most importantly, listening to and reassuring residents who must rely on others for a task they can no longer manage.

Our conclusion: PSWs are the linchpin of excellence in resident care.  PSWs intersect with all areas of the long term care system, from provincial regulations, internal policies and procedures, medical and para-medical personnel, spiritual, physical and recreational activities staff, environmental services, food services, equipment and facilities.

"Empowered, healthy PSWs play a key role in providing quality, dignified care in long-term care facilities."

Empowered, healthy PSWs play a key role in providing quality, dignified care in long-term care facilities. When prospective families decide which long term care facility will best meet their loved ones needs, they need look no further than to the wellness of the PSWs in the facility to understand how well they will be cared for.  PSWs are the eyes and ears in long-term care facilities and we would do well to listen to them.

Authors: Marika Escaravage, Strategist, Facilitator & Communication Advisor and Michelle Reimer, Founder & Creative Director, Citizens First