Directors of Care at Sienna up their game

Picture of the Sienna graduates their mentors and professorEight Sienna graduates line up, smiles on their faces, as they receive their Director of Care Clinical Leadership certificate. Most of them have been in the director of care role for over a year, but they still felt they learned a great deal from the course.

“The program really built our leadership skills and abilities,” said Aleksandra Grzeszczuk, director of care at Woodbridge Vista Care Community in Woodbridge. “We learned about who we are as leaders, and how we’re perceived by others based on our communication, both verbal and nonverbal. So it was really eye opening.”

Designed to help prepare nurses for the director of care position, the program focuses on skills that aren’t taught in undergraduate nursing programs. The nine-month certificate program was originally developed jointly between Joanne Dykeman, currently executive vice president of operations at Sienna, and York University, where it is now taught. Sienna has been involved with the program for two years, and fully sponsors all Sienna team members who are accepted into it. Traditionally, registered nurses have gone into the director of care role without any further education.

“The director of care position is more than just being the senior nurse in the building, there is a whole operations function to it. It’s probably the only position in the entire organization where you not only need a very strong clinical background, but a very strong leadership background,” said Philippa Welch, vice president of operations. Philippa started her health care career as a health care aide, eventually becoming a registered nurse and director of care herself.

“I think it’s trail blazing,” said Deborah Tregunno when she was asked what she thought of team members being sponsored to take the course. Deborah has taught the course for four years, and is a registered nurse herself. “It’s an investment in your leadership and people… we know that [being a director of care is] challenging, so I think that recognition alone is very important, and then to support people in developing the ways of behaving, the ways of thinking, but also the program makes people act in new ways too.”

Heather Atkinson, a charge nurse at Bradford Valley Care Community in Bradford, came into the program hoping to improve her leadership skills. She took the course because “I’m going to be a future nurse leader, and I think to have a better understanding of what [directors of care] do now and what it is like, and building on those leadership skills to get there,” said Heather. “It gives a different way to look at things when you go back to work.”

“You are a leader already, you know that right? Nurses are leaders, no matter if you think you are or not,” said Teresa Malott, director of care at Waters Edge Care Community in North Bay, who was sitting beside Heather at the table. Teresa said she would “definitely” recommend the course to aspiring or new directors of care, adding “I’ve been in the position six years already, and it’s definitely an advantage just to network and gain confidence.”

 “The skills and tools they’ve given us… you could use them in your everyday life,” said Heather.


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