In-service training

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In my last blog I gave the overview of the health status of our community from my six monthly report. The advantage of a progress report is that it forces me to list everything that we do, how we experience this, and how we are faring. In this blog I’d like to share another chapter of the progress report about the supervision and in-service training of our staff.<!–more–>

A reminder: our staff usually starts working for us without previous working experience as there are no courses in Nicaragua to prepare people for working with intellectually disabled adults. Therefore it is up to me to offer our new staff, as quickly as possible, a ‘tool kit’ which they need, in order to contribute to the well-being of our residents and the quality of their care. My approach is that every bit of professional support should also be personal support, so that everything they learn on the ‘work floor’ will be useful for them in their personal lives. And this happens, and is much appreciated.

What does our in-service training consist of? 

Once a month I organize a two-hour training session on a Thursday morning for the entire team on a theme which the team chooses. Topics which we have covered in recent months include: learning how to attentively observe, and how to draft a step-by-step plan towards achieving a development goal for our residents. Below I clarify some other topics.

A little while back I started a system by which members of staff supervise each other. ‘Supervision’ is not very common in Nicaragua, as people are more used to being controlled by the boss. The idea of identifying strong and weak points in a person’s work performance and coming up with performance enhancing proposals is a real novelty here. In the early stage it was really hard for staff to have enough courage to criticize each other. But since then, staff have become more open to this approach and realize the added value that supervision can give. Of course it is a theme which I strengthen and evaluate every so often.

How does supervision work?
We do ‘mutual supervision’ once a week with staff working in pairs, they themselves choosing the right moment for it in the day. It’s an exercise in learning how to observe and assess the work of a colleague according to specific criteria and a focus on strong and weak aspects. It is agreed that the results are put down on paper, with a suggestion and a compliment. Before this ‘gift’ is handed over to the supervised colleague, I check whether the feedback given is clear and well-expressed.

We also organize regular evaluations on how we are doing as a team. Everyone does homework and answers some questions. During the session we discuss the answers and draw conclusions, looking at the weak and strong points of our team work, with special attention to reinforcing staff member’s own personal responsibility for the functioning of the team. I also observe and reflect on people’s work in order to provide the encouragement and appreciation which can result in improved staff performance (coaching on the job).

And what’s more … 

Our team also evaluates the individual activities we have used so far to stimulate each of our residents. What are the needs of each of the residents? What do we offer? At which time of day do we offer activities? etc. It appears we have sometimes been too ambitious and not always been able to do what we wanted, which necessitates the need for making adjustments and searching for strategies to improve the quality of our work.

Over the years I’ve spent much time writing about what we should and should not do. When working with more people, clarity about what is expected is crucial as individual staff should not simply do as they deem fit. We carefully minute the decisions we take in our meetings at the beginning of each working day. We also keep a record of which medication was given when to whom by whom.

In March I designed an easy-to-use form which helps to record in concrete terms the progress staff make and the challenges they face in their stimulation activities with our resident core members. Our team becomes more aware that they need to think in terms of progress made in millimeters rather than in big leaps.

Between January and March we asked Sari, a volunteer, to introduce to staff in monthly sessions the concept of and importance of ‘chakras´. For our team this was a total novelty (as it also is in Nicaragua), but they enjoyed the sessions tremendously. Due to COVID-19 we had to cancel follow-up sessions, hopefully only for the time being.

We encourage staff to keep studying. In February Ana started her nursing training on Saturdays. But because of the corona virus and the not-so-good way the university organized the training she stopped again after a month. I myself have just finished a 9-month online course on ‘Family Constellations’ which is useful for me in guiding our staff in their personal processes or when working with people who seek me out as a psychologist. Because of COVID-19 a presentation week scheduled at the end of March for all on-line course participants in a nearby country was cancelled, so I’ll have to wait for when this week will be re-scheduled and for whether I will be allowed to travel again. The expectation is that our national airports will remain closed till at least August.

It is a stimulating part of my work to help people become more aware of their work and life, as it will give them more peace at work and in themselves.