CLTCEC focuses on virtual training during Covid-19 pandemic
By Anissa Rivera
Pandemic or not, there was work to be done. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order for Californians to stay safer at home during the COVID-19 pandemic was the spark that launched a momentous shift in how things got done at the California Long Term Care Education Center (CLTCEC).
For Corinne Eldridge, CEO and president of CLTCEC, the challenge was to protect the health of her staff and students, keep staff employed, and continue training caregivers.
“We pivoted everything quickly,” Eldridge said. “Everybody jumped in to do what was necessary, from operations to finance to program teams, doing their part to make sure everything continued.”
The order came down on a Thursday, said Susie Yu, director of home care programs for CLTCEC, “and by Friday, we moved full force. Within 10 days we got all of it online.”
What “all of it” comprises would have daunted any team. CLTCEC is the largest provider of training for long-term workers in the state. It oversees a multilayered organization that has trained more than 15,000 home care and nursing home workers in six years.
Its home care program serves about 320 students per trimester and fields six instructors who offer classes in English, Spanish, Armenian, Korean and Mandarin/Cantonese. Its nursing home component, the Education Fund, is responsible for training workers in nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities who are members of SEIU Local 2015. Last year, more than 2,800 Ed Fund members completed skills certifications, CNA and RNA certification training and continuing education credits.
When the coronavirus pandemic forced the state to shut down non-essential businesses and operations, several CLTCEC training programs were in session. The 10-week IHSS+ Training classes were in the middle of week four. A cohort of nursing home workers enrolled in a CNA certification course was finishing up clinical training.
As the health crisis swirled outside, Yu and her nursing home team counterpart, Petrosyan, director of the Education Fund, quickly implemented plans for going remote, shifting recruitment, enrollment, and instruction models to utilize a handful of solutions to help their students.
“The biggest challenge was resistance,” said Yu. “We don’t have traditional students. Many of them don’t have the digital literacy or access to technology we needed to go to hybrid learning.”
To help students with the switch, the home care team produced video tutorials in four languages to show students how to download the Zoom app and join a class session. They also created manuals for smartphones, laptops and iPads to accompany the videos. Then they called each student to reassure them that they can indeed thrive in this new normal.
The students received all-encompassing support, from basic computer training to virtual office hours and numerous trial runs on Zoom.
“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s truly meaningful work,” Yu said. “The biggest takeaway is the look of absolute excitement and delight when they realize what they’ve done. They went beyond their natural mode and now they can add digital skills to what they can do.”
Cecilia Rodriguez, a 66-year-old home care student from Los Angeles, was reluctant to make the move online.
“I’ve never enjoyed meetings via technology, because I felt I wasn’t prepared,” she said. “But (field coordinator) Isabel helped me by talking to our class and then she showed up to my home to explain it more in depth. Now I’m really good. I’m much more prepared and I’ve learned to enjoy the challenge.”
Student Albert Hernandez of Montebello was confident his education would continue despite the national health emergency.
“Being in a classroom, you’re in rows and you’re seeing the back of people’s heads, Zoom allows everyone to interact face to face.,” he said. “(Our instructor) knew exactly what she was doing. She had it locked down from the first meeting. It was excellent.”
“The new routine going from in-person to remote was stressful,” Petrosyan admits.
“Prior to COVID-19, the Education Fund team was working on the field full time and coordinating trainings as well as building relationships with workers, employers and union staff in person,” she said.
Her staff adapted in creative ways. They recorded video tutorials in English and Spanish, offered mobile and online classes on topics such as improving hand hygiene in the healthcare setting, and checked in regularly with workers, stewards and employers.
“We looked at it as an opportunity for us to innovate and increase our utilization in the mobile trainings, which is one of our goals in our strategic plan,” she said. “We have seen what a boost in self-esteem it can be when a worker is able to access a training that they previously thought they weren’t capable of doing.”
Eldridge lauds the life-saving education they offer, from modules on infection prevention to lessons on how coronavirus spreads, as a way to support the “everyday heroes on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.”
“They are concerned for their own wellbeing and that of the consumers and residents that they care for,” Eldridge said. “And yet, most continue to get up every day and go to work, providing crucial services to seniors and people with disabilities.”
CLTCEC’s successful transition to online learning shows the team’s unwavering commitment to a workforce that is a critical link in the healthcare chain.
“We were able to persevere and be successful in this situation,” Eldridge said. “I say it all the time, you can’t do this job if you don’t want to be here, and if you’re here, you care about uplifting the value of long-term care, the value of women and women of color.”