How this nurse-turned-high school teacher will soon certify students as PSWs

Sandra Briars began teaching health care classes at Montcalm Secondary School in 2015. But in the fall, with an added course and the support of the Thames Valley District School Board, Briars will begin certifying PSWs upon completion of her program.

RN Sandra Briars teaches healthcare at Montcalm Secondary School. Soon she'll be graduating PSWs

Sandra Briars' first career was as a registered nurse. She's now a teacher at Montcalm Secondary School, where a new program will allow her to graduate PSWs. (Submitted by Sandra Briars)

Interested students at Montcalm Secondary School in London, Ont., will soon be able to graduate with a personal support worker (PSW) certification, thanks to the hard work of nurse-turned-teacher, Sandra Briars.

Briars, a registered nurse (RN) who returned to school at 45 to get her teaching degree, has been teaching health care courses at the school since 2015.

"It was kind of a bucket list thing for me," said Briars.

And beginning this fall, with the addition of an extra course, a clinical placement, and the green light from the board, Briars will begin certifying students as PSWs when they complete her program. An RN can certify a PSW.

"I'm really excited about it," said Briars. "It's kind of a baby for me and I love it. It's my fun second career."

One of the healthcare classrooms at Montcalm Secondary (Twitter)

It's been a challenging year for long term care facilities, who desperately need more PSWs, as they've battled COVID-19 outbreaks and dealt with the subsequent deaths. There are have also been calls to increase the wages of PSWs.

It's something Briars prepares her students for. "Nursing in any area isn't pretty or dignified and it's messy and I say that all the time," she said.

"We talk about PPE (personal protective equipment) and the importance of washing hands and sanitizing. We discuss all of those things: the importance of the spread of infection and vaccinations. We have a whole infection unit. It becomes rather in depth," Briars explained.

Briars is hopeful students who struggle in an academic setting might be interested in her program, which is more hands-on. She also said they may also choose to work as a PSW for a couple years, and go on to pursue nursing careers.

"If I can evoke some sort of passion for health care, then that makes me really happy," she said.

About the Author

Rebecca Zandbergen

Host, London Morning

Rebecca Zandbergen is from Ottawa and has worked for CBC Radio across the country for more than 15 years, including stops in Iqaluit, Halifax, Windsor and Kelowna.


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