Through her inspired vision and creative methods for trying new ideas, Jo-Ann is reminding everyone of the passion that brought them to long-term care. If you walk into a care home that has implemented her initiatives, you will see more smiles, hear more laughter and feel the pride that has come with making changes that serve the people who live there.

Jo-Ann Tait
Jo-Ann Tait

Jo-Ann started by creating Residential Care for Me, a safe space for her leaders to slow down, understand the experiences of their residents, families and staff, and then take risks in order to create meaningful change. She spent many weekends at her dining room table planning the project with colleagues, and soon engaged 20 leaders from across PHC in using a human-centred design approach to improving care.

By speaking honestly, openly and genuinely with her leaders about the challenges they faced, and how they could overcome them, Jo-Ann built trust. She empowered and encouraged her leaders to think differently about the work that they do, and gave them permission to test ideas quickly without necessarily going through formal channels, knowing that she would have their backs. A buzz developed as videos and tools that Jo-Ann created got people talking and motivated, including those who were not able to connect with her during meetings. The process has resulted in incredibly strong leadership for long-term care that is focused on the dignity and quality of life of the 629 people living in long-term care with Providence Health Care.

Next came Megamorphosis – an intense, grassroots approach that uses available resources and the skills of local leaders to transform the culture of care. The process starts with four weeks of pre-work that includes interdisciplinary team-building sessions and exercises that highlight the importance of compassion for people living in long-term care and for each other. The pre-work is followed by two weeks of rapid Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles, during which Jo-Ann is on site for 10 hours every day to support and empower staff. Change ideas come from best practices and point-of-care staff, and have included:

  • A buddy program for residents and staff to connect, with a focus on people who do not have regular visitors and could suffer from loneliness
  • The creation of a shower poncho prototype based on an individual’s fear that she was not completely covered while en route to the shower room
  • The creation of a “treasures” room – a place within the care home where people could go “shopping”
  • Care aprons – interactive aprons that care aides can wear to help reduce stress during personal care
  • Making staff spaces invisible, for example by turning the nursing station into a coffee shop, in an effort to reduce the institutional feel of the environment and inspire a feeling of community
  • Having care aides lead shift reports, freeing nurses to focus on individuals who are more medically complex

Jo-Ann’s Megamorphosis approach has given everyone, from leaders to care aides, the permission and support to take ideas that may have been percolating for years and test them quickly. Recognizing that trust and open communication are important precursors to culture change and innovation, Jo-Ann has also ensured that the initiative addresses the well-being of staff and the cohesiveness of the team.

Jo-Ann acknowledges the support, passion and creativity of both Robena Sirett (Clinical Planner) and Sonia Hardern (Quality Improvement Specialist) behind the scenes of this trailblazing work. Their commitment to understanding individual and family needs, supporting staff and transforming the culture in long-term care married well with the vision Jo-Ann has created with them and her team.

With many doubters around her, Jo-Ann stands strong in her conviction that culture change can and will happen with a group of passionate and compassionate leaders who are able to journey with staff and see the world through the eyes of the people they care for. She has created a safe space to challenge long-held beliefs and unwritten rules that have become entrenched in long-term care.