Roman Baranowski has been a PACT team leader since 2001. His team is a setting where students and trainees are an everyday part of the team’s operation. In a recent interview I had a chance to ask Roman how he went about creating such as team.
Shalom Coodin: You’ve made it the norm to have students as part of your team on a daily basis. Your team has 15 staff in total. How many students would you have at one time?
Roman Baranowski: Presently we have 4 students and have had as many as 8. These include a mix of social worker practicum students, OT, medical and nursing students.
SC: Why have students as part of the team?
RB: Students ask questions and challenge the way things are done. I believe that if you want to learn something teach someone else; having students has clinicians both teaching and learning themselves.
As well making clinicians comfortable as educators leads to a kind of “shared leadership” on a team; they realize that they have areas of expertise that will be valued. Having students keeps our team more open to learning.
SC: You’ve spoken of how much a team’s operation depends on leadership. Can you say more about this?
RB: Education for a team is more than a regular education session or sending clinicians to a workshop. It’s about creating a culture of learning. This means creating an expectation and collective value placed on ongoing education. And it involves allowing clinicians to be part of building this learning environment.
SC: What steps have you taken to build this kind of culture on your team?
RB: I approach clinicians individually and talk with them about taking on the role of supervising a student, help them to be comfortable with it first and to feel safe in stepping into that role. For practicum students who will be with the team for weeks or several months, we interview the students and I’ll bring clinicians into that process. They get to be part of making sure there’s a “good fit” between student and supervisor.
I also believe it’s important for a team leader to model what is expected.
SC: What qualities are you looking for in a prospective student?
RB: Commitment, a positive attitude, an ability to work in a fast-paced environment, an interest in working with persons with SPMI and being able to work as part of a team.
SC: What is the day to day role of students?
RB: After orientation and shadowing their supervisor for a week of two they will then be expected to take on a caseload. Trainees practice the same skills that are expected of clinicians on the team including presenting on their clients at morning meeting . Everyone, including clients and families, understands that they are with us as students, not employees.
SC: Do you see parallels to how teaching hospitals operate?
RB: Very much so. In those settings medical students, residents and nursing students are all providing direct care but in a supervised setting. We do the same but in the community.
SC: How do clients respond to having students involved?
RB: By now they see students as an integral part of the program. They enjoy the additional support students are able to provide. As well clients give us feedback; we value this, especially when we’re looking at hiring based on a student’s experience with us.
SC: You’ve hired a number of students that trained with the team.
RB: Yes, getting to see how a student functions on the team is better than any interview. 5 of our present staff are our former students.
SC: I understand a new team is being established in your community and that they’ve hired trainees your team had contact with?
RB: Yes, of 11 staff recently hired, 2 had been in entry level positions with us and 3 had been students on our team.
SC: Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts on this.
RB: My pleasure.