Recognizing Staff Needs 

Individuals who require community health care services are increasingly presenting more complex needs. In recognition of this, and as part of our effort to invest in our staff, Cota focused on providing additional comprehensive training to our staff in 2016-2017. Sylvia Starosta (Director, Clinical Operations) was paramount in identifying opportunities for training that would assist our staff to enhance their clinical knowledge and skills. Along with Dr. Andrea Duncan (University of Toronto) and Cota’s Education Task Group, they developed a dynamic Clinical Curriculum based on evidence-informed practices.

Two Certificate Programs Offered at Cota

Two programs emerged: a Service Planning Certificate and an Interventions Certificate. Each course fuses discussions about practical theory with group exercises that allow staff to utilize new learnings and apply them to specific client situations.

Here is what our staff had to say after graduating:

Adriana McCall and June Horton

Adriana and June are Site Support Workers in the Boarding Home Program at Cota. They graduated from the Intervention Certificate Training course and immediately found a way to apply their newly acquired theoretical knowledge to their work with clients. They incorporated the ‘Stages of Change’ model and ‘S.M.A.R.T. Goals’ from training into a presentation they bring to tenants twice a year. June and Adriana named the presentation ‘Make it Happen: Taking Steps Towards Change.’

June and I also developed a worksheet for tenants to help them in working through the process of transforming their general goal into a S.M.A.R.T. goal.

–Adriana McCall, Site Support Worker, Boarding Home program, Cota



We framed it in this way so that tenants could think about where they were in the stages of change model and have an opportunity to identify and develop their own goals using the S.M.A.R.T. goal tool.

June Horton, Site Support Worker, Boarding Home program, Cota

They further developed a client feedback form and visited the sites 2-4 weeks after the presentation to see what progress had been made. Of the 32 sites, 29 participated and 64 surveys were collected. They collected feedback from clients and this is what clients said:

I now understand how critical it is to think and plan for success in attaining goals.

–*Dav, Boarding Home Tenant

I’m excited I had the courage to attend. It was so helpful. I appreciate that you listen to feedback.

*Milly, Boarding Home Tenant

It was really good. It wasn’t simply a lecture. I liked that it was visual and oral. I liked that a S.M.A.R.T. goal was demonstrated by the presenters.

– *Garry, Boarding Home Tenant

*This is not the client's name; but they have agreed to share their story and wish to remain anonymous

Both June and Adriana were so grateful for the certificate program, and found the training valuable. They will continue to use it in their work moving forward!

Hendry Kajendrakumar

Hendry Kajendrakumar has been with Cota for 14 years working as a supportive housing worker. He attended the course and said, “it was like a lightbulb went on.”

Hendry said his thinking shifted. He began to evaluate in terms of: how to set client goals, how to handle client challenges, and how to achieve individual client goals with the client. After graduating, he applied the training to his client portfolio and saw some measurable changes.

One particular client he works with is 65 years old and diagnosed with major depression. The client often feels anxious about family, financial stability, and not sleeping at night. Hendry thought,

How can I talk to him? What are his goals and how can I help motivate him to achieve these goals?

– Hendry Kajendrakumar, Supportive Housing Worker, Cota

Over a period of a few months, this client began to open up to Hendry, he attended walking groups in the community, and showed signs of feeling better about his situation.

Hendry said, “it’s baby steps,” but seeing that progress made him really value his Certificate Training Program. 

Measuring the Impact of Training!

Cota developed and implemented a thorough evaluation process to effectively measure the impact of its clinical curriculum. These are the components of the evaluation:

  1. Staff Satisfaction Surveys –Staff are asked to rate their learning experience after each day and how it will impact their job moving forward. 
  2. Pre and Post Knowledge Test – Participants complete a pre-course knowledge test prior to participating in their respective certificate courses and a post-knowledge test after.
  3. Long-Term Follow-Up Surveys – Six to eight months following the completion of the certificate course staff are asked to give feedback about their new experiences. 
  4. Clinical Manager Feedback – Staff are surveyed about how they have implemented their learnings in every day practices. 

The feedback is considered after every course offering, allowing Cota to dynamically shape the certificate programs around staff needs. To date, 152 of clinical staff have graduated from the clinical curriculum programs. We project that by the end of 2017, all clinical staff at Cota will have completed the certificate training programs.

Where We Are Headed!

Cota has always provided quality services to clients and we continue to strive towards making sure our services are based in best practices.

With the success and impact of the first two programs, we decided to implement two new certificate training programs in the winter of 2017:

  1. Short-Term Case Management
  2. Group Facilitation

Furthermore, managers will lead quarterly education that focuses on four core topics:

  1. Managing Change
  2. Coping with losses at work
  3. Mindfulness training
  4. Building Resiliency