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TAs honored for work, excellent skills
Therapeutic assistants experience few dull moments on the job.
Their work in the Institute of Psychiatry (IOP) is tough and physical,
and is always important.
To some, the job may look like a very challenging and sometimes
frustrating vocation. But to those who rely upon their skills,
therapeutic assistants (TA) are certainly appreciated. On June 12, a
select group of them were honored as recipients of the first
Therapeutic Assistant of the Year awards.
IOP honors its top
therapeutic assistants June 12.
All the nurse managers, led by Harriet Cooney, R.N., IOP clinical
director, planned this first time event, which included a bake sale to
support the rewards and reception, said Karen McHugh, R.N., 2N nurse
“The therapeutic assistant at the IOP is a pivotal person in
maintaining a therapeutic milieu,” said Tina Hogarth, R.N., IOP
education coordinator. “These staff members have bachelor, and
sometimes master’s degrees in social sciences. They are trained, or
have experience in providing individual therapeutic conversation, group
activities, keeping the staff and unit safe by monitoring the
whereabouts of patients, and carrying out various precautions and
In general, TAs provide a basic sense of stability and flow in a
fragile environment. TAs work closely with nurses while they provide a
broad spectrum of service, therapy and support in psychiatric units.
“TAs are always ‘on,’ being constantly in view of patients and
families. This requires a very dedicated person,” said Hogarth. “They
stay in touch with the RNs to ensure continuity of care during the
TAs are skilled in assessing the clinical environment with a keen
sense of whether a patient is safe and comfortable; or whether prompt
intervention is required when patients exhibit behavior that could be
harmful to themselves or others, Hogarth said. “They are skilled in
soothing the upset patient,” she added.
They interact with visitors and families and escort patients to
activities and meals, keeping them safe and helping them participate in
various activities or perform life skills.
TAs also work with community groups and conduct meetings. A lead TA has
additional duties, often serving as a preceptor to new staff, providing
staff training on new information, conducting program planning on the
units, and leading initiatives such as the Engagement Model and AIDET
(Acknowledge, Introduce, Duration, Explanation and Thank you), which is
an effective communication tool.
Senior TAs have specialized skills. “For instance, our TA of the Year,
Sylvia Legare, is tasked with overseeing orientation of new staff on
3N,” Hogarth explained. “She serves as a consultant on these issues for
Other senior TAs serve as specialists in certain kinds of groups and
therapies, and program planning.
An invaluable TA
“Sylvia Legare is the quintessential TA,” Hogarth said. “I worked with
Sylvia as the nurse manager for four years on the big 3N-general adult
psychiatry unit. She has been a TA for about 20 years. She had perfect
attendance for 14 years, continuously. She is a formal and informal
leader. She takes the initiative on anything that she sees that needs
improvement. She develops training packets for all facets of TA
activities and provides the training in the beginning and when
necessary. She met with the dietitian to choose healthy snacks for our
very hungry patients and she arranged with her to provide nutrition
teaching every other week. She develops work flow processes that keep
her very busy unit organized. She works closely with the charge nurse
to keep everything running smoothly. She does not tolerate ‘slacking,’
and sets the bar for patient care, customer service and efficiency.”
Friday, July 25, 2008
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