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Essential Together Learning Bundles: Staff Education

As part Essential Together, we’ve curated tools and resources from organizations across the country that support the reintegration of essential care partners.

This page is about supporting health and care facilities to work with patients and patient partners to establish staff education to understand roles and safety protocols for essential care partners. It is part of the policy guidance to identify and prepare essential care partners.

There was and is a great deal of anxiety among healthcare providers and staff, and in some cases, patients and caregivers, about contracting COVID-19. There are concerns that additional individuals in healthcare facilities may increase sources of infection. In line with fostering an organizational philosophy that embraces principles of patient- and family-centred and partnered care, it is important for leaders and staff to continue to recognize the widely accepted role and benefits of caregiver presence and welcome their physical presence as essential care partners. Staff concerns or fears may be alleviated through appropriate education and communication strategies to ensure that essential care partners are properly and methodically identified, screened, educated in facility specific COVID-19 safety protocols.

(From page 12 of Policy Guidance for the Reintegration of Caregivers as Essential Care Partners)

These resources provide examples of training and education available to help staff to implement essential care partner policies. Generally, essential care partner reintegration is reviewed with staff during huddles and the importance of the role of essential care partners is reinforced through stories shared on the intranet or by having patients and families share stories at town halls. Other supports for staff can include posters and conversation guides. Although not specific to COVID-19, general training related to patient- and family-partnered care is also helpful.

Current resources

The tools and resources are open source, which means you can use and adapt them to fit your local context. We will continue to add to these learning bundles. If you would like to be notified when we have new material, please let us know.

Department of Family Medicine - University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry

Caregiver Centered Care is a Program of Applied Research & Innovation in Health Services Delivery in Family Caregiving. This work is funded by Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation’s Spark Program. There are two training programs available: A foundational course and one specific to supporting caregivers during COVID-19. Certificates for competition are provided.

Grey County

Grey County operates three long-term care homes across Ontario. They introduced the Designated Care Partner (DCP) program which allows for the expansion of visitors for residents whose health and overall wellbeing would benefit from a DCP.

Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare

Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare’s Coordinated Care Program enables Designated Care Partners to provide specific aspects of the care plan as agreed by the patient and care team in a carefully planned and coordinated approach.


L'Appui is an organization representing and supporting caregivers in Quebec. They have prepared a video that highlights the importance of essential care partners.

Ontario Caregiver Organization

The Ontario Caregiver Organization (OCO) supports caregivers across Ontario. They have developed several training modules for healthcare providers looking to support caregivers as partners in care.

Saskatchewan Health Authority

The Saskatchewan Health Authority supports health organizations across Saskatchewan. Their Family Presence Expert Panel and support team have created many resources and supports for staff, so they can successfully support essential care partners

If you know of other tools and resources to contribute to these learning bundles, or if there is something specific you are after, please send us an email via


We know there is different language and terminology used across the country, but to make sure we provide as much clarity as possible, in this context:

Blanket visitor restrictions refer to restrictions that extend to all “visitors” entering a facility, often without exceptions, including essential care partners.

Essential care partners provide physical, psychological and emotional support, as deemed important by the patient. This care can include support in decision making, care coordination and continuity of care. Essential care partners are identified by the patient (or substitute decision maker) and can include family members, close friends or other caregivers.

Patients includes residents and clients.

Patient partners include patients, residents, clients, families, caregivers and care partners, and others with lived experience who are working together with teams to improve the quality and safety of healthcare.

Health and care facilities refers to hospitals, long-term care/residential care/nursing homes and other congregate care settings as well as primary care and outpatient care settings.

Open family presence policies support the presence of essential care partners at patient bedside at any time and not restricted by “visiting hours.”