Day one of our first Independent Practice Experience (IPE) was a very exciting day. It was my first foray into the “real world” of community support work. Our first IPE day was very important for me because I learn better when I’m physically doing an activity instead of reading about it in a textbook. Some people prefer to learn visually or verbally but I learn new tasks and retain new information much more during a kinesthetic exercise.
Our first IPE day was the first time formally meeting the staff at Delta Community Living Society. (DCLS) is a community organization that serves individuals in the community living with mental and physical challenges. They offer day programs, residential programs and vocational programs, to name a few. Day programs are where community support workers assist individuals during recreational and artistic activities like swimming, bowling, or learning artwork.
DCLS also has residential sites where community support workers assist individuals with more physical or behavioural challenges. In this type of setting, support workers assist by modelling positive behaviour, and assisting in daily living activities like personal care and grooming.
There is a wide range of choices regarding the type of work that support workers can choose to do and I was very happy to be oriented about DCLS by the staff and to be brought to the various sites and learn about what opportunities are available at each location. One thing that surprised me was how far the DCLS sites are from me. Some are as close as 30 minute by public transportation while others can be as far as 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours via public transportation.
On the first day of our practicum, we did a lot of observing. Since we were at each site, we were finally able to see what it is really like to be a community support worker.The feeling of our first IPE day is similar to how someone feels the first time they drive a car. Sure, you’ve taken the written driver’s test, sat in the passenger seat many times, and played Mariokart. But that knowledge won’t fully prepare you for the feeling you experience the very first time you sit in the driver’s seat, turn on the ignition and put it in Drive.
After the first day I had a good understanding of what type of work we would be doing and the level of maturity, responsibility and professionalism that is required for the job. I can see how much learning I still have to do in order to be successful as a community support worker. School isn’t the only place where learning occurs and I’m eager to learn as much about support work from the IPE site, current and former community support workers and from the individuals we will be supporting.
In school we study what it means to be a community support worker. At our IPE, we put theory into practice and that’s when the experiential learning of community support work begins.
Sometimes I think I would be further along in my knowledge of community support work if we had our independent professional experience earlier in the school year.