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Advancing Our Practice at Aspen

Aspen’s Advancing Practice team improves the agency’s ability to provide streamlined, innovative and client-centered services in Calgary and area. By working across all 20 agency programs, this team is positioned to guide services differently through the identification of trends, gaps and opportunities for increased collaboration.

The Advancing Practice Team provides direct clinical guidance about complex cases and targeted training to directly meet staff’s need as they support vulnerable youth, adults and families through increasingly complex challenges.

Through an overarching agency lens, the Advancing Practice team uses data, evaluation tools, clinical practice models and targeted training to ensure that Aspen’s services are in line with emerging best practices and offer relevant supports to persons served.

What Impact Does the Advancing Practice Team Have?

  1. Reduction in barriers that limit successful outcomes for people and their families. Program participants are better equipped to meet their goals and create meaningful, sustainable change.

  2. Youth, adults and families are better supported by a cohesive, wrap-around team, helping them be well, to do well.

  3. Case management for Indigenous families and individuals will be more culturally appropriate and guided through an Indigenous lens. Aspen staff will have increased awareness of the Indigenous culture and will be better equipped to enhance service delivery for this demographic.

  4. Increased use of data, evaluation tools, clinical practice models and targeted training, ensuring that Aspen’s services are in line with emerging best practices and offer relevant supports to persons served.

  5. Increased efficiency in the use of our training dollars, and investments into professional development will be more aligned with agency and program needs.

  6. Reduction in burn-out, vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue experienced by our staff.

How is this initiative different from what others are doing?

There are other agencies like Aspen doing similar work to our Advancing Practice team; other organizations use data, evaluate it to inform practice, have clinical teams and offer Indigenous programming. However, from our observation, these different areas of work are being done in silos. Our approach of having a holistic team where each role informs, and is informed by each other, is quite unique and we think it is the key to best supporting people in our programs.

We’ve identified the four focus areas of clinical practice, training and evaluation, practice and quality improvement and culturally-aware programming based on gaps that we as an agency identified through an intensive transformational journey over the last four year. These four roles are just the start of us changing the way we think and work to advance our practice.

What Need Does the Advancing Practice Team Meet?

Across all Aspen programs, the complexity and needs of those seeking services continues to grow. Our new Advancing Practice team enhances Aspen’s ability to support people and communities experiencing increased complexities by addressing the need for in-house clinical guidance, the need to use data and integrate feedback into service delivery, the need to increase support for staff in their work, and the need to appropriately serve Indigenous individuals and families accessing Aspen’s programs and services.

Based on program outcomes and through staff feedback, it became apparent that our staff were spending a significant amount of time looking for external clinical support specific to the unique needs of people in our programs. Providing in-house clinical guidance streamlines access to that support and ensure that staff requests are met in a timely, pro-active manner to best support the needs of program participants. For example, in-house clinical guidance can ensure that our team is not waiting three weeks for an external appointment when a youth we are serving is facing challenges that require immediate action. When we identify a mental health situation with a youth or a family, our in-house Clinical Practice Lead is able to respond quickly and coordinate a collaborative response.

Second, an internal agency review identified the need to receive timely feedback about outcomes and performance metrics so that it can be integrated into the development of service delivery. We have greater data collection capacity than ever before with our new case management system, TraxSolutions, however we have a need to expand data analysis and interpretation to inform and improve services. Our Practice and Quality Improvement Lead and the Training and Evaluation Lead will collaborate to develop effective performance metrics and indicators, evaluate the data to identify trends and support leadership to incorporate knowledge gained across the agency. The Advancing Practice Leeds will also use this data to develop training plans for staff and ensure they are better prepared to support the complex needs of current and future program participants.

A third need that will be addressed through this initiative is the need to better support program delivery staff. Our front-line staff are supporting vulnerable children, youth, adults and families through increasingly complex challenges every day. They feel ongoing pressures and demands to do their jobs better, experience vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue, and are too often reaching a point of burn-out. Our new Advancing Practice team will provide direct clinical guidance about complex cases, target training to directly meet staff’s need for up to date information and methods and use data to effectively communicate back to staff the impact of their work. Through this, staff will have better supports to their jobs effectively and reduce the negative personal impacts that can occur through their challenging roles.

Lastly, our Advancing Practice team will address the need to provide culturally appropriate support to Indigenous families and individuals accessing Aspen’s services. Last year, 60% of participants in our Sustainable Families program alone, a program that helps get families out of homelessness and into sustainable housing, self-identified as Indigenous. Unfortunately, Indigenous families are two to three times more likely than their non-Indigenous counterparts to live in housing that is unsafe, violent or overcrowded. With the support of our Indigenous Cultural Coordinator, and entire Advancing Practice team, we will continue building our staff’s capacity to offer more culturally aware services to Indigenous families and individuals by supporting their holistic spiritual, social, emotional and physical well-being through an Indigenous lens.

How Can You Help?

Aspen relies on community support to operate our Advancing Practice team. This year, we are so grateful to have received a generous grant from the Calgary Foundation for Advancing Practice. We are still working hard to raise an additional $250,000 prior to March 2020 for this program. Please consider making a donation to Advance our Practice at Aspen.

For additional information, or to discuss your giving options, please contact Ashlee Hamblin at 403-463-8936 or ahamblin@aspenfamily.org.

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