Field offers wide variety of job opportunities
By DENISE DEVEAU, Postmedia News
‘I’d rather work with older people, because they can’t do a lot for themselves, and you have an opportunity to light up their lives,’ says Farah Dokis.
Farah Dokis says that what she loves best about caring for the elderly is what they have to say. “You can learn a lot from their stories. And they really appreciate what you do for them.”
The 23-year-old registered practical nurse from Kitchener, Ont. has worked with a number of different types of patients in her time with Bayshore Home Health. But she says, “I’d rather work with older people, because they can’t do a lot for themselves, and you have an opportunity to light up their lives.”
A lot of her enthusiasm stems from the fact that she is from a close-knit First Nations family. “I was very close to my grandparents and am very comfortable working with elders,” she says.
Jackie Hickey, community health adviser for Bayshore Home Health in Mississauga, Ont. notes that, while demand for care givers is growing, supporting the elderly isn’t always the top of people’s lists when considering a career in health care.
“The hospital sector has usually been the ‘sexy’ side of health care. But with the aging population and seniors living longer, we expect to see big changes in the health care system.”
Whether it’s home care or working in a long-term care facility, the demand for professionals in this sector will continue to increase.
According to David Hurford, director of media relations and member services for the B.C. Care Providers Association in Vancouver, there will be an estimated shortage of 7,000 care aides, support workers and licensed/registered practical nurse workers in B.C. alone over the next decade.
The need for workers of all types will only become even more pressing as governments are putting increased emphasis on home support services as a more affordable way to deliver health care to the elderly.
There are countless career options to consider in this field beyond the three primary care roles: registered nurses, registered (or licensed) practical nurses and personal support workers/health care aides. There is also a wealth of opportunities in support professions, such as social work, recreation, and occupational therapy.
Pria Nippak, academic co-ordinator for gerontology certificate program at Ryerson University’s G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education in Toronto, notes that enrolment in the program has grown significantly as professionals are looking for different ways to work with seniors.
“It’s not just nursing. There’s a whole service industry cropping up to support the senior community. The field is enormous.”
Chris Moffatt gave up a career as a business systems analyst and got his gerontology certificate in order to deliver fitness training to seniors in their homes.
“Some of these people are on the brink of losing their independence. When you are able to help people manage stairs or pull themselves up from their chair — that means a lot. I like to see that what I do can make a difference.”
Working with the elderly takes a very special breed of person, however, says Colin Dawes, director of HR for Extendicare Canada Inc. in Markham, Ont.
“What makes a person stand out in the field is a passion for caring about a very vulnerable sector of our population. It’s not for everyone because it can be sad, it’s hard work, and you have to work with people who are frail and don’t want to be in long-term care. At the same time, it’s an awesome responsibility because you can make someone feel valued and play a part in giving them the care they need for a better quality of life.”
Dawes truly believes that, for the right person, long-term care can be a highly rewarding experience.
“You develop real relationships with residents you see every day, and you can learn so much from seniors. Many have had huge lives. Someone could have been a fighter pilot in the Second World War. The sense of history is unbelievable!”
The sector also offers a wide range of opportunities for training and career advancement, Hurford says. “It’s an area where there’s a constant requirement to improve your skills, as well as lots of opportunities for training and career development. It’s also a field where workers can enjoy a lot of camaraderie because they work in teams. And from a job security perspective, it’s not a bad place to be.”