The health care support worker (HCSW) role was newly introduced this year as a part of the Government of British Columbia's Health Career Access Program (HCAP) to provide much needed non-clinical, non-direct care support for residents in long-term care and assisted living.
HCAP is a 12 to 18 month work-integrated education and training program for HCSWs on their path to becoming a health care assistant (HCA). When hired as a HCSW, participants receive employer-sponsored provincially standardized training and work under the supervision of registered nurses or other regulated health-care professionals at all times.
Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) was thrilled to welcome its first cohort of 12 HCSWs in January at Richmond Lions Manor, who have proven to be of great support to the team in continuing to provide exceptional care to our residents. Since then, another 155 HCSWs have been hired at VCH to support long-term care and assisted-living sites across the region.
We recently caught up with two new HCSWs at VCH to learn about how their experience is going so far. Francis Arellano is currently in his fifth month of the program and working at Richmond Lions Manor.
“When the pandemic started, I was furloughed from the aviation industry, which I was in for over a decade," he says. Francis embraced this opportunity to figure out what other career options he could explore.
“Being a grandma's boy and having a soft spot for the elderly, I knew HCAP was the perfect program for me. With the right training and education, this will also eventually help me to take proper care of my grandmother as well as other grandmothers out there."
It was a similar situation that motivated Muhammad Ali. He tells us, “I lost my job as a paralegal due to the decline in business amid the pandemic in October last year."
When he learned of HCAP and how it included paid training to become a certified health-care worker, he decided to apply.
“While in Pakistan, my grandmother had dementia. Along with my sister, I helped take care of her at home during the last three years of her life. I feel HCAP is a good career path to give back to society in this time of need and to honour my grandmother's life."
“This program has on-the-job training, which is much more interactive and helpful than just strictly classroom instruction," says Francis. “I think this is a smart way to set the expectations of students so that we can see in advance, some of the duties of a health care assistant."
Francis also tells us that as HCSWs, they were introduced to the residents at the early stage of the program, which was key to building the relationships necessary to deliver care.
Muhammad describes the HCAP curriculum as interesting and informative and said the on-site rotation at Richmond Lions Manor has provided him first-hand experience in assisting residents with their daily routine.
“During the on-site rotation, the majority of our time is spent shadowing staff taking care of residents," he says. “I am also gaining valuable experience in helping with operational and administrative work such as screening visitors for social visits, stocking supplies according to the personal protective equipment checklist, spending time with residents and more. The blend of online learning and two weeks of work rotation allows me to have a great work-life balance too."
“Both my instructor and manager at the long-term care facility were incredibly supportive in ensuring that we achieve success with completing the program," says Francis. “Tanya, our instructor at Vancouver Community College, is easy to contact should a question arise and has made herself available to us anytime we need. Suzy, the clinical nurse educator at Richmond Lions Manor, is equally supportive and helpful to me and my classmates."
Muhammed echoes the same.
“Tanya has been very helpful and is always encouraging and motivating the students to do better," he says. “As well, the entire team at Richmond Lions Manor has been welcoming, helpful and supportive in aiding our learning journey with the practical aspects of being a health care assistant. Their collaborative and passionate effort for the residents continue to inspire me."
Muhammad tells us that it has been a humbling and satisfying experience to give back especially to the seniors in long-term care as they have been away from their loved ones due to the COVID-19 visiting restrictions. He looks forward to graduating this November to continue supporting seniors in their care facility and bringing smiles and joy to their lives.
Francis adds, “I look forward to applying what I have learned to take better care of my grandmother, as well as the elderly population as a whole. I would also like to explore working in hospital settings in the future to broaden the scope of my work."
The next phase of the program – HCAP for Home Support – is just around the corner, and more HCSW job postings will be posted in the coming months so be sure to check back often on careers.vch.ca.
We are actively recruiting participants for HCAP cohorts in Squamish, Sechelt and Bella Bella. Learn more and apply today.
Are you a registered nurse or registered psychiatric nurse with teaching or leadership experience? Join the Long Term Care Practice team as an Education Coordinator. Learn more and apply today.