Campus Life  

Health Care Assistants thankful for bursary support

Twenty-three-year-old Shoshanna Fremont works the night shift as a Care Aide at a local long-term care home, a shift she loves as it gives her an opportunity to provide precious one-on-one time with residents who are up during the night.

“When you get them a glass of water and take the time to hold their hand, especially when they can’t have many visitors, their entire mood changes,” says Fremont.

“When I go home I take comfort that I took care of people today, I made them smile, or helped in whatever way I could.”

Fremont is one of eight students who have benefitted from a new bursary at Okanagan College that pays nearly the full tuition to become a Health Care Assistant (HCA). Set up by the BC Care Providers Association, the bursary aims to encourage and support people becoming a HCA, which is an in-demand profession across the province.

Fremont says the award was a lifesaver, as she underestimated how difficult school would be, and the challenge of paying for living costs in addition to her education.

“The fact that I didn’t have to worry about paying for my schooling it helped a million times over,” says Fremont.

Fremont was inspired to become a HCA when she learned her great grandfather had Parkinson’s disease.

“I know the care I’d want my great grandparents to have so I felt like it would be a great fit for me,” she says, adding the education was extremely thorough.

“I’m proud of my education. I have every tool I need. When you have a certificate from Okanagan College and you’re looking for a job, people are impressed at your skill level. The program went above and beyond, it was really amazing.”

Jacob Binkowski recently received the award which is helping him make a major career change. Prior to returning to school, Binkowski was as a video game Developer, a career that involved sitting at a desk for long hours.

When Binkowski’s mother got sick with pneumonia nearly 10 years ago, Binkowski watched a large, long-haired, tattooed man provide critical care for her while she was in the hospital.

“I had never thought about working in health care until then,” recalls Binkowski. “But seeing that man always there with a smile while caring for my mom resonated with me. I always wanted to help people and I didn’t feel fulfilled in my last career.”

Binkowski is now in his practicum and says he’s really enjoying the interaction with people and the change of pace.

“I was elated to receive the bursary. It’s nice to have the financial help with bills and rent.”

In total, the BC Care Providers Association donated $25,000 to the Our Students, Your Health campaign for a new Health Sciences Centre at Okanagan College. In addition to fundraising for the state-of-the-art Centre, the campaign is raising funds to support students entering high-demand health care careers. The BC Care Providers gift empowered the eight students to complete their studies with little tuition cost – the award pays $3,125 of the $3,300 program.

“We’re pleased to help students who have the passion to care for the elderly but may not be able to afford the costs of education or have other family obligations,” says incoming BC Care Providers Association CEO Terry Lake.

Lake says the BC Care Providers Association has been working on innovative solutions to address the skills shortage for several years now, including funding the student awards at Okanagan College.

According to WorkBC data, HCAs have been identified as a priority occupation for the B.C. Ministry of Health. There is expected to be more than 19,000 job openings across the province over the next decade.

“This pandemic has increased public awareness around how important it is for our seniors to receive quality care and services,” adds Lake. “The addition of more well- trained Health Care Assistants will ensure quality care continues through this pandemic and beyond.”

Fremont and Binkowski advise people who are considering becoming a Health Care Assistant to do their research and understand what the role entails. The job can be emotional says Fremont but despite the challenges that come with the role she loves her job.

Binkowski is currently completing his first on-site practicum. While COVID-19 did raise some initial concerns for him, he feels good knowing safety protocols are in place to protect him and seniors.

“These people need help and it feels like the right thing to do during this time,” says Binkowski.

While frontline workers are heroes, the Okanagan College Foundation is raising awareness that there are other types of health care heroes needed during this time. The Foundation is asking for philanthropic support to complete construction of the Health Sciences Centre that will train eight front-line health care positions starting in January. To learn more or to donate, visit OurStudentsYourHealth.ca. 

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