Lack of care aides 'stressful'

Dozens of people turned up to hear about how to get a free education as a health care assistant at Haven Hill Retirement Centre in Penticton Friday, a welcome sign for the overwhelmed workers. 

"The turnout was great, we've had about 60 people wander through the building plus we had quite a lot of emails from people that were working today, being a Friday, so we've sent off information to them," said care manager Jolene Gagne.

The information centre offered insight into a 16-week program that normally costs $10,000, but will be free for 16 lucky applicants thanks to a WorkBC grant. 

"Because of the shortage of care aides in the Okanagan, it was really important to think outside the box and do something different than everyone else was doing," Gagne said. 

She said staff shortages have started to take their toll on those currently working. 

"It's stressful, everyone here has been doing a phenomenal job keeping their spirits up, but you can still see that little bit of 'I'm exhausted' in their faces," Gagne said. "Everyone kinda feels the crunch of not having enough people in the building to take care of their loved ones."

Jessica Michalchuk, clinical practice manager, fielded questions from the attendees, and was pleased to see so many people turn up.

"We had people asking about what they had to return for us, like 'No money is for free, what's the catch?'" she said, explaining the program comes with a two-year commitment to working at Haven Hill before moving on.

"It seemed like a lot of people were surprised by this, that it was actually happening," Michalchuk said. "It's like, 'No, no, this is real, this isn't one of those fake email scams, we're serious!'"

She said a range of people of all ages and backgrounds showed up, which is a positive sign for the industry.

"It's not about your experience, it's not about whether you've been in the industry before, it's not about your age, it's about whether you're a person who wants to care for people," Michalchuk said. "I met some amazingly compassionate people."

If you missed the event but are interested in the free program, email Jolene Gagne at [email protected] 

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