Photo: Herzing graduate, Sheri Richard in her Health Care Aide uniform at Extendicare Oakview Place in Winnipeg.
It's always really exciting to catch up with Herzing grads and see how much their lives have changed since finishing school and starting a brand new career.
Health Care Aide graduate Sheri Richard, is a great example. She switched career paths later in life, when she could no longer find work in her field and needed a new direction.
Sheri knew she wanted to help people, so she started looking around for quick training options. A five-month health care aide diploma was an ideal fit.
And even though she has three children and a very busy schedule, Sheri took the leap and started the program. Turns out, it was the best decision she ever made.
Here's what she told us about heading back to school, starting her health care aide career, and where she's working now.
Q: Sheri, what inspired you to become a health care aide?
Sheri: At the time, I was working as an educational assistant, supporting kids with special learning needs. I'd just moved back to Winnipeg from northern Manitoba, and it was really hard to find teaching work here.
So, I started looking into other careers where I could help people. My father-in-law actually suffers from Alzheimer's, and I'd seen him change over the years and need extra assistance. It got me thinking about working in the health care field.
Throughout my life, I'd been a secretary and worked in finance...but I wanted something more meaningful. Then, one day I was on Facebook and saw an ad for Herzing. A couple of days later, a friend of mine mentioned she was becoming a health care aide.
After that, I spoke with my husband's aunt, who's been a health care aide for over 30 years. She told me the company she works with hires a lot of Herzing grads, so I should look into their program.
That's when all the pieces started coming together. I contacted Herzing, spoke to admissions, met with an advisor, and started training.
Q: What was your overall opinion of the Health Care Aide course at Herzing?
Sheri. The instructor Nancy Scott is amazing. She just doesn't stop! From the moment you walk in on the first day, she welcomes you and explains every little detail and truth about the role.
When you get to the practicum, there are no surprises—you know exactly what to expect. I felt totally prepared for my internship. That's a real confidence booster.
Nancy also explained how important this job really is. A lot of people don't really understand what a health care aide actually does. They underestimate the role.
Nancy really stresses the value we bring to patients and families. She always told us, you're looking after someone's family member...they're putting their loved one's life in your hands. This work matters.
In every possible way, Nancy goes above and beyond to prepare her students. She researches the Winnipeg job market. She talks to employers to find out what they're looking for in new hires. She supports her students every step of the way.
To this day, we're still good friends!
Q: Was it difficult to find work after graduating from Herzing? How did you land your first job?
Sheri: I got hired at the place where I did my practicum! And since then, I've had a promotion to receive more guaranteed shifts. But even at the beginning, when I first started, I always had full-time work hours.
New health care aide graduates often start as casuals. But you'll find that if you're good at your job, there are always extra shifts and opportunities to expand your work hours.
Q: Can you tell us about where you work? What's it like?
Sheri: I'm working at Extendicare Oakview Place, a long-term care home here in Winnipeg. I work on a unit called Memory Lane. We support residents who have Alzheimer's and dementia.
I am what's known as an HCA recreational worker. We facilitate activities, take residents on walks, provide companionship, and help soothe residents when they're feeling anxious.
I absolutely love this work. What I'm doing really makes a difference. People who are dealing with memory problems experience a lot of fear. The fear of not remembering who they are, or events from the past. I can see that fear in many of our residents.
But when I make them smile, or give them a hug, I can help them forget about that fear and pain. It's incredibly rewarding. I know I'm having a positive impact.
Q: What kinds of challenges do you face on the job?
Sheri: To be honest, I think the hardest part is not having enough hands on deck. Sometimes we get busy and feel a bit stretched on the unit. We need more health care aides! There's definitely demand for more skilled professionals in this field.
Q: Where do you see yourself five to 0 years from now? Are you still an HCA?
Sheri: Oh, yes. I will stay right where I am. I might make less money than a doctor or nurse, but I get all the glory! HCAs get much more time with the residents...and this is what really drives me.
Q: What does it take to be successful as a health care aide?
Sheri: Empathy and patience are two of the most important qualities you need to be successful in this role. You have to want to help. You can't look at it as a "job"...it's a calling.
Of course, you also need to know about patient care, how to safely move and tend to residents, etc. But these are all things you'll learn in health care aide training. Attitude can't be taught. It takes a certain kind of dedication and mindset to be great in this role.
When I look at the HCAs I work with, they come from all backgrounds and walks of life. They range from early 20s to mid-60s. There are men and women. Many have families. Extendicare has Health Care Aides from Winnipeg, and others who come from different parts of the world.
It's a really diverse field! There's opportunity for everyone.
Q: Any final words of advice for someone who is considering a health care aide course?
Sheri: Just do it. If you really feel passionate about helping others, and believe you have what it takes, just go for it. Becoming a health care aide is one of the best things I've ever done. I can't imagine a better career.
Thank you, Sheri, for chatting with us this week! We wish you continued success in your career.
Have Questions About Health Care Aide Training?
Herzing College Winnipeg offers a 6.5-month Health Care Aide course. Training is taught by licensed nurses and includes an eight-week practicum at a care home.
Our graduates are working at care homes and hospitals across Winnipeg, including:
- Misericordia Health Centre
- Extendicare Oakview Place
- Selkirk Mental Hospital
- St. Amant Centre
- Deer Lodge Centre
- Health Sciences Center
- Victoria Hospital
- Maples Personal Care Home
Click below to explore the Health Care Aide program and chat live with an advisor.
The advisor can tell you if you're eligible to apply, and answer questions about course schedules, tuition costs, financial aid options, and how to get started. We're here to help.