In early 2020, Monica Keyes-Cabral was at a crossroads: her career as a paramedic, which she thoroughly enjoyed, was taking a toll on her mental health.
She left her job just before the pandemic was declared. But she still wanted a meaningful role that allowed her to help people and support their well-being.
She investigated different training options and eventually chose the Occupational Health and Safety program at Herzing.
After an intense year of juggling online studies and helping her three young children adapt to COVID realities, Monica recently graduated—and landed a job at the same place where she did her internship.
Read on for her full story.
Q. Can you share a bit about your background? What were you doing before enrolling at Herzing?
Monica: I worked as a paramedic for 13 years with the region of Niagara, and I absolutely adored the job. I love helping people.
But it got very difficult in terms of mental wellness. I ended up being diagnosed with PTSD, and I did a lot of work on healing and mending and therapy.
I made the really difficult decision to leave the profession because it's such a hard job and regardless of how much help and training you have, you still see and deal with a lot of those difficulties.
And I have three young children, so that was another layer. I'd come home from work and have to move into Mommy mode very quickly. And sometimes they would see me upset or sad.
So it just really made me think, I'm not too old to go back to school to try to find another career that is still meaningful to me, that still helps people but maybe gives me a little more control over the circumstances.
So that's what prompted all of this.
Q. What inspired you to choose the Occupational Health and Safety program?
Monica: It actually didn't stand out to me at first at all. I was really exploring what I could do in healthcare.
As a paramedic, you have very high training for specific skills, but people don't really regard them as transferring over very easily into other aspects. I had actually tried to be employed doing vaccines and that sort of thing, and they wouldn’t hire me even though as a paramedic I did injections all the time.
So I thought, OK, I have to start from scratch here.
With the occupational health and safety program, I thought at some point I may be able to give a lot of insight into the mental health aspect. I think it's going to be really big in the next couple of years, particularly post-COVID. So it's a really exciting time.
Q. How did you decide on Herzing?
Monica: I had actually heard ads on the radio for Herzing for many, many years. I knew that I wanted to pick one of the career colleges because I knew that they were better adapted to an adult learner, particularly somebody with kids who was entering a new career.
I started with Google searches, looking at different things. About the same time that I was on the phone with the people from Herzing, I was talking to somebody at Humber College about entering the nursing program and really deciding which route I wanted to go.
Herzing College stood out because of its efficient program. When I looked at the course titles, it seemed more in line with my history and my personal interests.
Plus, I was able to do evening classes. And the internship is built in, which is another great layer to the program. So that's why I chose Herzing.
Q. How did Herzing’s support services help you succeed?
Monica: Someone in our program had asked, “How do we do this whole career thing? How do we prepare ourselves for interviews?” So a woman from Herzing’s career services team was gracious enough to set up basically a mock interview.
We had an evening where she came on screen with us and showed videos of some real interviews that happened between some past students, with permission and everything.
We watched bits of these recordings so that we could get a feel of what the experience is like. That was especially helpful for people who've been out of the workforce for a while or haven't interviewed in Canada.
So that was great. She took a lot of questions from us and gave us all the information we needed.
She did encourage us from the beginning to try to find our own internship because if you do that then you know you're getting the industry you want. And that's exactly what I did.
Q. You created your own internship? How did that come about?
Monica: I mentioned to some people in my social circle that I was back in school and this is what I was studying. It turned out someone else in our social circle works at the City of Mississauga as the safety manager, so I reached out to him.
I think with the larger corporations there's a lot of red tape to getting outsiders into very confidential workplaces. But through interviews and sending my resume to him and going step by step, I was able to get into that internship.
Q. Tell us about the position you’re about to start.
Monica: It’s still with the City of Mississauga. One of the women on the health and safety team is taking a maternity leave and I was eligible to apply for the position because I was considered an internal employee at that time.
While I did my internship, I got a front-row seat into some new programming that’s going to begin there in June around psychological health and well-being. And that may be a position that opens up at some point throughout the year as well.
So whether I continue in my role or take on part of that or make the switch, it's just exciting to have my foot in the door.
Q. What would you say to someone who was considering Herzing’s OHS program?
Monica: If you’re an adult going into a new career, Herzing is a great place to learn everything you need to in a short period of time.
It's intense. But if you know that going in and you can tell yourself it's one year of your life that you have to put some things on hold and focus and commit to your goal, then you'll find success.
When you're in it, it feels hard and it's heavy. But in the grand scheme of things, a year is not a long time.
EXPLORE HERZING’S OHS PROGRAM
Herzing’s accelerated Occupational Health and Safety program is just 12 months long and includes an internship for real-world experience.
Successful students can qualify for the Canadian Registered Safety Technician (CRST) certification immediately after graduation.
Want more info? Click below to get complete program details and chat live with an admissions advisor.