Photo: Shannon McGrath in her personal support worker uniform
After working at Tim Hortons for 18 years, Shannon McGrath was ready for a change.
She wanted a job with more meaning. She wanted a career that felt challenging, where she could actually make people's lives better.
So, despite deep fears about returning to school, Shannon took a leap of faith and enrolled in the Personal Support Worker program at Herzing College Ottawa.
She struggled with a learning disability and battled with anxiety, but in the end, Shannon made it through.
In fact, she was so successful, she was offered a PSW job after her internship at Cité Parkway Retirement Residence, where she still works today.
We interviewed Shannon to get her review of the PSW program. We asked about her experience in class and how she feels about her new career.
Read on for the full story.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What made you go back to school?
Shannon: I grew up in the small city of North Bay, Ontario. That's where I spent most of my young life.
After graduating from high school I really didn't know what I wanted to be, so I decided to head off to the big city of Ottawa. I got a job at Tim Hortons, and that's where I stayed for 18 years.
At the age of 45 I decided it was time to spread my wings and start a new career. I was tired of working a dead-end job, where I knew I couldn’t go anywhere and couldn’t move up.
Q: Why did you choose the Personal Support Worker (PSW) program?
Shannon: At first, I was thinking of doing Business Administration. But my Herzing advisor, Alex, suggested I consider the PSW program instead.
We talked about how I wanted to help people, and I've always been told I have a good bedside manner. PSW training felt like a better fit.
Also, I am inspired by the special qualities it takes to become a PSW. You need true empathy and compassion to care for your clients. I think those are admirable, valuable traits.
Q: There are other PSW colleges out there. Why did you choose Herzing?
Shannon: There were a few reasons I went with Herzing College. First, my sister and some other people I know went to Herzing and liked it.
Also, the campus is close to my home and convenient.
And I had a good experience with Admissions. I met with Alex who was very helpful. They have a gentle approach and are very nice when you come in.
Q: How was your experience in class? Did you like the instructor and overall approach?
Shannon: My instructors were very understanding. We all had different styles of learning and they adapted their approach to fit our needs.
The material we learned was good. My favourite part was the hands-on training. I am better at visual learning and learning by doing, so that part was the best for me.
Q: Can you tell us about your internship? What was it like?
Shannon: The internship was very interesting. I did two different placements. The first was at Hillel Lodge, which is a long-term care facility. The second placement was at Cité Parkway Retirement Residence.
The facilities offer different types of care, so as an intern, we got to experience both sides. I really enjoyed getting to work with the residents and learning new skills in a real work environment.
Q: Where did you get hired after graduating from the PSW program?
Shannon: I got hired at Cité Parkway Retirement Residence. We provide different levels of care, depending on the needs of the residents.
Some clients are more independent, so I just provide assistance with laundry, bringing meals if they're sick, and helping them get downstairs.
For residents who need total care, I feed them, bathe them, do laundry, put them in lifts to transfer them, etc. I really enjoy the work.
Q: How has your life changed since becoming a Personal Support Worker?
Shannon: l'm still in awe that I actually graduated!
I had to take the PSW course twice. I have a learning disability, and the first time I took the course I couldn't get over my anxiety and wasn't able to pass the exam.
But I went right back to Herzing a few months later and took the whole program again. And in the end, I overcame my challenges, passed the course, and got hired as a PSW. I'm really proud of that.
Q: Any advice for someone who is nervous to go back to school?
Shannon: Go full force! Strive for what you want to achieve in life and don't let anything hold you back. Even with a disability I made it through. You deserve the chance to succeed.
Learn more about PSW Training at Herzing College
Herzing College Ottawa offers an 11-month Personal Support Worker program. Training includes all the skills and knowledge needed to provide safe, compassionate care to seniors.
This program includes an 11-week internship so students can get real work experience prior to graduation.
Our graduates are hired by retirement homes and long-term care facilities throughout Ottawa.
Have questions about training or careers?
Click below to explore the PSW program and chat live with an Advisor for information and advice. We're here to help!