Susan Zirk in her health care aide scrubs, in Selkirk, Manitoba.
Are you considering becoming a health care aide, and wondering if you'd be a good fit for the role?
Looking to switch jobs, but don't want to spend years re-training? You're definitely not alone.
Susan Zirk was working a high-pressure finance job when she started looking around for other options. She wanted to do something with more meaning - work that actually helps people and feels rewarding.
Finally, she took the plunge and signed up for Health Care Aide training at Herzing College Winnipeg.
Now she's living a completely different life, working for a home-care company that helps seniors live safely and independently in their own residences.
We checked in with Susan this week to see how her new career is going and learn more about her experience becoming a health care aide. Read on for the highlights!
Q: Susan, what inspired you to quit your bank job to become a health care aide?
Susan: I had been working at the Royal Bank of Canada, but due to sales expectations, I wasn’t happy and wanted to change careers.
Plus, over the previous five to seven years, my parents had been suffering with health issues, and I'd been their primary caregiver. This is when I had my first experiences with home care and personal care homes.
After my mom passed, my dad moved into assisted living and started receiving home care. He was not happy at all with a few of the workers, and nor was I!
After a string of falls, he was referred to rehab, and shortly after had to move from assisted living, into a personal care home. I saw up close what health care aides do and how important this work is.
With the experience I gained looking after my parents, and believing I could make a difference, I started looking into health care aide programs.
Q: Why did you choose Herzing's Health Care Aide program?
Susan: I chose Herzing because of the college’s reputation, location, hours, time frame of the course, and cost. Once I completed the orientation, I was convinced it was the right fit for me.
Q: What did you like best about the program?
Susan: What I liked best about Herzing's health care aide training was the course content. I knew it would be challenging—but I also knew, that by the time I graduated, I would be fully prepared to perform in an HCA position.
The theory and hands-on training was really thorough. We had tests every week based on the previous unit of study, to ensure each student was keeping up and understanding everything.
There was a lot of studying and information retention involved, but this is what helped us build confidence and get fully prepared for our first jobs.
Q: When you graduated from Herzing, was it difficult to find work?
Susan: There were lots of jobs available. After graduation, I spent a couple of months submitting resumes and got hired by IERHA (Interlake Eastern Regional Health Authority) in a home care position.
Some of my classmates actually landed HCA positions directly after graduation—but although I wanted to find a job in my new field, I was also quite picky regarding the location of employment. So it took me a bit longer to get settled.
As part of our program, we also had help and instruction on resume and cover letter writing, plus a couple of mock job interviews. This was a big help!
Q: Can you tell us a bit about where you're working now?
Susan: I am currently employed in Selkirk, Manitoba, doing community support/home care. I hold a .8 EFT, meaning I work .8 of full-time (or eight days in a two-week work period).
The majority of my clients are elderly, and a few have illnesses requiring physical assistance. I do transfers (using mechanical lift systems), help with bathing/personal care, dressing, medication supervision, preparing light meals, bulk cooking (cooking and freezing meals for a one- or two-week period), and some laundry.
Q: What do you enjoy most about being a health care aide?
Susan: What I enjoy most about my work is helping clients remain in their own homes. I help them overcome limitations so they can remain independent and live in an environment that is familiar and comfortable.
I really like going the extra distance so my clients feel respected and can live their lives with dignity.
Q: Where do you see yourself five to 10 years from now? Will you continue working as a health care aide?
Susan: I started this new career a bit later in life, so 10 to 15 years will probably be the max I'll be able to perform in this role.
Afterward, I would love to get into more of a supervisor role, to instruct and mentor existing or new HCAs. I've had the opportunity to do that already and really enjoyed it.
Q: What special qualities does a health care aide need to be successful?
Susan: Special qualities needed to succeed as an HCA are patience, some physical strength, compassion, and the desire to perform the duties delegated to an HCA. If you don’t care what you’re doing or how well you’re doing it, you won’t do a good job!!
Q: What advice would you give someone who is considering becoming a health care ide?
Susan: Understand the responsibilities and duties of an HCA before making your decision. Make sure you're truly inspired to care for others and know exactly what the role involves.
And once you're in training, soak up all the information you can—you'll be using every single bit of it out iN the field!
Thank you Susan for taking the time to talk with us and sharing updates on your career. The field is lucky to have you, and we're extremely proud of your success.
learn more about Health Care Aide Training at Herzing
Interested in exploring Herzing's Health Care Aide Diploma? Want to know more about admissions, tuition, and upcoming start dates? Your next step is to speak with an admissions advisor.
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