Working and caring together
Janette Poulin, Health Care Assistant, Class of '91
Janette Poulin always knew she loved caring for people and being around elderly people. She grew up knowing all four of her grandparents and half of her great grandparents. She was especially close to her maternal grandparents who lived in Metchosin, a rural community just outside of Victoria, B.C.
“I grew up respecting the elderly,” she says. “I loved to listen to their stories. My grandpa always told me stories of how he helped others. This left a lasting impression on me and I bring this to work every day. My parents taught me that you respect the elderly, you look up to them and they’re going to teach you lots.”
Originally, Janette wanted to put her compassionate nature into a career in nursing, but she had complex-partial seizures since she was 10 years old and she was concerned she wouldn’t be able to preform all the duties required of a nurse. “I always wanted to be hands-on in the operating room or emergency, but with my seizures I couldn’t do that.”
Janette’s history of seizures, likely caused by a bout of meningitis when she was a baby, meant that she was in and out of the hospital as a child. She was often seeing doctors and going for tests, and so she had become familiar with health care settings.
“I signed up for Camosun’s ‘continuing care assistant’ program,” says Janette, who started what is now the Health Care Assistant program in 1991. “I thought it would be a good step to see how I felt about caring for people as a profession.”
In 2004 Janette decided to have brain surgery to stop the seizures, after years of experimenting with medications and natural therapies. She has been seizure-free ever since.
After the surgery, her life changed. “I got a permanent position at a new facility which gave me stability and security. I ended up falling in love and buying a house, and my husband and I are slowly reaching our goals.”
She has more independence, a driver’s licence, enjoys working in her huge vegetable garden (that used to be her grandfather’s), and has a semi-profitable roadside produce stand. She has also won awards in the community fair for her prized vegetables and huge sunflowers.
Janette uses her talents every day in her current role as a care worker. In addition, she has been a leader and mentor in the workplace over the years. But it’s the elderly residents in the community where she works who keep her inspired.
“During an evening shift,” she reflects, “one of the residents told me that my caring and ‘one-on-one’ time made her feel as though I was part of her family. Especially when she would see me every day. This motivates me to give the best care possible.”
Health care has changed a lot in the almost thirty years since Janette completed her training at Camosun. One thing that hasn’t changed is the need for health professionals to work together and communicate effectively.
“It’s really important for the nurses and health care assistants to be working together. The health care assistants report to the nurses because we are the hands-on people. But we are always learning from one another. To be educated together in the same space will teach the nurses how to listen more and the care aids how to give better information.” This, in turn, will provide better care in the future for everyone.
This is part of a series of profiles of alumni and students from Camosun’s School of Health and Human Services, in support of the Together for Health campaign for The Alex & Jo Campbell Centre for Health and Wellness.