How COVID-19 prompted a dietary staff member to become a PSW

Sheila Warren had worked in the kitchen at Almonte Country Haven for 29 years, but when an outbreak began in March 2020, she decided to make a career change

Sheila Warren had worked in the nutritional care department at Almonte Country Haven for 29 years when a COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the Lanark County long-term care home on March 29, 2020.

Knowing front-line team members would need additional help caring for residents, and having previous health-care aide training, Sheila approached administrator Carolyn Della Foresta and asked to switch duties so she could work on the floor to help the personal support workers (PSWs).

Carolyn accommodated Sheila’s request and immediately noticed Sheila had a natural gift for PSW work. In fact, Carolyn, along with other Country Haven team members, thought caregiving may truly be Sheila’s calling.

Managers, PSWs and nurses suggested Sheila take PSW training and change job roles at Almonte Country Haven.

“As a management group, we saw that Sheila was amazing (working on the floor), she was meant to work hands-on,” Carolyn tells The OMNIway.

“We saw that Sheila shone outside of the dietary department working hands-on for her entire shift with the residents.”

There was also a perfect opportunity waiting for Sheila: Almonte Country Haven had recently entered a partnership with the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) through a PSW training program the school board offers.

The training program, which is supported by the Canadian Career Academy (CCA), is offered to students at a comparatively low cost. The CCA covers a portion of the program’s tuition fees and allows students to earn money while doing their work placements.

For people like Sheila doing their placement at Country Haven, OMNI Health Care covers the remainder of the tuition costs through its bursary program.

Sheila decided to consider the offer, but before making a final decision, she wanted to consult with one more person: her mother who, coincidentally, had been a caregiver at Almonte Country Haven.

“I thought long and hard about it and talked to my mum, and my mum was the icing on the cake for my decision to take the PSW course,” Sheila says.

“She basically said you are your mother’s daughter and you will be fantastic at it.”

Sheila completed the training program and is now a full-time PSW at Almonte Country Haven. Sheila says she has not looked back on her decision.

“I love it immensely,” she says of her new position.

Sheila also has words of praise for the PSW program offered by CDSBEO.

“It was very informative,” she says of the program, adding her neighbour recently expressed interest in signing up for the training. “Between doing the course, working and taking care of everything at home, my schedule was full, but it was a very informative program.”

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Photo caption: Four Almonte Country Haven team members recently graduated from a PSW training program the home is involved with through a partnership with the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario. Pictured left to right, Tiffany Brydge, Sheila Warren, Rebekah Lafontaine and Tracie Boyd.