Jan Seaman, top left

Jan Seaman remembers walking into a client’s room during her clinical practicum. The patient was bed-bound—he couldn’t feed or dress himself or speak.

It’s easy for others—even family members—to forget and think that someone in this situation doesn’t hear or know what is going on around them. But Jan saw something different. As she worked with the client, she began to see that he could communicate with his eyes and hands.

Over a period of time, she discovered that he loved baseball. So she began to give him the daily scores whenever she would enter his room.

“He’d get a tear in his eye,” Jan says, “because someone was having a conversation with him. For him to know that I knew that he could communicate without talking—it was very powerful.”

Home is best

It’s this kind of dedication to her clients that has earned Health Care Assistant (HCA) program alumna Jan Seaman the respect of both her instructors and colleagues. Since her graduation, Jan has been working for North Shore Home Support as a community care worker, giving the type of assistance she is passionate about—care that allows clients to stay in their homes, with their families, surrounded by what they know and love.

In part, it is Jan’s own experience with family members with serious illnesses that has given her this passion. Coming from a family of nine, Jan has experienced first-hand the ravages of diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s and dementia on both siblings and parents. She also saw the importance of keeping family members in their own environment.

“Clients flourish better at home,” Jan says. “And it gives family members a real peace of mind as well. I’ve had so many family members tell me, ‘If it wasn’t for all the wonderful caregivers, my parent couldn’t be at home.’ To be able to give back now, and come home everyday knowing I’ve made a difference in these people’s lives—it’s so rewarding,” she says.

Finding a purpose

However, Jan didn’t start out in her working life with this passion.

Jan had already had a successful and storied career behind her before she ever thought about returning to school. Jan owned several businesses of her own. She was a music teacher, sold high-end instruments for a national piano sales company and even sometimes played the organ at National Hockey League games. She owned an Okanagan-based publication geared to active seniors called the Leisure Time News. She then spent more than 21 years running a very successful real estate business in the Okanagan before finally retiring.

However, after retiring and moving to Bowen Island, she found she needed a purpose—“a reason to get out my pajamas in the morning,” as she told her husband.

Jan had always wondered about getting into health care. After researching other universities and colleges, she decided to enrol at Capilano U. Jan called the school for more information on a Thursday, enrolled and was able to start classes the following Monday—the same day her granddaughter started Grade 1. She’s never looked back.

“It was probably the best decision I’ve ever made,” Jan now says. “I’m awestruck by how clients of any age can improve, given time and patience. Even just learning to pick up a toothbrush when they couldn’t before—it’s so rewarding to see.”

Although Jan says that returning to school after being her own boss and owning her own business “almost killed me,” she says the experience was worth it. “It’d been so many years—I spent the first three weeks physically sick from getting up at 4:30 each morning to catch the ferry and then not sleeping at night,” Jan says.

However, by the end of the first month, she received a confidence boost after getting her grades, and ended up graduating on the Dean’s List.

As a mature student returning to higher education—“I was the oldest student in our 2015 graduating class,” Jan says—the work is demanding, physically, mentally and spiritually. But she wouldn’t be doing anything else.

Confident and principled

“I could walk into a home and find someone on the floor because they’ve had a fall or a stroke,” Jan explains. “The training we received at Cap allows us to deal with every one of these challenges and dimensions—we have confidence going in and we know we can do our job.”

Jan says seasoned nurses regularly tell she and other Cap colleagues, “We can tell that you guys are from Cap U.”

“They pick us out,” Jan says, “because our standards are so high when we’re out in the field—we will challenge things when we know they’re not being done right. We have that confidence to say, ‘I appreciate how you do this, however, this is how we were trained, and I feel that this way works better for me and the client.’ Some of the seasoned health care workers even embrace the new technique.”

Jan adds that the majority of her cohort were hired before they had even graduated, with employers asking if they could start work before end of classes.

Because of this kind of recognition, “it’s an honour to have Capilano University on my diploma,” Jan says.

As for her future endeavours, it doesn’t sound like Jan will be slowing down anytime soon. “I want to keep growing, and I think I’ve found the field I want to grow in,” she says. Jan credits “the three most amazing, inspirational teachers” at Capilano’s HCA program with her success. “I couldn’t have done it without them,” she says.

Submitted by Marketing & Communications

*   *   *

Related Links: