“Everyone deserves respect and dignity,” says Joao Santos.

A recent graduate of Capilano University’s Health Care Assistant (HCA) program on the Sunshine Coast, Santos works as a care aide at Shorncliffe, an intermediate care facility in Sechelt.

“It’s a very rewarding job,” says Santos. “I like to help people—to figure out their stories and help them achieve their goals. I try to treat everyone as if I was looking after my parents or grandparents.”

Being a care aid is kind of like being a nurse’s assistant, says Santos. “We help clients with personal care, medication, meals, grooming. We are the eyes and ears and hands of the clients, making sure they’re comfortable and supported.”

Finding a “calling”

The former web designer from Recife, Brazil came to Vancouver to study English in 2003. He ended up staying after he met his partner, Daniel. Two year later, they rented a salmon trawler and married in English Bay.

The Brazilian was drawn to the health care profession after passing the lifeguard course in Canada and volunteering at a pool in the George Pearson Centre, a residential care home for adults with disabilities in Vancouver.

There, he gave swim lessons to children with disabilities and worked with seniors in exercise classes. “I enjoyed it as much as working with the kids. I had all good reports from the seniors, they remind me of my grandmas,” says Santos.

Experiential learning

Looking back on his experience in the HCA program, Santos says his classmates and instructors were like a family.

The highlight, he says, was the practicum—six weeks working in a residential care facility supervised by an instructor, and two weeks shadowing a home support worker on their rounds in the community.

“It was a great experience,” says Santos. “Everything we learned in the program, we applied in the practicum. At the end of each day, we would meet with the instructor for an hour debrief. Everyone would get together and share their experiences. It was really great to find out what other students were doing and learn from their experiences. The practicum was time to step up and do the job. Then you realize this is the kind of job you want.”

Santos was hired right out of the program by the facility where he did his practicum, and is also doing home support work.

“Being a care aid is very fulfilling. When I get a smile from a client, that is a gift for me—and it happens a lot—you know that what you do is important to them.”

Submitted by Shannon Colin, Communications & Marketing

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Did you know Capilano University’s kálax-ay Sunshine Coast campus is celebrating 40 years of transforming lives in September 2018? This milestone is being commemorated with a historic agreement with the shíshálh (Sechelt) Nation. Learn more.

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