>Single moms embark on new career – helping elderly

They rise at the crack of dawn, feed the kids, get them to school and daycare – and that’s just the beginning of their day.

Deborah Proulx, 31, Vesna Vuckovic, 24, and Psudi Lindsay, 32, are single moms with a dream. They want to work in the healthcare field as Personal Support Workers.

To realize their dream, they must successfully complete an intense 20-week training program with Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. While private vocational schools and community colleges offer PSW certification programs, Baycrest is the first hospital/long-term care facility to offer the program on site, giving students the unique advantage of classroom training and practical experience under one roof.

“I want to help seniors and make a difference in their lives,” says Lindsay, who has four children ranging in age from 14 years old to 22 months. “By having a career, I will be able to make a better future for my children.”

Vuckovic, who is raising a six-year-old girl, feels it’s important to be a “role model” for other single moms who are struggling to make ends meet.

“If we can do it, they can do it,” she says. “If you really want something, you go for it.”

Formerly known as health care aides, PSWs assist clients in a hospital, nursing home or community setting with the activities of daily living, such as mobility, personal hygiene, homemaking and meal preparation. They also provide friendship to clients, many of whom may be physically and emotionally isolated in their later years.

“I’m living a dream (taking the PSW training),” pipes in Proulx, who has two young boys. “This is something I’ve always wanted to do.”

The opportunities for employment after graduation are excellent, according to Christine Houston, a registered nurse who teaches the program. A certified PSW can expect to earn between $12 and $15 an hour, depending on whether he/she works privately for a family, in a long-term care facility, or for a community service.

Houston says the PSW program is not just about learning the skills to do the job. It’s also about learning “life skills” to cope effectively and responsibly with life’s challenges.

“Our students learn how to manage finances, problem solve, deal with stress and effectively communicate with others,” says Houston. “It really is a life-changing program.”

Tuition fee for the Baycrest PSW program is $4,000. Subsidies may be available to individuals on government assistance. A minimum requirement is Grade 12 English and Math. For more information, call (416) 785-2500, ext. 3800.