At 19 years old and just over a year out of Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School (PSO), 100 Mile District General Hospital care aide Kayleigh Jacobson has started her professional career on not only a good foot but also within her own community.
Jacobson said this opportunity to become a medical professional came about when she got the chance in her Grade 11 year at PSO to join a dual credit program called the Health Care Assistant Certificate through Thompson Rivers University. At the time she was a candy striper nurse, or a junior volunteer, and said she was enjoying what she was doing and the environment of the hospital.
“I thought, hey maybe let’s try this,” Jacobson said. “I consulted one of my school counsellors about this opportunity when I heard there was an opportunity to be a care aide within high school.”
It was a simple process to apply, however, the program was competitive and only had a limited number of spaces available. Of the seven or so people who applied from PSO, only two were accepted into the program.
During her Grade 12 year Jacobson completed her first semester of classes like normal at PSO while in her second semester she attended school at TRU in Williams Lake with all credits earned going towards graduating high school. After graduating she spent an additional two more months in the summer with the program doing a practicum before she graduated as a fully registered care aide in August of 2019.
Jacobson said that she loves the cozy and closely-knit community feeling of 100 Mile House and how if you talk to anybody they’ll know someone you know. It was this community spirit combined with the fact Jacobson’s great-grandmother Ida Jacobson was one of the first nurses who worked at 100 Mile District General Hospital when it first opened which led her to decide to work in 100 Mile House. Besides, her initial interest in healthcare was born when her own grandmother was sick and stayed at Fischer Place and she got to see first hand the quality of care people receive from nurses and care aides.
“Just seeing the wonderful care that was provided by the care aides, it just inspired me and made me feel like I’d love to help people,” Jacobson said. “I’ve always been a people person so I thought hey maybe this will be good. I thought I could try it and see how it is and I love it, it’s very rewarding.”
One day Jacobson said she’d like to become a nurse and she believes that giving care is the fundamental aspect of the profession which is the primary role of being a care aide. Working as one allowed her not only to determine if health care is the right career choice for her but also a chance to get to learn how hospitals and the teams within them function and work.
In the 100 Mile Hospital, she said the general mood is fairly upbeat with everyone working well together be they older healthcare professionals or younger healthcare professionals. It’s easy to pick up tips and tricks from her coworkers she said, their advice is just as valuable as her schooling.
As a care aide working at Fischer Place, her basic job is to help her clients, day or night depending on her shift, with their basic needs which can include helping them go to the washroom, get dressed, helping feed them or being a social aspect of their life like talking to them or playing cards with them. Jacobson said that be it cooking their food, speaking on their behalf or assisting them throughout their day, her basic job boils down to just being there for them.
“(The greatest challenge) for me is when you grow close to a client and they decline. When they do decline it’s hard seeing them like that because you remember when you first met them but there also comes acceptance with that because they’ve been through so much and likely lived a long healthy life up until then,” Jacobson said. “Talking to these people, I’ve found I’ve grown so much as a person just being in this job. You talk to so many different people and get so many different insights on little things.”
In addition to being a young professional fresh out of high school, Jacobson also has had to deal with being a frontline worker during the COVID-19 pandemic which she said has definitely been hard. The most difficult aspect has been the fact their elderly and sick clients have been unable to see their families in person, but Jacobson said she and the other care aides have been pretty good with helping them FaceTime and doing little things to make them smile like putting a little sticker on her mask.
“Just trying to find the joy in the moment has really helped,” Jacobson said.
Looking to the future Jacobson said she definitely intends to stay in health care and is currently upgrading her courses so, when she’s ready, she’ll be able to enter a nursing program. For right now, however, she loves what she’s doing and would like to build up as much experience in giving care as she can now to be a better nurse, one day, in the future.
Being a professional so soon out of high school is something she has loved and found rewarding. A year ago she never would have guessed she would have been working full time as a care aide and she said it’s pretty mind-boggling to be here now.
She’d advise that current high school students get into a program like the one she took as a way to successfully launch themselves into adulthood or to give them an idea of what jobs and professions are out there.
“It can be difficult but it’s really rewarding in the sense that when you’re done high school you basically have a career in your pocket and even if you don’t like it, it’s something to try. Getting to try it is quite the honour honestly, it opens your eyes to all the possibilities out there,” Jacobson said.