Stephanie Maki '17 has always had her heart set on helping people, one way or another. As she graduated high school, she began studying to become an early childhood educator. It was a start, but as time passed, the path she was on didn’t fulfill her.
“After studying for 2 years away from home, I realized that early childhood education wasn’t a perfect fit for me,” says Stephanie. “I then decided to come home and attend Mohawk College.”
Stephanie enrolled in Mohawk’s Health, Wellness and Fitness program to get a different perspective on the career she wanted. The two-year diploma program was foundational to her knowledge of nutrition, wellbeing and implementing related strategies. There was plenty of opportunity to work with many populations in order to hone in on which age groups and communities of people she collaborated with best. With the passion for helping people front and centre, she expanded her educational competencies and skills. But something was still missing.
“After graduating from Health, Wellness and Fitness in 2017, I still found myself questioning my career path. The Personal Support Worker program appealed to my interest, so I decided to enroll,” says Stephanie.
Mohawk’s one-year, provincially accredited Personal Support Worker (PSW) certificate program allowed Stephanie to learn the skills and qualifications needed to excel in her vocation. She gained a combination of clinical knowledge, relevant theory and technique in a collaborative learning environment where those skills were put to the test in real-life simulations. Because PSW’s work closely with people’s family members in various care environments, this certificate also recognizes relevant regulations within legislation such as the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Human Rights Code and Long-Term Care Homes Amendment Act, to name a few.
Students looking to enroll in the Personal Support Worker program can also choose to complete their certificate with a specialization in gerontology, otherwise known as the study of aging. This is completed through a partnership with Schlegel Villages at their Wentworth Heights location.
“The Living Classroom creates a rich learning experience for students,” says Jamie Schlegel, CEO of Schlegel Villages. “It encourages Wentworth Heights’ residents and team members to be part of the learning environment as coaches and mentors, thus bringing more meaning to their lives and work respectively.”
With a switch in programs of study, Stephanie’s goals and career path became clear. Next, she would need to find a placement to match her ambitions.
“I attended a clinical placement at The Village of Wentworth Heights in Hamilton. It gave me such enjoyment to provide the necessary care that each individual needed,” she says.
Stephanie was doing more than fulfilling her placement requirement for graduation at Schlegel Villages. She was fulfilling her life’s passion and it showed.
“Upon graduating [from] the program in 2018, I felt like this was the right choice,” she says. “I found it to be very rewarding to provide the help needed to the older population. To make a difference in the lives of my residents gives me the opportunity to learn every day.”
Shortly after completing her placement, Stephanie was offered a full-time position as a PSW with The Village of Wentworth Heights. As of 2022, she has worked there for nearly 5 years. Stephanie is supporting people in living their best lives through the care she provides. Though this is par for the course of any PSW, Schlegel Villages offers a special environment for caregivers to serve their residents.
There is a consistent theme of fostering authentic relationships in relation to excellent resident care within the Schlegel community, and Stephanie seems to have that nailed down pat. Her work is something she enjoys, and it has become familial to her and those she cares for.
“My job is so rewarding, as each long-term care resident has a story to tell. Being with my residents every day feels like I become part of their family,” she says.
Due to her stellar service at Schlegel Villages, Stephanie has recently been granted the “Earn Trust” award as part of their unique customer service success program. CONNECT the Dots is built upon a philosophical foundation of five key values: Know Me, Be Present, Walk In My Shoes, Earn Trust and Follow Through. These awards are presented to team members who embody these values. Award recipients are then invited to participate in Schlegel’s annual operational planning retreat to offer key insights into enhancement of care.
Earn Trust represents a team member who is clear, genuine and transparent. This is the caliber of care that Stephanie has built upon since her placement began with Schlegel and it is felt within the Wentworth Heights community. Stephanie says she has no idea whether it was a team member, resident, family or leadership member that nominated her, but she was proud regardless.
“It made me very happy that these residents, family members and team members see something in me because I don’t always see it in myself,” she says. “They bring it out in me, so it was very rewarding.”
When asked if there was any advice she could give to prospective students looking to blaze a trail in the profession she now holds, this is what Stephanie had to say.
“I would tell future students considering the Personal Support Worker program that it takes patience, hard work and compassion to care for these individuals. Sometimes it's going to be challenging, but the smile at the end is the most rewarding part of it all."