Van is celebrating his 5 year anniversary with VHA Home HealthCare this month. He is a Personal Support Worker (PSW) in Toronto and is known for being very compassionate and caring with his clients. His clients say that he always does his job with his heart and makes them feel safe and cared for, like a friend. Van won VHA’s Client Choice Award in 2016 thanks to his great work ethic and caring demeanor. We wanted to reach out and ask him a few questions three years later.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I came to Canada as an immigrant from the Philippines on June 12, 2013. That day is very important to me. It is not only the day I immigrated to Canada, but it is also the day that the Philippines commemorate their independence from the American regime over a century ago.
I decided to move to Canada because I believed that it would afford me many opportunities. Immigrating to a different country is never easy and the period of adjustment was definitely difficult, but I believe that going through that and establishing my life in Canada has been a success. Success starts with a dream and a vision. My dream was to have a successful life in Canada, doing something that I love. It is not easy, but we make do and endure the challenges along the way and I am happy here.
What inspired you to become a PSW?
I wanted to make difference in others’ lives. To help people is a highly rewarding experience. It’s a great feeling when I am able to turn what could have been a really difficult day into a great one for my clients. My time with them is often full of laughter and fun.
What do you love most about your role as a PSW?
I love to contribute to the quality of life for my clients and their families. I love helping to promote their independence, emotional and physical well-being, mobility, comfort and safety.
Can you tell us how working with your clients makes you feel?
Sometimes when you work with people for a while, they really allow you to get close. I think that shows they trust you, and I like that aspect. And, when you help somebody and you see them recover and get a smile on his or her face, it’s so rewarding. Even when you support someone who is dying—maybe just giving them as much comfort as you can. It may not be the best moment, but you feel better that you did all you could have. I have been taking care of one client for almost four years now and he has dementia and some days he becomes delirious which is very challenging. The family tries to give him the best comfort they can. He has come to trust me and seems to see me more like a family member. Now we sometimes just laugh like friends or family members.
Can you share a heartwarming story about one of your clients?
I had another client with dementia, who also had a macular degeneration and was blind. One day, his 80 year old wife said to him: ‘Honey, I’m your wife!!!’ and my client suddenly opened his eyes and smiled ‘Oh! How come you got your hair done?’. Somehow, he saw and remembered that his wife of 68 years regularly went to the hair dresser. It was a happy moment for them and I felt lucky to be part of it.
What qualities do you think are most important for PSWs to do their best work?
I believe that PSWs should have empathy and compassion towards their clients in order to meet their needs. You need to be real and you need to be yourself. You are trained for the professional aspect of the care, but giving yourself to somebody comes from the heart. The best PSWs are those who are called to do it, and go above and beyond.
Can you tell us about something that has happened to you in your work with VHA that has made you feel really good?
Once, I overheard friends of my clients’ family talking. They were saying ‘they are very satisfied with the PSW from VHA.’ It makes me feel so good to think about that and know that I am making such a difference for my clients. It makes the job worth doing, even if sometimes I’m really tired at the end of the day.
Are there any comments you would like to make about VHA and your role here?
All I can say about being a PSW at VHA, I am so proud to be part of this prestigious company. It is very rewarding, especially if you receive a lot of compliments from your clients… it means that they are very satisfied with the service you rendered to them.