Deniese Morris enjoys helping people and seeing smiles on their faces. Having immigrated to Canada from Jamaica in October 2017, she quickly enrolled in the Personal Support Worker (PSW) program at Algonquin Careers Academy upon her arrival. Studying at the Mississauga campus, she graduated from the program in 2018, with her high academic performance, stellar punctuality, and ability to go above and beyond earning her ACA’s prestigious President’s Award. She is now working as a personal support worker at the Humber Valley Terrace Long Term Care Home, in Etobicoke. Although working as a PSW comes with its share of challenges—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic—Deniese approaches her career with dedication and compassion.
Here’s a closer look at her story and career.
Deniese’s Daily Life as a PSW
Every work day, Deniese begins her shift with a familiar routine. She awakens the residents at the long-term care home for breakfast, gives them showers if needed that day, and helps get them dressed. Once residents have finished breakfast, they are taken out for activities, or they return to bed to get more sleep before being reawoken for lunch. This entire routine typically repeats itself from day to day. “It can be hectic at times, but we have to just get along with it. We have to keep smiling and work hard for them,” she says.
As a PSW, Deniese Morris helps take care of residents at her long-term care home in various ways. She helps to keep them clean, ensures they’re being fed, and also provides company to residents. The latter is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Most of them depend on us as their families, especially in this time where they can’t see their families right now,” she says. “We have to just encourage them that as soon as this thing is over, they’ll see their family. [So we act as] their family: talk to them, keep them company, make them laugh, stuff like that.”
To brighten up a resident’s day after their return from the hospital, Deniese put extra care in making their bed beautiful and special
Facing the Challenges and Difficulties of the Pandemic
However, COVID-19 has caused an undeniable strain on long-term care, and the home Deniese works at since completing her PSW program is no exception. “It was really scary to see people dying around you every day, the people that you work with,” she says. “We have a couple people who died at my workplace from COVID, and it was scary.”
Although she’s found ways to get through these circumstances, it has been a difficult experience. She’s worked nearly every day during the pandemic, especially as many of her colleagues have been not working due to feelings of fear. Deniese has continued to work. “I just worked almost every day, like 20 days straight without a day off, to make sure those people are okay, and taking care of the ones that are left behind,” she says.
Deniese Morris has worked hard during the pandemic to ensure residents are safe and cared for
How the PSW Program at Algonquin Careers Academy Helped Deniese Prepare for Her Career
Prior to enrolling at ACA, Deniese had briefly studied at another college. However, she decided to leave after only two weeks at the school. “I couldn’t understand anything the teacher was saying. He wasn’t making sense,” she says of her experience there. She would later hear about Algonquin Careers Academy, and decided to enroll. At ACA, Deniese found a completely different experience. “You just feel so comfortable around them, like your home away from home,” she says. She loved the welcoming and supportive family atmosphere of the school. And she also found that the teaching was on-point and easy to understand. “Everything was straightforward,” she says. “You could do a test and expect [a grade of] 100 or 95, because you can clearly understand everything they teach.”
Deniese says the first PSW course she took was on computers (“Computer Essentials”), which went a long way in preparing her for her life on the job. Better yet, she received extremely high marks on her final exam despite knowing very little about computers prior to the course. Another course that especially stood out to Deniese was one focused on dementia, and how to interact and empathize with those who suffer from it. This is important since she considers one of the most challenging aspects of her job to be interacting with residents suffering from dementia.
“They helped us to put our shirts on the wrong way,” she says. “They put a light on so we can see—a purple light—and they asked us to look for purple bags that weren’t there… They helped us to make tea without water, make coffee without water, use something to sweeten it that was not right. Now, we can understand what they’re going through.”
Those courses helped prepare Deniese for her career. Of course, her dedication, hard work, and compassion for others are what has helped her stand out and make a difference during these difficult times.
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