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SFU Co-op Student

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So, what do you do when you are disproportionately understaffed, with residents and staff who are frustrated, afraid, and vulnerable? You have to lead with determination and then resolve to keep your residents safe, but above all else, you have to rely on your entire team.

We are so fixated on our futures and how they will be affected, rather than the present - the suffering that is happening around us, and the small victories that we have achieved each day. Diving into my first internship at West Coast Seniors Housing Management at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as an HR Intern, I saw first-hand the struggle of the industry and quick responses needed to continue caring for our elderly population.

Before the lock downs that occurred in March 2020, a majority of the population had been focused on how the pandemic would affect aspects of their personal lives such as the economy, schooling, and social lives. It blindsided us all – a sudden shift in our ways of life to which none of us could have prepared for. With many of my peers losing their internships, I felt nothing but gratitude for the opportunity to find work at the height of the pandemic. However, I did not realize the sense of responsibility that I would be given for the lives of the most vulnerable sector of our population.

According to an analysis developed by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, deaths that occurred within long-term care facilities have contributed to over eighty percent of Canada’s overall number of COVID-19 deaths. Once an outbreak occurs at a facility, the virus begins to spread like wildfire where entering the wings of those long-term care buildings guarantees direct exposure. Hearing the reports and reading the stories of outbreaks occurring within the communities and the deaths of residents are truly heartbreaking and emotionally draining. With COVID-19 being such an unknown entity in the world, fear and uncertainty began to spread throughout the front lines. We took the lock down as an opportunity to take a break from the normality and obligations of society.

When you work in recruitment for senior care in British Columbia, you begin to realize the massive shortage that exists within the workforce. You are forced to be creative in finding ways of bringing qualified workers to your communities, especially the hard-to-recruit sites on the island and within the interior of British Columbia. You would attend job fairs to promote your communities with benefits and incentive packages and invest money into expanding the reaches of your networks. Throughout the entire duration of the pandemic, recruitment became far more difficult to grasp and the shortages in staffing that previously existed have become more apparent now than ever. So, what do you do when you are disproportionately understaffed, with residents and staff who are frustrated, afraid, and vulnerable?

You have to lead with determination and then resolve to keep your residents safe, but above all else, you have to rely on your entire team. The staff and managers of these communities are incredibly remarkable, and this pandemic has given me the opportunity to witness their true potential directly. Their willingness to dive right into work, passionate leadership, and resolve to support one another across the province, have been unlike any other team I have been a part of.

We have had managers of different sites leave their own communities in the hands of their leadership teams to travel directly to these outbreak sites, assisting with operations, clinical and staffing.

I never would have imagined that my first co-op work term would have turned out the way it did, but I am nevertheless grateful for the past eight months to have witnessed these inspirational figures working at their fullest potential and dedicating all of their collective efforts to the lives of their residents. Through this co-op, I have felt a shift in my perspective from what is happening in my life to what is happening in the lives of others. Despite how isolated and powerless we feel right now, we are not alone, and we need to rely on those around us to get through this pandemic.

SFU Co-op Student
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Aug 18, 2021

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