On the most recent episode of our podcast, we had the opportunity to interview Stuart MacInnis, a healthcare assistant and tiktoker from British Columbia who had lots to share about his love for his work, lessons learned in the field, and recommendations for people interested in pursuing a career in healthcare.
"Prior to being an HCA, I was a cook for about eighteen years. And it started off about eight or nine years ago when I started volunteering at a local long-term care facility in my town. And I just loved everything about it. I loved the interaction with the residents. I was one of the only volunteers that went over to the special care, like the locked-down dementia side of the building. And I loved spending time there. And it got to the point where I was going over to volunteer, you know, four days a week, five days a week. And finally, my wife actually pointed out she's like, you know, you could do this. I wish I'd discovered my passion for it earlier in life" he says.
He adds that "as a cook in the facility that I currently work in, I went over into housekeeping for the next year or so and laundry and whatnot, and got into school. So I was working while I was going to school as an HCA and just walked right into it once I was done school, I went straight into being in HCA, and I have never once looked back. It is the greatest. Like I said, I wish I'd found my calling for it, you know, 20 years ago."
"I love being there. The last time I took holidays and I was basically made to, they said 'OK, take all your time off and don't show up.' I made it three days before I found a reason to go in and do some paperwork and hang out with my residents because they become like a family to you and if I'm away from there for three or four days, I miss my residents. I joke around with the residents that when I'm ready to retire, they'll have a room ready for me."
"I actually filmed that in my car outside of work after a shift. I had seen that it was one of the things you can do on TikTok, and that was a question a lady asked. She's like 'What do you wish that the general public knew?' And I mean, I've had a number of people over time online and sometimes in real life say 'oh, well, you change diapers for a living. You wipe bums for a living.' There's a misconception of what being an HCA is. People think you sit there and feed grandma applesauce, as it were. And the thing that I discovered is that unless you have a family member in long-term care, there are a lot of people that don't realize what HCAs do and the amount of work and just emotional and physical energy it takes" he explains.
"In my video, I talk about that. I help your mom get dressed. I help your grandpa have a shave and feel clean. I help them roll over at night so they don't get bedsores. I, basically - we, I should say, not me - we give them the ability to live as close to the life they had prior to needing help as we can and make sure that they have that dignity. And I felt I just that's one of the things that I always sort of felt was people have a very narrow view of what we do and unless you've been in the industry or worked in healthcare or have a family member there. The thing I had in the comment section was a lot of people saying 'thank you, thank you, not all heroes were capes, thank you for being there when we couldn't. Those were the comments that really struck me in that video" he recalls.
Stu adds that "I think people, for the most part, think that it's also a job. We go there, we show up to work, we help the people, we go home, and that's it. And it's like, no, most HCAs are very emotional about our work and the people that we're entrusted to care for. And we don't just leave it at work. We bring it home."
"I have been full-time for two years now, but I have been in long-term care for four years. And like I said, I'd volunteer before that. During this time I have learned that you got to care about what you do. The biggest thing is when if you're a care aide or health care assistant. When you go into work, the people that you're caring for, they're not a job. You know, they're not a list of tasks that need to be checked off by the end of your shift. They're people, and if you want to be respected both by your peers, your family, the families of the residents, and the administration, you can't look at it like a job. I mean, it is, but you can't. Within the sort of HCA scope, you can tell who are the people that are task-oriented and who the people that are resident oriented. And if you want to be successful and be respected, I would say you got to be resident-oriented. People-oriented. We're about taking care of people. We're not about completing a list of tasks."
"If you are going to be an HCA or a nurse or anything, you've got to you want to pick the sort of area of healthcare where you're going to be most effective and where you can most emotionally handle it. Because in long-term care especially, you're dealing with death, you're dealing with people passing away reasonably frequently and some deaths are peaceful and some aren't. And you have to be able to handle both of those. So a lot of it's just making sure you're emotionally prepared for what you're getting into beyond the tasks that you do, like getting people ready and helping them eat and cleaning and all that. You feel it. Every time you lose a resident, you feel it you feel it, but you've got to be able to handle people passing away emotionally. You got to be prepared for that. And not necessarily compartmentalize and block it, but you got to be ready to handle those emotions."
"In healthcare, you've got to be able to work with a large variety of people and personalities professionally. There is a vast scope of people that work in this field, especially HCAs, and you have to be able to work with all of them. And you might not like all of them. I'm generally a really easygoing, friendly, likable guy, but I've had coworkers that don't like me. I know it's surprising to everybody, but you know, you've got to be able to put that aside and give the best care you can even with people that you wouldn't get along with on the street necessarily or you wouldn't have over for a hockey night. The other thing that you've got to learn on the job is interacting with families, especially at end of life. It's one of the worst times in their lives. They're losing a loved one and you have to be compassionate and caring and empathetic. And you have to maintain that even if they're yelling at you and upset with you because they may not understand the process of what happens when someone dies. Or they may think their loved ones in more pain than they are and they're going to take it out on you. You have to be able to understand why they're treating you that way, absorb it and give back kindness and compassion because they're not doing it because they're mad at you, they're doing it because they're feeling a loss; they're losing somebody."
"I have sort of an internal perspective on this because just after I had graduated from school as an HCA, my dad was in a very serious car accident and wound up breaking his back. And he was in hospital in rehab for six months and is now in a wheelchair and has to have home care come into their home twice a day to help him out in the morning and in the evenings... the biggest piece of advice I could tell you, and I thought this way beforehand and I think of it even more now because of my father's situation, is treat every single person you care for like family and just in the back of your mind always 'have how would I want my mom treated? How would I want my dad treated? How would I want them cared for?' And if you keep that in the back of your mind, whenever you interact or whenever you're caring for somebody, you're guaranteed success, especially in long-term care, because that's my specialty, but anywhere in healthcare. Just think of everyone that you meet as a family."
"I'm sort of known for my pink everything. It just turned into a calling card after I got it started off. I found a pink hoodie someplace in my size and it just sort of went from there. Then I found pink scrubs online and in a reasonably female-dominated industry, among the eight guys that work at my facility, being the one that wears pink, stands out. And now it's just sort of a calling card. I have pink scrub tops, I have pink scrub bottoms, I have pink compression socks and pink hoodies. On the back of my and my wife's vehicles, we have pink decals that say scrub life. And it just sort of works twofold. One, it's part of my personality... I mean, you see a 400-pound, six-foot-two man wearing pink scrubs or a pink hoodie, he's obviously secure. And two, what I found, especially in long-term care, is when their cognitive level declines and they don't remember names and they don't necessarily remember faces that well they remember the big guy in pink."
"It's like half the reason I think I got hired. I reach tall things and lift heavy things. It's actually a benefit. I mean, a lot of times, the residents, especially older women, gravitate towards us. Like when you're being moved around in a bed or boosted or lifted or anything like that, it helps in some way, there's a comfort level in knowing that there's a six-foot-two, 400-pound guy that can hold you and carry you. Like if we have to roll them to one side of the bed, I always like tell them 'don't worry, there's a 400-pound roadblock in front of you, you're not going anywhere' which is comforting to them versus, you know, a five foot two, 110 pounds, 20-year-old" Stu says.
Stay tuned for other interesting interviews, and until then, thank you for reading!
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