|Q: You were one of the founders of Hearts and Hands, can you tell us how and why it came to be?
I have been a fan of healthcare assistants for decades. One day, I was visiting Kathy Ajas (who has served on the organizing committee since the event’s inception) and toured the care home she worked at and saw this big “great room” and thought this would be a great place to celebrate healthcare assistants. “Let’s do it,” Kathy replied.
A team of about 10 people, including those who work with healthcare assistants and a representative from Camosun College came together to organize this celebratory event. I think that first year we had almost as many door prizes as attendees. But people enjoyed it so much that we continued.
Q: Do you remember how the name Hearts and Hands was chosen?
We played with several ideas. And perhaps Hearts and Hands was chosen because healthcare assistants work with their hands, but the care they provide comes from their hearts.
Q: Last year’s Hearts and Hands had over 700 participants across the province attend virtually—did you ever expect the event to become this big?
I don’t think we expected it to become this big, but I’m sure we all thought it should be that big—and bigger! During the pandemic, the public has become much more aware of healthcare assistants and their role in caring for those who are most vulnerable among us. I would love to see Healthcare Assistant Day (October 18) become a provincial and national day of celebration, where the public, the entire community celebrates and gives thanks. In 2016, WorkSafe became involved and organized the first Hearts and Hands conference, with a single event in Victoria.
Q: What are some ways we can show our appreciation to healthcare assistants outside of Hearts and Hands?
One way that we can show appreciation for healthcare assistants is to treat them with respect and value their input. If you are a member of the health care team, you show respect when you insist that healthcare assistants are an essential part of care conferences, case reviews, and when you ensure there is backup support, so healthcare assistants can attend those meetings. Look to create leadership opportunities for healthcare assistants.
If you are a member of the healthcare team, you can show support by refusing to allow teammates to be derogatory towards healthcare assistants, and by expecting the team to listen to, and value the input of healthcare assistants.
Q: You have dedicated your work to palliative care education, why is this an important topic for healthcare workers?
In the past decade, palliative care has moved from providing care for those who are dying in the coming months, to the integration of a palliative approach for people with any life-limiting illness, early in the disease process, across all care settings.
Healthcare assistants care for people who have life-limiting illness, who will benefit from the integration of a palliative approach. These workers are in an ideal position to integrate the principles and practices of palliative care.
Healthcare assistants can influence care on a daily basis in a way that no other team member can do. And the integration of a palliative approach cannot occur without the educated support of healthcare assistants.
Q: What does it mean to you to be part of this year’s Hearts and Hands event?
I am honoured to be part of this celebration. I delight in and am especially grateful to celebrate healthcare assistants—and to give thanks for the healthcare assistants who have taught me so much over the years.