Practical Nursing student Erin Bourne committed to long-term care amidst COVID-19

Practical Nursing student Erin Bourne is committed to caring for residents in long-term care.

“I’ll never leave long-term care. I love that age population,” said Erin, who works as a healthcare aid at Hope Street Terrace in Port Hope, Ont. “The history the residents come with, the strength they have, it’s incredible. People may look at the elderly as frail, but the strength and what they’ve gone through is incredible. I never leave work without learning something new.”

As a healthcare aid, Erin is responsible for resident care, getting them ready, bathing, toileting, nursing restorative care, feeding and more. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Erin said her work routine has become more challenging.

“Staff aren’t able to work at different locations right now, so we have less help. We have to wear masks during all shifts, so residents can’t see you, and it’s hard for residents with hearing impairments to hear you through the mask,” she explains. “I’ve always worn PPE when I’ve needed to, but I didn’t realize how much damage it can do to your skin when worn for long periods of time. It hurts.”

Despite the challenges, Erin is happy to continue caring for long-term care residents. She has been working at Hope Street Terrace for years, previously working in a management position in the Scheduling Department doing scheduling and payroll for nurses. Erin also worked casually as a Physiotherapist and Occupational Therapy Assistant, as she is a graduate of Fleming’s Occupational Therapist Assistant and Physiotherapist Assistant program (Class of 2005).

“I always wanted to work in healthcare and in high school I did my co-op placement at a hospital in the Rehabilitation Unit. I wasn’t ready for nursing, so I took the Physio program at Fleming instead because I wanted to help people live independently and give joy,” said Erin. “But when you work in physio in long-term care, you encounter the things that scared you about nursing anyway.”

After undergoing IVF treatments to have her daughter, Erin decided to enroll in Fleming’s Practical Nursing program to become a nurse. She explains, “After having my daughter, it really sparked an interest in nursing to help people. Although I didn’t want to work in maternity, I did want to help others as a nurse.”

Erin said she felt nervous to return to school 14 years after graduating from her first diploma program, but those fears went away as soon as she entered the classroom.

“I was really nervous going back as a mature student because I didn’t think I would relate to my classmates, but in the Practical Nursing program there is a big age range; from students fresh out of high school to second career students like myself,” said Erin. “And Fleming feels smaller than it is, and everyone is super friendly.”

Erin recently completed her fourth semester of the program and shared that she is more involved her second time studying at Fleming College. She is developing lifelong friendships with her peers, volunteers at Fleming Open House events, and has worked as a Lab Assistant on campus.

“I would recommend this program to others and I already have. Two people I spoke to are starting the program this month!” said Erin, who especially endorses the School of Health & Wellness Simulation Lab that helps develop skills through immersive simulations. The Simulation Lab provides access to a high-fidelity manikin, “Apollo,” that records video and gives students and faculty the opportunity to review their actions. For Erin, this gave her the opportunity to practice her CPR skills and feel confident if she’s ever in that situation.

Outside of her studies, Erin also keeps busy as a wife and mother, and working part-time at Hope Street Terrace.

“I love being a mom and I love being there to help other people. I thrive when I’m busy,” said Erin.

Her advice to others right now is to stay home and avoid unnecessary trips. “I also recommend having empathy and compassion. Everyone is dealing with this in different ways, so understand that some people will not deal with things like you. Have empathy and compassion for them,” she said.