Health care assistants are in demand

September 22, 2016

Photo: "Grandma's hands" by Sparky on Flickr

Photo: “Grandma’s hands” by Sparky on Flickr.

As our population ages, there is an increased need for health care assistants (HCAs) – a group of workers who are injured more often than any other occupation in BC.

“‘HCA’ is an umbrella term that covers a number of occupational titles — Care Aide and Community Health Worker are two of the biggest,” says Heather Middleton, Industry Specialist for health care at WorkSafeBC.

In BC’s Peace Region, for example, the Northern Health Authority projects a need for 143 new health care assistants during the next five years, says this recent story in the Alaska Highway News.

“They provide the most personal of care to people, often at the end of their lives,” Heather says. “They do work that’s both physically and emotionally draining, often working on their own. Few get the opportunities that are afforded many other care workers, like education or professional development.”

Overexertion and violence are the greatest hazards faced by these workers who help clients of all ages with bathing, feeding, and other tasks. WorkSafeBC reports more than 3,300 time-loss claims for HCAs in 2015, up more than 50 percent since 2011. The majority of HCAs with a time-loss claim are women (94 per cent) with 25 percent being over the age of 55.

Some feel like part of the family

A friend of mine told me about the HCAs who helped her dad, when she was a kid. Her dad owned a small business that was just getting successful, but it all ended suddenly when he suffered a massive stroke during a surgery for cancer. When he came home from the hospital, my friend was only seven, with two little sisters and their mom devoted to his care.

Home care workers were an important source of support, especially one who was with her family for 10 years.

“She treated us all like family — cared for my dad like he was her own father — always asking him what he needed and being kind to him. She would touch his shoulders or give him a hug,” says my friend. “There are some really, really nice caring workers out there and they should be honoured. It’s not an easy job. It’s full of frustration and learning. Each person they look after has different needs, but all of them need dignity and compassion.”

WorkSafeBC is sponsoring the 2016 Celebrate & Educate Hearts & Hands Conference on Thursday October 6 in Esquimalt. This conference is the first of its kind, bringing together HCAs, community health workers, and home care workers.

October 18 is Health Care Assistant Day in BC, first proclaimed by the BC government in 2011. In total, there are 31,500 people registered with the Care Aide and Community Health Worker Registry.

Stay fit and avoid injury when ski season starts

September 19, 2016

Ski patroller / paramedic Megan Frawley with cute dogs.

Ski patroller / paramedic Megan Frawley and pals.

Ski patroller Megan Frawley knows about ski hill injuries — both to workers and the public.

“Because skiing is obviously seasonal, too often we jump back into it thinking we were in the same shape as the end of the previous season, and we can get hurt. I am quite active year round, but I try to do some extra strength training before the beginning of the season so that I’m able to safely perform my job,” Megan says.

“I like to work my way back up to that level, and I also try to avoid pushing myself too hard. Maybe this comes from seeing so many injuries and having a good understanding of the system, but I do not want to be hauled off the hill by my coworkers because I pushed myself too far.”

Megan started in the industry as a ski patroller on the hills of North Vancouver, then later earned her Emergency Medical Responder certificate from the Justice Institute of BC, followed by her Primary Care Paramedic license. This season, she’ll be working as a volunteer patroller.

Megan says most of their first aid calls are for the public, not workers. That said, it’s still important for workers to be prepared.

“I’d recommend to those who are interested in patrol to stay on top of their fitness and realize the physical demand of the job,” she said, adding that most injuries on the hill are knee and ankle-related.

“I would say that a majority of those who incur these injuries are tourists or those who spend less than 20 days on a ski hill. I believe that most of these people are not only lacking the fitness, but possibly the skills needed to prevent themselves from getting hurt. Most injuries also occur in the afternoon, so I can assume that these injuries might be a result of fatigue related to lack of physical stamina.”

Fit For Snow program

Injuries to snow sport workers are a focus of Dr. Delia Roberts of Selkirk College. She created a program called Fit For Snow to help combat injuries to patrollers, instructors, and lift operators. It’s based on her research at five ski resorts in Western Canada during the 2010/2011 winter season with more than 75 patrollers, instructors and lift operators to evaluate their typical daily workloads/stresses and dietary/hydration patterns.

At resorts using Fit For Snow program, there was a 67% reduction in the number and severity of injuries reported in worker compensation claims. The program focuses on exercise, nutrition, hydration, proper rest/recovery, and more. Dr. Roberts has also created Fit to Drive for trucking professionals and Fit to Plant for treeplanters.

Health care assistants are in demand

As our population ages, there is an increased need for home support that helps people remain independent as long as possible. This group of workers is injured more often than any other occupation in BC.

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