From cook to carer
Sheree French knows how it feels to be the victim of redundancy, supporting her family through difficult times. However, this 31-year-old mother of two took advantage of an opportunity when at a crossroads last year.
‘I’d been working as a cook and cleaner in a rest home, but had always had a passion to work with the elderly in more of a caring role.’ With bills to pay she couldn’t afford the luxury of retraining to change career in pursuit of her passion. ‘Whilst out of work I jumped at the chance to join the Training for Work programme (delivered by Access Homehealth subsidiary Amida Training) offered by the Ministry of Social Development. This led me to join Access as a support worker. Truth be I found the idea of home care scary. The worry of my safety with unknown or unfamiliar lifestyles and going into a stranger’s home.
‘However I believe you shouldn’t judge something you haven’t tried. Thank god I did try. I was given an inspiring and patient mentor in former nurse Geraldine (pictured to the right of Sheree), who guided me through the pitfalls with hands-on training, introduced me to some very high needs clients and taught me everything. I experienced my first death - very hard when you build strong bonds. I had to learn the boundaries too, learning to say ‘no’ when asked to do things I’m not meant to.’
Sheree’s honesty illustrates the challenges faced by each one of Access’s 3,800 support workers. Having previously completed a Level 2 Foundation certificate in care she was given the opportunity to develop and advance to Level 3 focusing on Medication and Level 4 in Dementia, delivered by Amida.
‘Joining Access has been one of the best decisions I’ve made and working for them just makes me want to do it even more. They actively encourage you to study, offering free courses that give you a broader range of higher needs clients as you progress.’
However, Sheree’s success story doesn’t end there. The next step in her new career is a Level 4 Certificate in Foundation Nursing. ‘We are very proud of Sheree, who is one of our highest praised support workers.’ says Access Regional Manager Jo Kara, ‘Her energy is amazing. We will support her with the time off she needs to achieve her pre-requisite to a nursing degree.’
Sheree adds, ‘The flexibility has been a huge help in supporting me towards my Bachelor of Nursing, my ultimate goal. I’m so glad I took this chance and didn’t miss out. As a chef I had no social life, no interaction with people, just the bustle and stress of a kitchen. Now I get to meet heaps of people, each with their own story, different cultures and religions and that makes me far richer than I was a year ago. I’ve started on a journey I once never thought possible.’