At the end of March, Rachel Cole, a second-year Loyalist College Practical Nursing student, began applying for employment opportunities in the health care field.
“At the time, I was watching COVID-19 spread across the province,” said Cole, a 21-year-old from Cobourg, Ontario. “I knew I had the knowledge and skills to help protect my community’s vulnerable population, so I began responding to job postings and putting my résumé out there.”
On April 24, Cole began working as a resident attendant at Extendicare, a long-term care facility in her home town.
“I assist residents with general care, which includes assisting with meals, helping with personal hygiene and facilitating cognitive activities,” she said. “You get to know the residents very well. It’s incredibly rewarding.”
Cole’s academic background, matched with her experience as a Loyalist Lancer on the College’s Women’s Soccer and Volleyball Varsity teams, prepared her for entering the workforce.
“As a dual sport athlete, I have to be organized,” she said. “For the majority of the academic year, I was either on the court or on the field almost every day of the week. I learned to juggle my Lancer schedule around my Practical Nursing courses, simulation labs and clinical sessions. This experience enabled me to grow as a professional. It taught me how to work under pressure.”
One of the reasons Cole gravitated to Practical Nursing was to care for others and help those in need. There are parallels between the profession and being a Varsity athlete.
“Both focus on being a team player,” she said. “To provide the best possible care, we assist each other and work together. You could say health care is a team sport.”
As a frontline worker, Cole sees first-hand how health care agencies are doing everything they can to keep their environments safe.
“Many health care facilities are continuing to take extra precautions in an attempt to halt the spread of COVID-19,” she said. “At my long-term care home, we’ve implemented every best practice and procedure, and conduct necessary testing for all staff and residents. This makes everyone feel more secure and ensures that our staff is working in a safe environment.”
During the pandemic, Cole is focused on being a familiar and welcoming face in her community while fulfilling her passion for making a difference.
“I was raised here and my family still lives here,” she said. “I’m just happy to be able to work here and use my education to help others. It’s a very challenging time, but we’ll get through this together.”