By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador
Ashlyn Joyce works as a Registered Practical Nurse (RPN) in a Long-Term Care Facility, which is a job she loves because “it is never dull or boring”, especially since she primarily works in the “locked dementia unit”. There are a wide variety of behaviours that are exhibited by the residents and because they are battling an unpredictable disease, they can also become unpredictable themselves. It is important to realize that they cannot help the way they are and it takes a special person like Ashlyn to take care of them.
Being a Registered Practical Nurse can be very rewarding, but also incredibly sad, so Ashlyn advises others to “laugh every day”. Unfortunately, she acknowledges that “you'll have hard days when your favourite resident will pass away, but you need to be able to get through the hard times.... I find that laughing is one of the best ways to get through those rough times.”
One of Ashlyn’s most rewarding moments came when a resident told her that she was good at her job and that she “will go far in life”, thanks to her kind and caring nature. Ashlyn finds that by taking a few minutes out of her day to talk with her residents, it helps build a “therapeutic connection” while getting to know them “on a personal level”.
Throughout her academic career, Ashlyn realized that healthcare was her “destined field”, but not before she went down a different path in hopes of becoming a teacher. Initially her studies began at Brock University: “I started out gearing my life towards teaching math and French, but after I finished my first year of that, I knew it wasn't for me. So, on a whim... I signed up for the Personal Support Worker (PSW) course and loved it.” Ashlyn graduated as a PSW from Niagara College. She then took a year off to work and save enough money in order to continue her studies as an RPN at Fanshawe College and “hasn’t regretted a day since”.
When teaching didn’t work out as planned for Ashlyn, she feared that her parents may never speak to her again. She was very open with her parents about needing to make a change, and they knew how she felt: “...when I dropped out of university I was terrified my parents would disown me” she said. So, this fear motivated Ashlyn to come up with a back-up plan geared towards nursing in order to stay in school. “[I] ended up loving my decision to change programs” and, as she puts it, “you'll never know what you enjoy doing if you're living in fear of pleasing others.”
Ashlyn hopes that if others can relate to her situation, that they do what makes them happy in terms of living their own life. Today, she and her parents have a more positive relationship, now that they’ve seen Ashlyn pursue something that she loves: “They're proud of me” she remarked, “and [they] said I'm good at what I do and I obviously enjoy doing it. So as long as I'm happy, they are too.”
Ashlyn made the most of attending various schools and encourages others to “take every opportunity they can to keep learning and expanding their knowledge base” wherever they are. She advised that “You never know what lies ahead, so keep asking questions and taking everything in, because one day it will all come to use.”
Although Ashlyn’s career path didn’t lead her to a classroom, her residents are much like students. They require the adequate attention and emotional support she provides: “It always keeps me on my toes because anything could happen” she explained. Whether the residents are going through a medical or emotional issue, she has to be there, “to assess them quickly and provide the necessary support to them.”
Also like many teachers, Ashlyn loves that she is able to make a difference in people’s lives, “no matter how small that difference is”. Every day, whether it is through helping others, getting to know someone, or taking the time to laugh, Ashlyn Joyce finds validation that she has made a career change for the better.