Students from four Chinook’s Edge School Division high schools are already college graduates, after completing the first-ever Health Care Aide dual credit program. (Photo contributed)

Young health-care aide takes on pandemic

Chinook’s Edge School Division dual credit program

Catlin MacArthur was only 17 years old, but had been working as a health-care aide for a couple of months when the COVID-19 crisis struck Alberta.

Was she scared? Yes. But the now-18-year-old woman said she was thankful to be part of the health-care system during this extraordinary time.

“It’s such a good experience. I’m very lucky to have graduated when I did in order to be working during the pandemic,” said MacArthur, who lives in Leslieville.

Spoken like a true health-care hero.

The teen graduated from the health-care aide program at Chinook’s Edge School Division in January, and was soon on the job at the Good Samaritan Clearwater Centre continuing care facility in Rocky Mountain House.

Students from H.J. Cody High School in Sylvan Lake, Spruce View School, Sundre High and Ecole Innisfail High completed the certificate program through Red Deer College to become post-secondary graduates before they graduated from high school.

The fast-paced program ran from September to January, with several courses and two practicums in health-care facilities.

MacArthur said her employer has taken extra precautions and nobody at Clearwater Centre has tested positive for COVID-19.

Staff wear full personal protective equipment all the time, and change their equipment between any interactions with residents. Staff get their temperature screened before, during and after work, and must pass regular breathing tests.

“I think my management team is doing a pretty good job at keeping us all safe,” she said.


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She said many of the residents she works with are no longer capable of understanding what is happening, but some are well aware of the dangers of COVID-19.

“We definitely do have a couple residents who are very cognizant. They do have TVs in their rooms. They can watch everything.

“We have had residents think that they had (COVID-19). They have been tested, as per their request. Tests came back negative. You just have to be there for them, because it’s scary.”

MacArthur said she always wanted to be part of the health-care system, and was leaning towards becoming a paramedic. Both her brother and mother are paramedics, and her sister is a nurse.

“It runs in the family.”

Hired as a casual worker, MacArthur said she is working full-time hours because health-care aides can no longer work at more than one facility, and some want to be at home to care for their children and have taken time off.

She said health care may be a tough industry, but it’s exciting and never the same. She believes the pandemic isn’t likely to frighten many workers away.

“I’m sure if people could go back in time and choose a different career knowing this was going to happen, most of them would not.”

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