By Carol Masshardt
There are many things on the minds of the instructors and students on the final day of October at the completion of the Certified Nurse Assistant Program. At the Laboure Program, Kathleen Curran-Nigi is not new to challenges in running successful programs, and nothing deters her from the fierce belief in the group she has ushered, taught, motivated, and learned from in these past weeks.
“Oh my God, they are an excellent group,” she said. “They come with so many stories and struggles.”
The group of eight expected to graduate navigated COVID at a clinical site, managed primary responsibilities at home, worried about distant relatives, and still brought a sense of pride in completion that would rival those at any commencement. They are also ready to work with patients who may be anxious, confused and alone.
Jean Toussaint, 43, originally from Haiti, moved to Toronto and earned a bachelor’s degree and thought about business. He is a father of three, and eager to make a difference. Healthcare is something he takes seriously.
“I took care of my father in Haiti and people thought I was good at it, so it got me thinking. I would go to medical school if it wasn’t for the money, but I am very happy with this program. The instructors were great, and we got what we needed to be successful,” he said. “I have a culture of helping people. It is just natural.”
The attentiveness needed for health care isn’t lost on this man, nor are the issues his patients may experience. Soft-spoken and polite, it seems he is someone who would enter a hospital room gently while also conveying competence.
“Food and poverty and stress all make a difference in health. I think I was always a good communicator, but here I learned how to be even more patient, and I became more confident, too” he said. “The patient may not know what is going to happen, and if I can offer an encouraging word, it could help a little. A headache is one thing, but a person can have a whole lot more going on.”
His classmate, Christella Georges, has had another life course, and was a nurse in Haiti, but knew she needed more to work in the field she loves. “I like the way they taught here. I’m grateful for the skills I need to work in this culture. The work isn’t new, but the I had to practice all the skills.” She is confident in what brings her to the field, and though the language and practices are different, the care is not.
“You have to be sympathetic, and work with all kinds of people, and be respectful and honest with everyone,” she said with modesty and directness.
Gabriel Rodriguez was an MD in Columbia and life in the US as a single parent of a twelve-year-old daughter has brought its own challenges, but he seems resilient and motivated. The process of becoming an MD in the US may be too time consuming as he balances his responsibilities, but he sees this day of graduation as a continuation and beginning. He could be frustrated or resentful but is the opposite.
“This was an excellent course. From the instructors to the intensity, to the quality of materials, and it is so well organized,” he said. “It will give me a place back in a hospital and from there I may be able to become a Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant, but this is where I can start, and I appreciate it.”
There are many more stories, and each is inspiring. The program at the Laboure can change the lives of those who graduate and the many patients they will care for.
Kathleen Curran-Nigi isn’t frustrated, and in fact, is deeply respectful of her students who have encountered trauma and challenges and succeed, nonetheless. She and the other devoted staff assume the task of translating cultures and dealing with any number of issues that can come up in adult education with exacting learning goals. She is, though, already on the phone with major hospitals trying to see how quickly her students can be hired as she prints diplomas.
“These systems can be so slow, and there is a need, and these great people are ready to fill them,” she said shaking her head at a frustrating pace, but one she will work with until all eight are hired. “You know, their lives are complicated, and they are ready to go, and are an excellent group,” she reiterates. She demonstrates love in her life’s work, and she will move mountains to have this group well placed and sustained in jobs that match their dignity.
Congratulations, graduates and hats off to the steadfast commitment of the Laboure Center to offer this vital community service.