Until recently, David had not been able to work. He is a full-time carer for his wife, who has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“I’ve cared for my wife for 25 years. The last time I had a job was 26 years ago,” he said.

“Lately, I realised that I also wanted to do something for myself. I thought I could do a bit more with my time, so I started doing some research and saw different courses.”

“I contacted Your Caring Way in November last year. I had five coaching sessions and that empowered me to do the Certificate III in Individual Support course through Carers Queensland’s Registered Training Organisation (RTO).”

David is not alone. For many carers, returning to the workforce can be complicated. The demands of their caring role can weigh heavily with respect to their personal aspirations.

He started his course in February 2021 and after completing his theory modules at the beginning of June, he was ready for work placement.

Through a collaboration between Your Caring Way and Wesley Mission Queensland, David is now completing his work placement at Wesley Mission Queensland’s Sinnamon Village in Brisbane.

The Your Caring Way program, a Carers Queensland initiative, offers free employment services and subsidised training options to unpaid carers across Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.

At the moment, five of the 12 students doing a placement at Wesley Mission Queensland are Your Caring Way’s participants.

They work at Nash and Reid Courts, both of which provide residential aged care to a combination of high care and low care residents, as well as residents living with dementia.

Wesley Mission Queensland’s Relationship and Innovation Manager, Fran Larkey, says student placements are important for people training to work in organisations such as Wesley Mission Queensland.

“Getting first-hand experience of what life is like in residential aged care is so valuable and helps them become empathetic and understanding support workers. It also gives them the skills and confidence to adapt to different and changing situations,” she said.

Sinnamon Village structures a roster for the Your Caring Way students to follow.

“The roster includes a wide range of opportunities to assist in caring for residents. It allows students to experience the different daily activities residents participate in across each day,” Ms Larkey said.

“Each student is allocated with a “buddy” who is one of our more experienced personal care staff to assist and guide the students in providing the best possible care outcomes for residents.”

“They have been very involved in infection prevention, control, and management during their placement. They are exposed to all aspects of working in Residential Aged Care, which does come with both rewards and challenges. A lockdown has just been called in South East Queensland which has given students real-world experience of the precautions that must quickly be taken to protect residents,” she added.

So far, the collaboration has proved effective and beneficial for all parties involved.

For David, fulfilling his 120 hours work placement two to three days a week at Wesley Mission Sinnamon Village has been life-changing.

“I find it really good. They operate with a person-centred approach in line with what we learned in the course, so it’s really good.”

“During my shift, I have to make sure that residents get what they need. We’re always checking on them and making sure they have what is required,” he said.

Being mentored by other health professionals to deliver care to residents is helping David learn new things and build his professional knowledge.

“We’re seeing the people side of what we learned in class and what we’ve learned during our times caring for the people that we already care for.”

“Manual handling has been a big learning experience. Also being patient, listening carefully to what the residents have to say. But the most satisfying aspect of it all is enabling people to do the things they want to do,” he said.

According to Wesley Mission Queensland, students on their current placement have been assisting staff and residents who may become unwell during these winter months, as well as helping to protect them from some of the viruses circulating in the community.

“A common challenge during this time can be staff getting sick as we don’t let those who are unwell work with the vulnerable in our care, so placement students have been able to see the strict protocols we have in those situations,” Ms Larkey said.

“We welcome and encourage students to complete their placements with us and at the completion of their course, invite them to apply for any employment opportunity that should become available.”

“The industry is currently facing a shortage of workers, so this collaboration gives us access to people who are pursuing a career in this field.”

“We are always learning, so we enjoy the fresh ideas and insights students on placement can bring to our communities,” she added.

Meanwhile, David can’t wait to make good use of his real workplace exposure and is really excited about what the future can bring.

“It’s really good to be back to work now. I feel better about myself. I feel like I’m doing something, achieving something.”

“At this stage, because of my caring role, I would like to do part-time work. That’s what I can do right now.”

“After I finish my placement, we can work out what’s suitable for me and my wife.”