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Home » News » Competitive wages and paid training attracts new home care attendants

Competitive wages and paid training attracts new home care attendants

WRHA dusts off curriculum to stabilize health services in community

By Lindsay MacKenzie
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Tuesday, March 14, 2023

The high vacancies being experienced across the country among home support workers and home care attendants is prompting the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to get innovative in its efforts to attract individuals looking for a new career at a competitive salary.

"We're hiring new staff development instructors to support training and we have located space within our facilities to host the classroom learning," said Bria Foster, a Community Area Director with the WRHA who was an integral part of reviving an in-house program to train new home care attendants. "We can run concurrent sessions and hope to have about 16 spaces [for applicants] each session happening over the next several months until we can get back on top of our vacancies," said Foster.

The WRHA is offering an in-house paid training program with a competitive wage at $19 per hour – $4 dollars per hour above minimum wage – and a guaranteed job upon completion to attract more than 200 home care attendants by June.

The Uncertified Home Care Attendant (UHCA) training program is made up of two weeks of in-classroom learning with an additional two-weeks of practicum where new home care attendants shadow a co-worker for their initial visits with clients. Though the in-house training program might sound new, it launched in 2000 and fell out of use in 2011, but the health region is dusting it off and inviting people to apply.

"Education can be a barrier for many people who do not have sufficient income to go without a paycheck for any period of time," said Tara-Lee Procter, WRHA regional lead of Community and Continuing Care, who hopes paid training will be an important benefit. "This [training] could actually be an opportunity for people to start a new life."

Home Care Attendant, Sarah Wiens is seated in a mechanical lift during role-playing activities in classroom.

Applicants must be 18 years of age, completed at least grade 10 education and passed a criminal record check as well as child and adult abuse registry checks. A vehicle is required to get to client appointments but the health region is exploring ways to accommodate those who may not have access to a vehicle.

Working in healthcare is a family thing

The UHCA training program can be a career boosting move for home support workers like Sarah Wiens who started with the WRHA in 2019. She attributes the career choice to her mom who has worked in health care within the region for nearly 20 years.

"You’re most definitely more hands on with the clients . . . giving them bath and showers . . . you have to be there and go at their pace," said Wiens, who is also a recent graduate of the in-house program offered by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to train home care attendants.

Sarah Wiens
Sarah Wiens participated in the first cohort of Uncertified Home Care Attendant training offered by the WRHA. 

Home support workers are another integral role within Home Care delivery and part of an entire team of support that includes nurses as well as home care attendants who perform a variety of tasks.

"Some of our home support workers, who are already internal to Home Care and providing household maintenance, laundry, meals and medication support, [now] have an upgrade opportunity through paid education and an increase in their salary, which can make a significant difference," said Bria Foster.

Kerishia Herminiano was a classmate of Wiens and explained that her family offered motivation to take the training as well. "One of my aunts mentioned that there was paid training and that I should apply and see where it goes," said Herminiano who has two aunts working as home care attendants for the health region in the Point Douglas and St. Vital community areas. "I like that you can be a little more personable with the clients that you have rather than in the facility, and you kind of have free range in a sense."

Learning how to deliver compassionate and safe care

Home care attendants are expected to provide a number of different tasks to support clients' day-to-day living, ranging from assisting with medication, meal preparation, helping with bathing and getting clients from their bed to wheelchairs through the use of a mechanical lift as well as in-home respite care.

Kerishia Herminiano enrolled in the Uncertified Home Care Attendant training offered by the WRHA after hearing about it from her aunts who are home care attendants as well.

"Home Care has a diverse population of clients," said Hardeep Deol, who is an occupational therapist with the WRHA and one of the training instructors for the UHCA training program. "It's important to be aware of our clients' needs and backgrounds, especially their past experiences with the health care system, so that we can provide dignified and compassionate care."

One of the challenges to Home Care delivery is that home support workers, home care attendants and nurses are working alone when providing care to clients. Resource Coordinators are available to provide additional support and answer questions. Additional support is available to staff through refreshers and one-to-one coaching sessions, which are offered on an on-going or as-needed basis.

According to Deol, "it takes time to feel comfortable with all of the day-to-day tasks for clients and working alone is part of self management but that is something we hear staff say they enjoy."

He can relate to the new trainees, having started his career in health care as a patient transport and equipment assistant at Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre. "I was on the receiving end of the training that I now provide, which gives me a unique perspective of how our staff feel when they are coming to us to learn these skills."

Hardeep Deol is an occupational therapist with the WRHA and is one of the instructors delivering the Uncertified Home Care Attendant training program.

Home Care can be a physically demanding environment, but "without our staff, clients would not receive the care needed to remain safe in their homes," said Deol, who reiterated that the home environment is an important part of delivering care. "[Home] is part of a person's identity, home is where you grew up . . . so, to receive care within their home means a lot versus sometimes going out to a hospital or a different facility [because] it allows them to receive these services in a safe place."

Overcoming obstacles in Home Care delivery

Depleted staffing levels are of significant concern Canada-wide for professions such as nursing and medicine, but the most visible shortages facing health care are in Home Care among home support workers and home care attendants. "The vacancy that we have now has changed the focus of our work, where we're spending more time cancelling visits," acknowledged Tara-Lee Procter. "Even though our cancellation rate is around 4.5%, it’s still a huge amount of calls when we think that we have somewhere between 12,000 and 14,000 visits per day."

The Uncertified Home Care Attendant training program offered by the WRHA is an enterprising opportunity to equip a whole new generation of health care workers. By covering the costs of education and paying a competitive wage, there is a real hope of returning stability to Home Care in Winnipeg.

"Everyone in the system does really want to help people be cared for," said Procter, who reinforced that information must be more accessible as well as clearly communicated. "We realize that clarity is needed so that people know who to go to for what [support] and that is something we're seriously looking at in terms of making tools to help."

On January 30, the first cohort of students were welcomed into a classroom on Hargrave Street, which is a small signal that hope is on the horizon.

"Home Care has been a very well-respected program for decades and Winnipeg’s Home Care program was considered one of the best across the country for many, many years," acknowledged Procter. "We know we’re on the pathway to getting better, but it’s been it’s been a struggle because we’ve never been here."

To register for the WRHA Home Care Attendant training program or for more information, visit

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