Gillian Aron (28) has been working as a carer at Andante Retirement Village in Kuils River for the last three years and the thing she enjoys most about her job, says the Eerste River resident, is when she sees a smile on a patient’s face as she walks through the door in the morning.

“Just seeing that my patients are happy and healthy brings me great joy,” says a smiling Gillian.

In 2010, Gillian completed matric. With no money to pursue tertiary studies, Gillian spent the next three months looking for work.

At the time her friend Nadia was enrolled at Bergzicht Training and Development and completing the iPOWER (Self-Empowering) Foundation Programme at the NGO.

“She told me to visit Bergzicht Training and Development to see if there was anything they offered that I would be interested in.”

Gillian took the train from Eerste River and went to Bergzicht Training and Development, but she was unsure whether she would be able to afford one of their programmes even if she did find something that would be of interest to her.

“When I got to the reception desk I told the lady there that I was interested in studying one of Bergzicht Training and Development’s programmes. She told me that I could leave my details with her to apply for the [iPOWER] programme,” explains Gillian.

“When I asked her how much all of this would cost, she told me R65. I could not believe it,” she says. “That was really cheap.”

Gillian completed the Life Skills course followed by the iPOWER and the Health and Frail programmes. In 2013, she completed the compulsory work-integrated learning opportunity of the Health and Frail Care Programme at Andante Retirement Village.

“I spent two weeks completing my practical training under Sister Retief. When my practical work was done, she told me to apply for a job as a carer at Andante if I was not planning on continuing my studies afterwards,” says Gillian.

After finishing the programme, Gillian decided to stay home for a bit. She knew she wanted to work with elderly, frail individuals in the health and frail care industry but she also needed a break to clear her head. After two months at home, she finally gave Senior Nursing Officer Retief a call to ask if she could still apply for a job.

“Her first question to me was, ‘why did you wait to so long’,” says Gillian and smiles.

On 26 Augustus 2015, Gillian was appointed as a carer in the sick bay at Andante Retirement Village.

Gillian says that studying at Bergzicht Training and Development and working at the retirement village have helped her to develop many skills.

“When we were learning at Bergzicht Training and Development, we did our practical work on dolls, but it’s not the same as working on a real person. When I started working here, I was so nervous to touch my patients, but with time you get used to working that closely with people. I also got positive feedback and advice from Sister Retief, which helped me improve my skills.”

“I am a very shy person and do not speak a lot, so it was a huge challenge to work so closely with people and to have a conversation with them as I did my work. But the type of I work I do here has helped me get over my shyness.”

She also uses the skills she has acquired as a mother in her current work environment. Gillian has a six month old son, Malachia, with her husband, Dustin.

“When you work with old and frail persons, you have to have patience. I was not the most patient person before, but after I started working here and became a mother, I learnt what it really meant to be patient with others.”

As is the nature of many health and frail care jobs, working as a carer can be physically and emotionally demanding. On those days, says Gillian, she keeps her emotions under control by reminding herself to concentrate on her patient and her patient’s needs.

“The hard part about the job is when your patients are feeling down or lonely, or if they are sick or lying on their death bed. Those are the days that really gets to you,” says Gillian.

Still, she would not be doing anything else with her time. She is extremely grateful to have come this far and attributes her success to her faith and her parents ongoing support. She has also been lucky to have a mentor, Nurse Lena van Wyk, at the retirement village to help her cope with the demands of the job by offering her daily advice.

“Bergzicht Training and Development opened a door for me to walk into a job after I finished my programme with them. Today I still apply many of the things I learnt during the time that I was completing the frail care programme.”