It’s no secret that working in healthcare is not for the faint of heart. The pandemic only further emphasized this. Being a caregiver is for the lionhearted. During a time of uncertainty and wariness, it’s for those that are fearless enough to take care of others and for those that are kind enough to spark joy in the hearts of those who often feel alone.
For Alice Sgro, a worldwide pandemic only ignited the fire in her to start a career in healthcare as a Licensed Nursing Assistant (LNA).
For nearly 30 years, Alice worked as a childcare provider in her hometown of North Berwick, Maine, caring for her “little friends,” as her husband called them. From running after the little ones to wiping their noses and bandaging scuffed knees, she felt the warmth and joy that came from taking care of someone who can’t repay you. Then, in 2007, she began taking care of her mother-in-law until she passed away in 2013.
“I loved caring for her, getting to hear all her stories and learning about the life she lived. There was such satisfaction in being the one who helped make her smile day after day.”
Caring for her husband’s mom inspired Alice. She wanted to start a healthcare career working with older adults, but she was hesitant because she was scared that she couldn’t do it.
Then, in 2020, nursing homes throughout the state closed their doors to outside visitors because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When the pandemic hit, I knew I had to do something. Knowing older adults couldn’t have their family beside them only motivated me more to become that friendly face they could rely on.”
To help meet the needs of nursing homes in New Hampshire during the pandemic, Governor Chris Sununu signed an executive order to quickly train and hire Temporary Health Partners (THPs). The THP program allows a person to get hired immediately as a nursing assistant so that they can work while doing their LNA training. For Alice, this was the perfect opportunity to test the waters to see if she was cut out to do the work her heart longed to do.
“After I took the online training, I began working as a THP at the Edgewood Centre in Portsmouth, NH, where I was taught the ins and outs of daily care while being supervised by Nurses and working with a Licensed Nursing Assistant (LNA).
Then, once Alice realized that she could do the work after all, she began the formal process toward her LNA career by requesting information through the NH Needs Caregivers! website, which helped her find a caregiver course near her along with funding assistance for the required training.
“After I finished my online bookwork, I started my clinicals in November, and after I finished testing, I got my LNA license before Christmas.”
Today, Alice works as an LNA at the Edgewood Centre in the facility’s memory care & dementia support program.
“Every day is a new adventure, and every day I go home feeling encouraged because I’m making a difference in someone’s life. It’s a lot of work, but knowing I’m putting a smile on someone’s face and seeing their joy keeps me going. It makes the hard work worth it.”
From starting as a nursing assistant to becoming an LNA, Alice sees this all as a stepping stone to a meaningful career as a caregiver.
“Now that I know I can do it, I want to work my way up to an LPN or an RN. I’m lucky to be surrounded by nurses who encourage and support me in that next step of my journey as a caregiver.”
Working as an LNA, a person doesn’t know if a day will be more hectic than the last or if it will run smoothly, but for Alice, every day she’s grateful for the opportunity she’s had to become an LNA.
“When I worked at a daycare, my husband called the kids my ‘little friends.’ Now that I work with older adults, he will say, ‘Your big friends need you today, Alice,’ and that reminds me that I’m fortunate to work in a place that allows me to make a difference and change people’s lives with a smile.”
The NH Needs Caregivers! initiative helped Alice find funding for training and start a career in healthcare as an LNA. To start your journey, visit NHNeedsCaregivers.org to request information or to learn more.