I joke often about my muggle job. Of course, this is a reference to the Harry Potter ‘verse. I have my magic job- tarot and all things around it, and my non-magic, or muggle job. Some may wonder why I would have both. My tarot business is growing nicely, and would be making more than my muggle job, if I was working at tarot only. But, there are definite reasons why I do what I do. I feel like many female entrepreneurs have a husband who works full time to support them and provide benefits while they build their career. But I don’t even know if I would want that. When one has been so independent for so long, the idea of having to lean on someone else, to be accountable with someone else’s money, just seems so alien. I think I may actually like doing this by myself. It’s fulfilling in ways that I never imagined.
My muggle job is as a home care personal support worker. My contract states that I am not to talk about the job on social media, so I will not release the name of the company, or any client details, but I will talk about my experiences.
I have been working in health care for over a decade. When I was deciding what career to take in my early 20s, I was lost. My goals of being an artist and graphic designer didn’t pan out. I can remember crying to my ex of “just tell me. Just name off a career and I’ll do it. Please, I can’t do this!” The very next day, my neighbour and I were passing on the sidewalk, and she said to me “I don’t know why I should tell you this, but I need to tell you that you should be a PSW.” Okay. That was it. I very clearly asked for a sign, and I got it loud and clear. My grandmother received such excellent care when I was young, as did my brother. It was a way that I could give back. It was a way that I could be of good in this world.
As the population of our country ages, there is more and more need for PSWs, and fewer and fewer students choosing to take the course. It is a notoriously low paying, back breaking, pink ghetto, with no room for advancement. Almost all jobs are part time, casual, on call. In fact, my position with this company, this is the very first job in my life that I have had full time permanent work with benefits and paid vacation. For someone who lived in poverty for 20 years, this is huge. I have a stable pay cheque. I have guaranteed hours. I can take my kid to the dentist. I can go to the dentist. Stability is a powerful thing. I am not in a hurry to give that up most days for the instability that a new business brings. So I end up doing both. Full time. And working myself to exhaustion. For example, Mondays are my “day off” and I am sitting here in rented office space finally blogging for the first time in way too long, after meetings in the morning, and a networking event right after. Far too often, I am multi tasking on my phone while I should be giving my undivided attention to my clients or the road. I never stop. I am stressed, overtired, cranky and stretched thin. Facebook becomes my only way to authentically connect with anyone outside work, and after being positive all day for my health care clients, and being positive all day for my tarot clients, I get chastised for “being too negative” when I vent and release to friends.
I call it “my muggle job”, but there is a lot of spiritual gratification that I get out of my work. My specialty is palliative care. I have been present at close to 100 deaths. I cross them over when they die on my shift. Not a lot of people can do that. I absolutely notice when my clients are preparing for that journey into their next world, sometimes weeks or months before anyone else. Right now I don’t do a lot of palliative care. A lot of what I do right now is assisting seniors and other disabled people with what are called “activities of daily living” like showering, dressing, light meal prep, etc. This enables seniors to stay in their home longer, where they want to be, and not in our already over crowded long term facility system. I help seniors stay home, and I literally save our government millions.
I also find it very spiritually gratifying to work with the elderly. As a Druid, honouring the elders is essential. We think of this sometimes as only religious community elders, but for me, this means elders in our physical community. The company I work for divides the city into quadrants, and tries to keep us close to our area whenever possible. This means that many of my clients are literally my neighbours. When I work my alternate weekends, sometimes I park at home and walk to my clients’ homes because they are so close. I try to maintain professional boundaries, but over time, of course I come to care about and connect to my clients. This isn’t a field that you go into if you don’t give a crap about people. Both my grandmothers have passed away, my step-grandmother lives in another country and I have not seen her since I was 8. I have no contact with my mother. But I have a dozen grannies in the community. It would be unprofessional for me to vent to them about my personal problems, but since so many of my hobbies are “old timey”, I often bring these problems to my clients. Whether my bread won’t rise, my jelly won’t set, or I just can’t get that knitting stitch right, my older ladies always know the answer. I really do love them, and if I quit my job, I really would miss them dearly. There are absolutely days when I think “Ya know, I could just quit tarot and work with my ladies (like 80% of my clients are women) and be just fine”.
And then there are days where I don’t feel like that.
I started with this company about a year and a half ago, and when I did, it was a breath of fresh air from other home health care companies that I had worked for. The operations manager at the time was a sweetheart with an open door policy. Though he was of course, extremely busy, he really made us feel welcomed to come to him and talk to him about anything. On weekends, if the office was short staffed he would even do shifts manning the phone lines. If there was a problem, he was quick to respond. The highest quality of care was expected for clients, but he took care of us. My scheduler at the time was incredible! I had worked for other places where the schedulers were disorganized, not overly bright, and didn’t really give a crap. But this woman ran her desk like a well oiled machine. She had a sign above her desk that quoted Richard Branson “Sometimes the client is not always right. Take care of your staff, and they will take care of your clients.” Or something of the like. And I felt that every single day.
But about March, the time of my break up and back injury, both the OM, and the scheduler left for other positions. A new OM took over, and her first move was to cut time and a half for working outside of our availability. To be guaranteed full time hours, we need to give 100 hours per pay period of availability. That averages a 10 hour day. Every other week, I need to be available 60 hours a week. That’s a lot! I’m not paid for 60 hours. But I am expected to be available 60 hours. But, as our population ages, and there are fewer PSWs entering the field, there is always a shortage of staff. Getting time and a half was a little extra incentive to pick up extra shifts, especially evenings and weekends. On paper we make almost $20 an hour, which is much better than the wages paid when I graduated in 2013. However, for most visits, we are only paid 45 minutes on the hour. In that time, we are expected to shower, dress and feed many residents, often staying late on our own dime. So, time and a half really helps out. But, the new OM would rather subcontract the unfilled visits to staff based out of Kitchener, who do not know the clients, and get paid $15 an hour, out of the $25 or so that the other company probably charges. This lead to a cascade effect. Many visits go unfilled. The clients are upset and complained. They complained often to the schedulers who became stressed out. The turnover for schedulers increased leading to less organization in the company. PSWs quit because the entire schedule just became a clusterfuck. So they were even more understaffed. The HR people became overwhelmed trying to hire, and deal with the overworked injured workers, so they quit. We’ve had 3 HR people come and go in 6 months. Emails are no longer answered. Not even timely, but at all. I would say that 90% of my emails don’t even get read. I have had a client in crisis for 6 weeks, and I have sent 6 high priority emails to a supervisor who has chosen not to acknowledge me. I have been trying to get my daughter on my benefits since March and no one will get back to me. The new schedulers sit at their desks with their phones off. My WSIB claim from March has not been submitted yet, despite repeated emails to… gods, I don’t even know who to email anymore, so I just cc everyone in management in the hopes that SOMEONE reads it and gets back to me. I escalated an issue once to the new OM because no one was returning my emails, and her response was to email my supervisor, cc me, and say “Please make sure this worker knows the chain of command around here”. ‘This worker”? Excuse me? I’ll give her that the W in PSW does stand for Worker, but I’m a highly educated and experienced part of a health care team and on the front lines of community and patient care. If not for “this worker” she wouldn’t even have a job. I reported once to my supervisor that a client was palliative, and gave her the PPS score (palliative percentage scale). She replied telling me that because I’m “Just a PSW” that I should not be assessing this measurement, that I should let the nurse who goes in there do it. The nurse was a brand new graduate who specialized in wound care. I am far more qualified to give this assessment than she was. Overall, when I am dealing with my clients, almost all of them are wonderful and appreciate every single thing I do for them. But when dealing with the office, it is clear that I am undervalued and unappreciated. I have had neither a performance review nor a raise since I started. I am smart. I am experienced. I have a car. I speak clear English. I could get another PSW job in an hour. But I stay because I love my clients.
Both jobs give me a sense of balance between light and dark, which is important to me. I have the light of tarot and counselling people as they enter new beginnings in their lives such as careers and love. And I have the dark of death, dealing with people in the twilight of their life. I make a tangible impact on people’s lives every day. I know with evidence that I make the world a better place through both my magic and my muggle job. Working both these makes me whole. What it doesn’t do is give me balance of time, as previously mentioned. Or balance of health. The career of a PSW is short lived. Back injuries and burnout are common. Pay is better than it was, but still lower than RNs and RPNs. At 45 minutes on the hour, it’s hard to make a living wage. It is physically grueling work where I literally deal with human feces every single day. I know that my days as a PSW are limited because my body will give out. I have lost about 50 lbs which will prolong my career a bit, but not until retirement. Which is why I am building my tarot career to one day be full time. But for now, I still do love my community grannies and am not ready to give them up.