Vital professions: in your own words

Vital professions: in your own words

While the APTS ad describing the variety and value of the professions it represents was being aired, we contacted some of the members featured in the ad to talk about why they agreed to be part of the project and how the pandemic has affected their professional life.

Karine Banville, recreation technician

“I work for the CHSLD de L’Assomption (CISSS de Lanaudière). I agreed to be part of the ad to make the public more aware of my profession. Very few people know that we exist or understand what we do.

These days, recreation technicians spend their time reorganizing what they do. Public health directives change almost every day, and we get the information at the last minute. We have to change our activities, cancel arrangements with outside resources such as singers and zootherapists, and contact our volunteers. Then, we have to figure out how to entertain our residents in spite of all this, while still keeping them safe. Our job is to stimulate them and prevent isolation in these difficult times. It’s a big challenge!

Larger institutions only have two recreation technicians, and smaller CHSLDs may only have one. And right now, volunteers aren’t allowed to come in and help us. So we’re really understaffed! For safety reasons, we’re forced to give priority to individual activities, or activities involving small groups of four or five people. That means it’s hard to reach all of our 150 residents during the week. It’s sad.

My colleagues working in recreation and I would really like to see our profession acknowledged as an important resource in CHSLDs. Think about it – when people are doing an activity they like, they’re not wandering through the hallways. They’re happy, and there’s no need for chemical restraint to reduce disruptive behaviour.”



Jean Boulay, biomedical engineering technician

“My job is to make sure equipment is working properly in CHSLDs, CLSCs, and the Hôpital de Maria. I cover Baie-des Chaleurs institutions from Matapédia to Paspébiac, dealing with every department including radiology, operating facilities, intensive care, emergency, hemodialysis, and others. Outside metropolitan areas, it’s rare for a biomedical engineering technician to be assigned to a specific department.

I thought being part of the ad was a good opportunity to tell people about my work, which most people aren’t familiar with. It’s a great job. There’s nothing humdrum about it, and there are plenty of challenges.

The pandemic means we need to adapt in all kinds of ways when we go to other CISSS facilities, especially in terms of clothing and restricted zones. We have to pay special attention to disinfecting equipment, and avoid contact with patients and other employees. Procedures have often changed. We have to make sure we check notices carefully when we’re dealing with infected patients.

Our team is taking care of business on a day-to-day basis, but if a member of our team got COVID, I’m sure there would be problems. If we had more staff, there’s a lot of preventive maintenance we could do.

We hope current contract talks will lead to bigger wage increases than those in the last collective agreement, which was really marked by austerity. There’s some catching up to be done. It’s the same for travel expenses, such as meals and kilometres travelled – they haven’t been reviewed for years.”



Carole-Anne Fortin, social work technician

“My job is to ensure that measures are applied at the Centre jeunesse de l’Estrie (CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS). I do psychosocial follow-up with young people with behavioural problems who are living with foster families or in rehab centres. I agreed to be part of the ad because I think every step counts. I want to make a difference and be part of the solution.

On the one hand, the pandemic has brought about changes to our work organization that have improved our productivity by reducing our travel time and giving us more time with families. I’m thinking of things like working from home, online meetings, computer tools.

On the other hand, there are things that limit our ability to deliver services – lack of office space, inadequate hygiene measures in the institution, external services and courts that are completely clogged up or sometimes even closed. This leads to delays or much slower processes. And like everyone else, we have to achieve balance between our family life and our professional life. Managing risk is still a burden because we’re still accountable for our cases, even though we have no control over government instructions and decrees. Youth workers risk getting infected or spreading the disease when they follow up on families.

It’s really too bad that the media convey such a negative image of youth centres. They’re not just harming the reputation of services provided to protect young people. They’re also belittling good work done by professionals, and that makes it more difficult to hire staff. Every day, youth workers have to cope with stress as they deal with vulnerable families. This exposes them to psychological distress, which will eventually lead to sick leave. The team is in a constant state of imbalance because there are personnel movements related to many different causes – maternity, illness, or departure – and it takes time to fill those positions.

The pandemic brings a number of challenges. We have to deal with families who are frustrated because they don’t understand why family contacts are limited, or who hesitate to let us into their house even though we’re legally obliged to follow up on them. We have to comply with the government’s most recent instructions, and also with court orders. And we have to follow rules and measures to protect ourselves individually.

Staffing at the Centre jeunesse de l’Estrie is insufficient and has been for years. So managing risk is something that we have to do on a permanent basis, and under these conditions, it’s hard for us to meet requirements based on target figures. Youth workers often feel powerless. Burnout is common, and staff turnover is frighteningly high. Given the situation, how can we provide families with the best response and meet deadlines for interventions?

Efforts are currently being made to support youth workers: recruitment is ongoing, atypical schedules have been accepted, and clinical activities specialists and managers have been added. These measures are welcome.

But more needs to be done. The way youth protection works needs to be rethought. Its image needs to be rehabilitated, and meaning needs to be restored to our work.

If we want to get better at retaining and attracting personnel, we need to offer benefits and advantages. We’d like to see increased wages, or at least a specific premium, as well as an extra week of vacation every year. If we had decent working conditions reflecting our current workload, we would be in a better position to carry out our mission. That’s the kind of recognition that youth protection professionals are hoping for.”



Naïma Habba, dietetics technician

“I work at the Jewish General Hospital in the orthopedics, surgery, and sometimes prenatal and geriatrics departments. Among other things, our job is to do an initial screening for malnutrition, record the meal preferences of hospitalized people, and follow up on them throughout their stay.

I like the ad because it shows how employees with different specializations are making a contribution to improve people’s health.

With COVID-19, more units have been opened to receive an influx of patients. We need more time to visit them, because their health condition is such that they experience things like loss of appetite or diarrhea.

There are many challenges. When the family isn’t there, we need to make sure that patients are getting the food intake they need. Encouraging them to eat, or helping them, takes more time. Emotionally, it’s very difficult, because when people are dying, they ask to see their family. My colleagues and I feel anxious before going into COVID or red units. We have to be very careful how we put on and take off our equipment so that we don’t infect our colleagues or families.

Lack of personnel puts more pressure on us, because our professional ethics say that we have to take care of every person admitted to the hospital. Sometimes we have to visit people who are not in our usual units, to help colleagues or replace them when they’re sick.

We work with people suffering from COVID and we deserve the hazard premium, as well as a salary increase bigger than the puny 5% the government has been offering so far.”



Jennifer Tremblay, radiation oncology technologist

“I’ve been working at the Centre intégré de cancérologie, which is part of the CISSS de Laval, for close to nine years. I work with people who have cancer.

I agreed to be part of the ad to make our profession a little more visible. People don’t know very much about the role that radiation oncology technologists play in the clinical path of cancer patients.

In the COVID-19 context, with masks and social distancing, it’s hard to provide our usual level of empathy and comfort. One of the beauties of our job is that we’re close to our patients. We see them every day over several weeks.

Cancer doesn’t stop just because there’s a pandemic. We’ve had to cope with withdrawal of services, reassignments, new responsibilities, while still having pretty much the same volume of patients. A lot of new measures were needed in our departments. Every day, hundreds of people who are receiving treatment come and go because of their radiotherapy appointment, and increased supervision is required to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We also have to be able to distinguish between COVID symptoms and symptoms related to cancer or cancer treatments.

We have a sufficient number of radiation oncology technologists. But what’s hard to understand is why access to permanent positions is so restricted. Many of my colleagues stay on the availability list for a long time or go from one replacement assignment to another. Lack of job security makes it very difficult for people to achieve balance between their work and their personal life.

This is why we would really welcome the creation of permanent positions, and job security for those who have been on the availability list for a long time. Also, we would really appreciate a pay increase reflecting the value of our contribution.”



Interviews by Chantal Mantha  |  With Lucie Proulx