But it turned out the program wasn't for her, as it wasn't as hands-on as she'd originally imagined. She ended up dropping out of university and getting a job as a receptionist at Finlandia Village.
Soon afterwards, Orford learned about a new Finlandia program offering scholarships to staff members wishing to attend Cambrian College's two-year registered practical nurse (RPN) program.
Orford, along with fellow Finlandia employee Marilyn Kosher, was selected for the scholarship. The two women started attending classes in September 2010, graduating from the program at the end of May.
“Not graduating from university was a little bit of a disappointment to me,” 23-year-old Orford said. “Actually finishing a program in college was a very proud moment for myself.”
She said she thinks it's “wonderful” that Finlandia is providing this opportunity for its employees.
David Munch, executive director of the seniors' care complex, said Finlandia's board of directors approved the program three years ago.
Finlandia was having difficulty finding enough RPNs, he said, so they decided the scholarships were a good idea.
Personal support workers (PSWs) or other types of workers may want to further their education, but don't know if they can afford the tuition or the time off work. The scholarship program takes away some of that burden, he said.
The organization paid for Orford and Kosher's tuition and books, and allowed them to retain part-time jobs at Finlandia, arranging their work schedule so it didn't interfere with their schooling.
Once they're done their final certification exams, they'll have RPN jobs waiting for them at Finlandia.
Munch said he's “exceptionally proud” of the two women.
“It's kind of like we planted these little trees two years ago, and now the trees are full-grown,” he said.
Now that they've finished their schooling, Finlandia will be able to support other employees who wish to become RPNs, Munch said.
“These are the two perfect examples of people going back to school and becoming educated,” he said.
“We're hoping they can become the poster girls for Finlandia Village, where other employees might see this and say 'Hey, I might want to consider that, too.'”
Orford, who is working as a PSW at Finlandia's nursing home until she can take her RPN certification exams, said she really enjoyed Cambrian's RPN program, as she started learning nursing skills right away.
By the second semester, the students were doing placements at nursing homes, and in the second year, they spent two days a week at the hospital.
“So, right away, we're in there doing what we're supposed to be doing in our job, but in a supervised, controlled atmosphere,” Orford said.
After her aborted first attempt at finding a career, Orford said she's now doing what she loves — working with seniors.
“They're amazing — they really are,” Orford said. “They've all got their own unique little quirks, and their little nuances. It's all because of who they were in their past, right? You've got to try to make sure you keep that in their present.”
She gives the example of a client who is only happy if she has her stuffed cats — which she refers to as her “babies” — on her lap.
“A lot of new people come and they won't understand how important these two babies are to her,” Orford said. “They remind her of cats she had when she was younger.”
Kosher, 51, previously worked as an x-ray technician.
However, because she wanted to work hands-on with patients, she took her PSW certification through a private career college, landing a position in Finlandia's assisted living complex three years ago.
Kosher said it's “pretty incredible” that her employer paid for her to upgrade her skills.
“I feel pretty special that I was able to do the interview and be chosen,” she said.
Thanks to her training at Cambrian, Kosher said she now feels like she can better care for her patients. She said she hopes to work as an RPN in Finlandia's assisted living complex once she's taken her certification exams.
“I think that with all of us in the health-care field, there's a pathway for your profession,” she said.
“This has just given me another branch on my tree, and a better understanding of what's going on. You can do an assessment with a lot more confidence.
"Basically it just gives you a better footing for helping people that require help.”
Posted by Arron Pickard