Someone to lean on

1/13/2017 2:34:07 PM

After 10 years in the health care food service industry, Garrett Slaney of St. Lawrence returned to school through College of the North Atlantic’s Distributed Learning service to complete the Rehabilitation Assistant program. Since graduating in June 2016, Slaney has embarked on a fulfilling career, providing life-changing support by helping patients overcome physical obstacles on their road to recovery.

It takes a special type of person to work in the medical field, just ask Garrett Slaney.
Even at age 18, Slaney knew he wanted to help people through a career in the health care field, going so far as enrolling into the Bachelor of Kinesiology program at Memorial University in St. John’s. But in the end he discovered it wasn’t the right fit. Fast forward 10 years, and Slaney finally found his calling through the Rehabilitation Assistant program at College of the North Atlantic (CNA).
“When I went to university I was going to work in therapy and recreation, so I went into kinesiology through MUN and there is a recreation component to it. A couple of years into that, I realized I didn’t really want to do it.”
In 2007, after working as a clerk at St. Luke’s Nursing Home with Eastern Health during the summer, he decided to leave university for a full-time position in food services with the organization. He stayed for 10 years and through the position witnessed the importance of work done by physiotherapists and occupational therapists. It piqued his interest in the field.
“I worked in long-term care and that introduced me to health care. I saw how useful and beneficial physiotherapy and occupational therapy were to the residents – in keeping them mobile, giving them a greater way of life, carrying on the best they could, keeping them active as they were growing older, and just seeing the excitement they had when they would get up and go for a walk.”
When he found the Rehabilitation Assistant program at CNA, it just clicked that this was his next step.
“When I came across the Rehabilitation Assistant program I really jumped at it. The program was solely through distance, which allowed me adequate time to work full-time while carrying a full course load. That was really quite helpful,” Slaney said. “Overall it was a great program and it gave me a good base support of knowledge that you need to work in this field. The instructors were marvelous and any questions that you had, they were back to you within hours. It really prepared me to work in this field.”
Because his classmates all lived in the St. John’s area, they were able to participate in study groups.
“We would go in to do practical labs, which they do every week anyway. If you happen not to live in the city, there are live stream broadcasts using a webcam so you can interact. Say you were stationed in Corner Brook and the rest of us are doing a lab here in St. John’s, you can tune in, watch the lab via the webcam live and ask questions. Even though the program is through distance you are still part of the class.”
It is the flexibility of the program that drew his interest to CNA.
“You can do a full course load or you can do a couple of courses at a time. You can spread it out over three years instead of two, so there is quite a lot of flexibility there. It’s not an overbearing work load,” he explained. “I worked for Eastern Health full-time and did a full course load which, was good for me because I built up seniority so that when I finished the program I automatically went into a position. That was quite neat.”
The Rehabilitation Assistant program, which began in 2011, received national accreditation in 2016. The program has a 100 per cent employment rate within six months of graduation; Slaney and his classmates all had positions waiting for them a month before graduating.
He said goodbye to his food services position at St. Luke’s in June for a full-time position at the Miller Centre in St. John’s. As an employee in the stroke rehabilitation ward, Garrett shares in his patients’ joy and excitement as they show progress in each step of their therapy.
“I love it to the fullest. When you have someone come to you directly after the stroke and they’re probably close to bed ridden, and within weeks you’re up walking with them or seeing the use of their hands come back, it’s very exciting and you share that excitement with them. You’re working one-on-one with them so you are sharing in the patient’s journey as they recover and as they achieve their goals. You see the joy on their face and it really makes the job worthwhile,” he said.
“My favourite part of my job is working one-on-one with patients and working with them towards the goals they set for their recovery; whether it is to be able to walk with a cane, to return to work, or be able to go golfing again. It’s about working towards those goals, seeing steady progress, and eventually seeing them leave and go back to a way a life, that without rehab, they wouldn’t be able to go back to.”
The ultimate satisfaction comes from watching a patient walk back out through the doors.
“When a patient no longer needs your help it feels marvelous because it means they are okay to go home, and they can return to as normal way of life as they were used to before they came to us. Even though they are discharged and I don’t see them every day, they are still really a part of you, and likewise for them, because you spend so much time together and you work so hard together towards the road to recovery.
“We’re changing their lives because when they come to us they are physically impaired. Seeing them leave from when they come in on a stretcher, and seeing them walk out sometimes with a walker, a cane, or completely unaided, is very rewarding indeed.”
For more information about the Rehabilitation Assistant program, visit
Media Contact:
Glenda McCarthy
Public Relations Specialist
College of the North Atlantic