New opportunities for young people during COVID-19

Caption: Group Manager, Support Services, John Hedley with WDHS COVID-casual PSAs, Jalen Walsh, Tahlia Grant and Hamish Thomson


Since the first lockdown in March, WDHS has recruited over 80 COVID-casual staff across the Health Service. Many are young people and university students whose plans for 2020 were disrupted by the pandemic. Like many things COVID, there is a silver lining and some learnings for the future, both for WDHS and the staff who have come on board to support the organisation during unprecedented times.

WDHS Group Manager Support Services, John Hedley, says the extra hands have been vital to the WDHS COVID response, and the casual roles have not only helped uni students and other young people in the region financially, but allowed them to develop new skills and an understanding of the rewards of working in healthcare.

“When COVID first hit, there was an enormous amount of work required to meet new infection control guidelines. The workload of our Personal Service Assistant (PSA) staff, who are responsible for cleaning and food service increased by around 50%.

We also needed to ensure that we had back up staff if someone in our team contracted COVID. With the 14 day isolation period requirements for all close contacts, training new casual staff in these roles was vital to ensure the hospital continued to function in the event of an outbreak.

PSA’s have been critical during the pandemic to keep our staff, doctors, patients and visitors safe, and we are very grateful to the many new faces who have supported us in recent months,” Mr Hedley said.

Tahlia Grant, currently studying Occupational Therapy in her second year at Deakin University in Geelong, was recruited as a Personal Service Assistant (PSA) after being sent home due to COVID.

“This job has allowed me to be independent again, after being home for so long. It has also been a source of income as I wasn’t able to do my normal lifeguarding duties.

It has definitely made me appreciate health workers and helped me realise that my future career definitely lies in this industry,” Ms Grant said.

Jalen Walsh, who will being studying Nursing at Deakin University in Geelong next year, was similarly recruited as a COVID-casual PSA at Hamilton Base Hospital.

“After the government’s call to shut non-essential businesses, I was no longer required at my two hospitality jobs and I knew it was going to be really difficult to find work.

I ended up applying for a food services position at WDHS, which has opened so many doors and possibilities for me. I’ve loved working in a hospital environment and can definitely see myself working in the health sector,” Ms Walsh said.

Mr Hedley says it’s been really impressive to see these young people step up and work so diligently in a high intensity environment.

“We couldn’t be happier. They’ve taken on the training, been adaptable and incredibly dedicated to ensuring that our facilities remain safe. A number of our casuals are studying health-related courses, such as medical imaging, nursing and occupational therapy. Their experience at WDHS has given them valuable insights into the healthcare industry and we hope that they will consider coming back to work with us again in the future, whether on uni holidays or more permanently on completion of their courses,” Mr Hedley said.

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