By Anne O’Connor
TOWNSEND — Wendy Whelan loves her job.
The personal care attendant does it so well and with such enthusiasm that one of her clients, Conor Healy, and his mother nominated her for the Paul Kahn Award for PCA Service.
“Her work ethic is exemplary; she just gets it,” Healy said.
The PCA of the Year award, named for a disability rights advocate who died in 2010, recognizes PCAs for their dedication and outstanding performance.
Whelan, who lives in West Townsend, was one of five Massachusetts workers from different regions of the state who received the award at an event at the Statehouse on Oct. 14.
“I love working with people in their homes where they’re comfortable,” said Whelan, a certified nursing assistant and certified home health aide.
Her clients range in age from six months to 101 years old. Their challenges run the gamut from autism, post-operation recovery, spinal injury, cerebral palsy and dementia.
Over the past 16 years, she has worked side by side with nurses.
“I want to be able to do everything they can do,” she said.
If everything goes as planned, she’ll become a registered nurse within a few years.
Whelan is a student at Middlesex Community College, where she is studying nursing. After she earns her associate degree, hopefully in May 2017, she will sit for the boards.
“I don’t think it’s a huge jump,” she said of her career plans. “I think it’s a natural progression.”
“I want to stay in home care,” she said.
“The best part of PCA work is the relationships,” she said. Her work with Healy over the past two years allows him and his mother to enjoy a typical mother-son relationship.
A PCA’s job does not end when she walks out the door at the end of a visit.
“You have to be okay with taking your work home,” she said. If a client has a problem, “we work and end up calling and checking on them all night.”
Once Whelan does get home from her job and schooling, she and her husband share responsibilities for the five children in their blended family.
They are also both in school. He is a paramedic working on a degree in accounting.
“It’s crazy at our house,” she said while laughing. With their flexible schedules, one of them can always be home with the kids.
PCAs and other home care workers make life easier for many.
“In Massachusetts, PCAs make a huge difference in the quality of life for more than 20,000 individuals, who are able to remain living at home because of the PCA program,” said Elenore Parker, president of Rewarding Work Resources. “PCAs make it possible for people to live independently, with varying amounts of assistance.”
Rewarding Work Resources created and manages the Massachusetts Personal Care Attendant Quality Home Care Workforce Council’s innovative, Web-based directory. The site, mass.gov/findpcas, is a resource for finding and hiring PCAs.
A good PCA needs to be caring and patient, Whelan said, but the job pays off.
“It’s awesome. It really is a great job,” she said. “It’s very rewarding.”
Other award recipients are Hyacinth Edwards of Boston, Jeremy Kawachi of Natick, Sherrie Booker of New Bedford and Irina Ukrainets of Belchertown.
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