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Graduate Brandi Shares Her Developmental Service Worker Program Insights

By November 28, 2023No Comments
Developmental Service Worker

Brandi Homewood has had a passion for helping others for as long as she can remember. She recalls taking time out of her days as a young child to help with the Special Olympics Bowling League every Saturday.

“And our local Boys and Girls Club had a program for individuals with disabilities where we did arts and crafts, we did fitness stuff, whether it was chair yoga, or walking the track. I really enjoyed that environment. So, I guess I can say that it has always felt natural for me to be around and help individuals with disabilities.”

This led to Brandi not only obtaining a Child and Youth Care Worker diploma, that allowed her to work with individuals with a variety of disabilities and addictions, but also to her pursuing the Developmental Service Worker (DSW) program at Anderson College.

As a recent graduate, Brandi has valuable insight into the program, what makes it unique and how it empowered her to take her career to new levels. And as she will attest to, it all begins with following your heart.

We asked Brandi why she chose the DSW program at Anderson and why it’s been such a powerful experience for her.

 

“Anderson stood out for me, at first, because the course was one year long, and I liked the fact that you would be able to apply your skills by actually working in the field. I appreciated the smaller classes; you get to know your peers and your instructors on a more personal level. This allows you to be more engaged and to apply your learning to hands-on work, than you would be able to be in a class of 60 or 70 students.”

When asked to share about her experience, what she learned and what stood out as memorable, Brandi had this to share.

 

“For about eight months, we did theory and covered medication, developmental disability and psychology and a bit of sociology. A lot of the theory that you need to know is about the history that led up to how the community sees individuals with disabilities. We had examinations throughout the theory part and then I did 600 hours of placement. I was in placement at Brantwood Community Services from May until September of this year, 2023.

“For instructors we had Lori Aberle teaching the personal support worker elements of the program showing us how to do proper transfers and use the lift. We also communicated with Jeanette Wiegand, Director of Education quite frequently. But for my main instructor, I had Jodi Purdie and she was such an amazing, one of the most supportive teachers that I’ve ever had in my life.

“In class, I loved that Jodi had a history of being in the field, and that she used her personal experiences to teach us, whether it was good or bad. And it wasn’t that she was trying to scare us but was focused on really preparing us for what could happen. She gave us a realistic understanding of what could happen in the field. For example, in her placement when she was a student, an individual she worked with passed away.

“I actually had the same experience. I was about seven weeks into my placement, and we unfortunately lost somebody. I remember messaging Jodi immediately even though she technically wasn’t my instructor anymore, and I said how do I handle this? What do I do? She just said what she needed to say, like be there for your coworkers, be there for the individual’s family, as much as you can.

I followed her directions, and it helped me through. It was amazing because she even reached out to me in the days after, just to do a mental check-in. Even during the program, I was going through some personal health issues, Jodi and the Anderson staff were always willing to accommodate my schedule if I had to have a doctor’s appointment or medical leave. I really appreciated how flexible and supportive they were. And how Jodi was with me during and after I finished the program, shows how much she cares about her students.

“If I had gone to another college, I’m not sure if I would have had that same personal level of support. I’m so glad that I did.”

In recalling the process for practicum placement, Brandi had this to share.

 

“I was approached by the placement coordinator, and they wanted me to find three options that I was intrigued by. Obviously, I wasn’t guaranteed that my very first one would be where I would do my practicum, so they asked me to identify three opportunities. I provided them the information and they reached out to the companies to see if they were willing to take on a student. Some companies were reluctant because of how long the placement was, but thankfully Brantwood Community Services was willing to work with me.”

When we asked about Brandi’s experience working within her placement, the support she received and how it has benefitted her, she had this amazing story to share.

 

“Throughout my whole placement, several of my co-workers and even my placement supervisor, were constantly encouraging me to apply to Brantwood Community Services. They stated that they felt that it would be beneficial to have me and that I would fit in well. At Brantwood, they have a weekly newsletter, and there’s a section called the “Shout Outs Section”, which you can get nominated by other staff who feel that you deserve to be acknowledged in your performance at work. And they also have “Friday Frontline Feature” that they post on their social media, and this is nominated by a supervisor who feels that you go above and beyond helping individuals live their life. I was fortunate to be nominated for both. It was quite an honor, because I was a student still, so I took that as a huge accomplishment. And then upon the completion of my placement I had made the decision to apply to Brantwood because I had such a positive experience with them, and I was hired on immediately.

And now Brandi is putting into practice all she gleaned within the program and then some …

 

“I’m currently a part-time direct support worker. I’m in a residential house with three individuals. It’s a single staff house so it makes me have all the responsibility of their daily needs and wants. Whether it’s personal care, arranging a doctor’s appointment, toileting or making food for them, I am there. I’m their number one. I feel like what I learned in class in regard to how to properly do their personal care, how to do their medication, how to do their food prep, all that I learned in class and throughout my placement, I’m using. I felt mentally prepared and physically prepared to take on this role as a single staff in the house.

What impact is Brandi having now in her role; how has this Anderson experience enriched her career?

 

I’ve been with Brantwood since May because of my placement, and I’ve had the opportunity to be part of 10 individuals’ lives. I was able to get to know each of them on an individual basis, and every one of them has unique and different backgrounds. So, I like to approach it as you’re someone new. Let’s get to know you individually.

Coming into the field, my biggest concern was not being able to communicate with someone who was nonverbal and understanding what their needs and wants were. But after being in placement for a while, and being around eight individuals who are nonverbal, I’ve quickly picked up on their little cues like their coos and caws and the noises and their facial expressions. I was able to pick up quickly and understand okay, they’re not happy today. Oh, let’s try this and it took a bit, but I was surprised on how quickly I picked it up. Just walking in on your shift, greeting them good morning, or good afternoon and seeing the smile on their face, you know that you have an impact on their life.

Reflecting on her educational path, aspirations and goals, Brandi gave us some terrific insight into how this serves her now and lights the way for the future.

 

“To be honest, I never thought I would go back in residential work, as that’s what I did as a child and youth worker for five years. However, I really am enjoying it again. I do realize how much I missed it because it makes a home environment for everyone. My plan was to be employed, but at the school board. I still intend to be employed at the school board at one point but at the same time, I want to remain at Brantwood as well. Brantwood is a great place and I love the fact that Brantwood helps individuals with disabilities live their lives to the fullest and be as independent as possible within the community.

Finally, after all that Brandi has journeyed through to here, she has this advice for students standing at the crossroads with a decision to make.

 

I would say follow your heart. If your heart is guiding you, showing you that you want to support individuals with disabilities, then do it. You get such joy, happiness, and fulfillment with helping the individuals, more than you would even realize once you’re in the field. I’m not going to lie, it is a lot of work, but if you stay focused, you will be in the field with me here and you will truly love every aspect of it.
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If you’re still considering your career options in this field, take the “Anderson College Developmental Service Worker Career Discovery Quiz”.

But if you’re ready to start making a difference in the lives of others and want to pursue your Developmental Service Worker career – or one of our other 30+ programsbook a virtual appointment with an admissions advisor today. We’re here to help you navigate your way to your first, or next, amazing career.

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