On August 14, 1974 Doris Prosser began her first day of work as a nurse’s aide at Muskoka Nursing Home. She was 17 years old.
That was 42 years ago, and although Muskoka Shores Care Community in Gravenhurst has changed names, and hands, four times since, Doris is still there.
“I filled out an application and was hired that same day,” Doris said. “I knew I wanted to help people, and this opportunity came along at the right time.”
At the time, Doris received her paycheck once a month, there were no mechanical lifts, and the care community was all one colour.
Doris attended classes, provided by Georgian College, to become a health care aide while at Muskoka Shores. In 1981 she graduated, along with her husband, who was the first male health care aide in Muskoka. Today health care aides are known as personal support workers or PSWs.
In 1981 a health care aide’s uniform consisted of nurses’ whites, including a cap with a coloured ribbon, which signified the graduating class. Doris’s cap boasted a royal blue ribbon, and she was so proud of her uniform that she continued to wear it even after legislation allowed her to discard it.
“My uniform meant a lot to me. I took it to heart, as this represented my profession. I was proud to wear it,” Doris said. She revealed that she only began wearing pants at the urging of her coworkers. “Once I wore pants, I realized, it’s much easier to bend and do lifts!”
Doris’s favourite part of her job is the residents, who she describes as “a book of knowledge.”
“I enjoy communicating with residents about the events of their life,” she said. “I have been told how to garden better, and it works! And I was once told to put clear nail polish on my cracked hands, and they healed!”
The Muskoka Shores of today is also quite different from the Muskoka Nursing Home of 1974. There is more colour, making it more “like a home environment,” according to Doris. She also said that because residents are now encouraged to personalise their rooms they look much nicer.
Carrying the personal motto to “try to make at least one person smile today,” Doris doesn’t plan on leaving Muskoka Shores anytime soon.
“I’m going to stay here until they make me retire,” Doris said, “and even then I’m going to come back and volunteer.”