Shift targets mothers

9 a.m. to 2 p.m. workday taps new workforce

Being a mom is a full-time job for Nancy Peirce.

The Surrey, B.C., mother of four has to pack lunches and get her kids off to school in the morning. In the afternoon, she has to get all of her kids — ages 17, 15, 13 and 10 — to their various sports and extracurricular activities. Then there are all the other day-to-day parenting responsibilities, including helping with homework, cleaning up scrapes and cuts and mending broken hearts.

With all of these responsibilities at home, Peirce needed a job that offered her the flexibility to be around when her kids needed her most.

Last August, she found such a job at Nurse Next Door, a Vancouver-based in-home caregiving service with locations throughout British Columbia and in Ottawa.

Nurse Next Door’s “mommy shift,” which launched last summer as moms were getting ready to send children back to school, allows mothers to work shifts between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. — the time when their children are at school.

Peirce has held numerous jobs in the past — including working at a daycare, youth centre and home care — but said nothing has matched the flexibility and respect she gets at Nurse Next Door.

If she has to take a day off because of a school professional development day, she just needs to give two weeks’ notice and doesn’t worry it will put her job in jeopardy.

“They don’t give me ‘the look.’ They’re very understanding. They know that’s where I’m coming from,” she said. “They appreciate what I can give and accept what I can’t.”

The company also knows the value of recognition — on each of Peirce’s pay stubs is a personalized note thanking her for her work.

Women like Peirce are the ideal caregivers, said John DeHart, co-founder of Nurse Next Door. Mothers are responsible and know how to take care of others, he said.

“We recognized that anybody who has brought up a child has a lot of the skills needed to help care for a senior client as well,” he said. “We realized they’re a perfect complement to our labour force and there are very few jobs out there that cater to them.”

And in a tight labour market, especially in Western Canada, employers have to start thinking more creatively about where they draw talent from, he said.

“Labour is always an issue and always a challenge,” said DeHart. “There are enough great people out there to do what we do but we have to start looking at non-traditional areas to find them.”

While Nurse Next Door provides service around the clock, many clients only need help for a few hours of the day at breakfast and lunch, or help running errands or cleaning the house.

“We had these clients that had a need in the daytime and there was an untapped workforce that had kids and had come to the point where they loved looking after the kids but were looking to do a little more,” he said. “But they really needed a job with a lot of flexibility built in.”

For many of the kinds of tasks these caregivers are doing, they don’t need formal training. However, Nurse Next Door has combined its mommy shift program with its own in-house certified companion training program, so the workers can learn any additional skills they might need.

Peirce took advantage of the training and plans to keep upgrading her skills.

“They’ll help me learn so I don’t have to drop out of the workforce to go back to school,” she said.

About 20 caregivers are in the program, including a grandmother who cares for her grandkids and two dads who care for their children while their wives work full time.

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