New role at University Gates fits well with Erin Aguiar’s natural instincts
By Kristian Partington
Erin Aguiar is sitting in the Council Chambers just off Main Street in the Village at University Gates, across the heavy table from the village’s director of nursing care (DNC), Ruth Auber. It’s Erin’s first day as assistant director of nursing care and she’s learning some of the finer points of the position – discussing how her role complements the work of the neighbourhood coordinators and vice-versa, for example.
Everyone’s role is to support each other with the residents’ needs at the centre of all decisions; this is essentially the sum of Ruth’s explanation of how things work within the village, and Erin smiles and nods. She’s in a place that fits perfectly with her own instincts, the smile seems to say, and when Ruth steps out for a few minutes, Erin opens up about what drew her to University Gates.
Years ago, when her oldest brother worked for the Schlegel family, she first learned about the quality of care the name represented. When the many experiences of life eventually steered her towards a new career in nursing, it was almost like she was steered towards the new Village at University Gates.
Shortly after earning her degree in 2013, she began working in a palliative care setting within a hospital, “and I loved my job,” she says. Supporting people and families in their final days together came naturally to her, but she soon found there were constraints in the hospital environment. “You just can’t do everything for people you’d like to do when you’re in a medical institution,” she says. “You want flexibility and you see what people need and what they are longing for and you can’t address all of those needs.”
One of the biggest challenges was finding time to spend with people who often need nothing more than a gentle voice and a hand for the holding. Palliative care, Erin says, is such an important aspect of life, equating those who assist in death with the nurses, midwives and doctors who bring new life into the world; it’s just the other end of the spectrum.
“It’s such an important transition,” she says. “I just feel like helping people and their families in any way that I can and I feel like that’s a strength that I didn’t know that I had when I was in nursing school.
“We totally have the power, each and every one of us, no matter what our role is, to help these people through that, and it’s a gift to be able to do that.”
At University Gates she believes she’s found a place that finds time for those people because, as Ruth explained, caregiving is everyone’s role.
“We’re all here for them,” Erin says.