At age 16, Olivia Barbosa-Martinez was a high school student in difficult life circumstances. The work program at her school offered CNA on-the job training at a Providence community, and Olivia needed a job, so she took it.
“It was my first job of any kind,” she says. “It was just a job for me, just a way to make money. That’s it.”
Today she’s the mother of four adult kids, and she’s still a CNA, but now she has over 30 years of experience (and 19 years with Providence). Her perspective has changed completely.
“I was just a kid when I started, but once I became a mother, I couldn’t think of the people I cared for as just jobs,” she says. “And as I got older, I just thought of how I would want my family to be treated.”
That is certainly the reputation Olivia has now as she serves Providence Hospice patients and their families. “She always jumps in to help when we need coverage, and the patients love her,” says Amy Mosoriak, Providence Hospice Administrator. “She’s got a great attitude and is always willing to take on whatever we need.”
Olivia says it’s all about approach. “I try to tell new staff that it’s just how you talk to people,” she says. “Going to classes at corporate, they show you how to approach, and it’s so helpful. But it’s also just a feeling, an intuition. Some things you can teach and some things you just have to know. I’ve cut hair, cut fingernails—whatever it takes to provide that extra touch that makes a person feel good.”
She also acknowledges that working in hospice can be difficult, but rewarding. “Hospice can be heart-wrenching,” she says. “But even when I’m dealing with death, even when I cry, I know that I’ve helped in those last moments. They’ve lived a good life and been good people and now they’re not in pain.”
Olivia is all about dedication and teamwork. At one point, she was providing services for home health, private duty, and hospice at the same time, and at multiple locations. She lives in Calumet City and has driven as far as Des Plaines. She never calls off in inclement weather even if her husband drives her, because “If I can’t get there, who will help them?”
“There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for the people I work with,” she says. “They know they can depend on me: the people, the clients and their families. It would be hard to find another job and have the same feelings about it that I do for Providence.”
Olivia knows now that a good caregiver works from the heart. “If you’re here just for a job, you’re in the wrong business,” she says. “You have to care. And I’m meant to be here.”