17 April 2019: There’s no disputing that Gregory Simons is a caring person ideally suited to working in healthcare, although he’s spent the majority of his life with the Department of Corrections.
He became a nurses’ aide at the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute (MWI) five years ago, having retired from Westgate Correctional Facility after 24 years of service. Nurses’ aides provide life skills support for MWI service users. Currently in the position at MWI residential unit Devon Lodge, Gregory is part of the team that helps the 21 residents do their laundry, dress and bathe themselves, fold their clothes, etc.
Gregory says he loves the job. Recently it’s become clear just how much, as he’s voluntarily assumed more responsibility teaching arts and crafts to the residents.
“I did not like seeing the service users sitting around doing nothing,” he says.
Gregory spent 17 years as the recreational coordinator for Westgate, and he’s using those skills to engage the service users at Devon Lodge. Working primarily with the four service users who aren’t involved in other programmes during the day, he has led them in making Easter decorations, including Easter baskets and kites.
He plans to work on projects for each festive season. The next will be Bermuda Day.
“My goal is to get more service users involved,” Gregory says. “When they go out to smoke, I go out and say you need to come and do this project with us. I’m aiming to keep them so engaged they won’t find as much time for smoking and the like.”
And Gregory’s involvement isn’t just teaching arts and crafts. He has planned activities for Easter Sunday that will involve all the service users.
“We’ve made baskets for each of the service users,” he says. “On Easter Sunday they will comb the courtyard area here in an Easter egg hunt.”
Devon Lodge Clinical Manager Dawn Smith says Gregory’s enthusiasm has been great not just for the service users, but also other staff.
“He brings a joyous attitude to the workplace which is impactful and hopefully infectious,” she says. “We feel very privileged to have him here.”
For Gregory, the work is rewarding and fulfilling.
“I knew that I would love this,” he says. “My mother used to be in Lefroy House and I would visit her several times a week, staying to feed her and help the matron and nurses with feeding other residents and general help for everyone there. I used to volunteer and drive the bus to transport the Lefroy residents to various appointments and events.”
At 61, Gregory shows no signs of slowing down on his workload. For him, it’s clearly a labour of love.